PATS REPORTER

Perry: Le'Veon Bell signing with Chiefs is second-best outcome for Pats

PATS REPORTER

I made the argument early Thursday that the Patriots should be interested in adding Le'Veon Bell to an already-deep, already-talented stable of backs in New England.

Why not?

The cost was going to be low, thanks to the offset language in the contract Bell signed with the Jets. There was evidence to suggest he still had plenty of juice at 28 years old. He was a capable receiver and pass-protector. And the so-far-dominant offensive line in New England would've made the marriage a successful one. The Patriots want to run, run and run some more offensively, and Bell would've helped them be more efficient in that approach.

Now, several hours later, I will write something that looks incredibly incongruous: Patriots fans should consider Bell signing with the Chiefs as a palatable second-best outcome.

Why?

The Chiefs have now invested in two running backs since the spring. They spent a first-round pick on Clyde Edwards-Helaire. They signed Bell.

While Bell likely won't cost much in terms of salary, he's a big-name player who had multiple suitors and the expectation will exist on both sides -- both from the player and from Chiefs management -- that he'll have a role.

A role means touches. Touches for Bell -- or touches for Edwards-Helaire, for that matter -- mean fewer throws by the most talented arm in football deep down the field. Fewer throws deep down the field by the most talented arm in football is a good thing for all Chiefs opponents.

 

Patriots Talk Podcast: Should Pats be buyers at the trade deadline? | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

It'd be a stretch to say that acquiring a talented running back -- whose experience as a blocker in the passing game could earn him work immediately over the less-experienced rookie Edwards-Helaire -- will suddenly submarine Kansas City's Super Bowl repeat hopes and dreams.

But if the Chiefs are at all encouraged to hand off, or to dump the ball off in the quick-hitting passing game, because they've just acquired a two-time first-team All-Pro . . . that's something that the Patriots and other playoff hopefuls in the AFC should gladly accept.

Consider this from Pro Football Focus data scientist Eric Eager:

Here's what we know: Passing in football, in general, is more efficient than running. When you have arguably the best quarterback on the planet paired with a couple of the best offensive minds in football in Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy, that fact is amplified.

By adding a big-name running back like Bell, if the Chiefs are ever encouraged to hand off instead of letting their superstar quarterback go to work in looking for explosive plays down the field, then their coaches are doing the work of opposing defenses for them.

Maybe the Chiefs won't run it more after acquiring Bell. Maybe he's there to serve as a bouncer for Mahomes in the pocket. Maybe he's there to totally usurp Edwards-Helaire's workload. Maybe he's there to just take a little off the rookie's plate and split up the nearly 20 touches per game (98 in five games) the 21-year-old has averaged early in his first pro season.

If that's the case, then all the power to the Chiefs.

Curran's NFL Week 6 power rankings

But if signing Bell means they're suddenly going to give more work to their backs -- to continue to average around 4.2 yards per carry and average more carries per game when Mahomes is averaging 3.4 more yards per pass -- then that's good news for defenses.

It made sense for a run-heavy team like the Patriots to sign Bell and figure out a way to work him in. Less so in Kansas City, where the most talented arm in football resides.