Don't Expect Bears to Look at Le'Veon Bell and Vice Versa

Signing of Lamar Miller and emerging role for Cordarrelle Patterson could satisfy the needs the Bears have for a backfield receiver and runner without looking at Le'Veon Bell
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A few days before Le'Veon Bell signed with the New York Jets the rumor mill churned hard in the direction of the Chicago Bears.

This pairing obviously never happened and no evidence ever was produced that the Bears even had interest.

So the Jets have released Bell after he signed a contract with $35 million guaranteed last year as a free agent, and naturally there is much curiosity among Bears fans. It's only fueled by the Bears' running back situation, which remains sketchy after David Montgomery at best.

There is another running back coming soon for the Bears, but it's unlikely to be Bell.

"I think he's a good running back, but I know that there's obviously when somebody like that gets released, there's always people that ask questions to every team across the league," Bears coach Matt Nagy said. "That's stuff I leave up to Ryan (Pace). 

"I just know this: That we absolutely love our running backs here, our situation and I leave that stuff up to Ryan."

Lamar Miller signed a week ago with the practice squad and the Bears are anxious to fit him into the mix a year after he suffered a torn ACL.

"I had Lamar for two years in Houston so I'm excited that he's here," Bears running backs coach Charles London said. 'You know, last week was really his first week here and it was really a different week because we played on Thursday night. It was more of a mental week. So I'm really looking forward to seeing him run around out there (Wednesday), test the knee, get some confidence in it. And if Lamar's healthy, he's an explosive player.

"The last full season he played he was a Pro Bowl player. He's a got a really diverse skill set in the run game, protection, the pass."

It's going to be on Miller to prove he's really over the ACL tear after 14 months. It took Allen Robinson about that long before he started to display the real skills he has as a receiver.

The Bears think if Miller is back to 100 percent health, they know enough about him to anticipate he'll be an ideal complementary back to David Montgomery in all aspects of the game.

London isn't the only Bears coach with experience coaching Miller as offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was offensive coordinator in Miami when Miller played there before playing for the Texans.

Because the Bears put plenty of research into signing Miller, it would seem unlikely they'd now pursue a free agent running back who already has sat out a full season simply to get out of his situation, and has managed also to pull himself away from a second team.

Bell is obviously not thinking of himself as a backup running back and any team signing him would need to have a real vacancy.

The Bears have no vacancy for a lead back.

In fact, the Bears probably haven't given Montgomery enough of a workload so far considering how few times they've run the ball. They rank 29th in the league in rushing attempts.

"I think he's done a really good job handling the workload," London said. "It's what he's trained for all offseason—tough kid and it's kind of what he's built for. He's done a great job for us in all phases, whether it's in the run game, the pass game. He's done a great job in his (pass) protections. We knew he was a good receiver out of the backfield.

"He didn't have as many opportunities last season to catch a ball out of the backfield and run routes as we would have liked, but I think (we) are seeing a lot of what he can do right now. He's a really versatile player. Can help us in a lot ways and he came in with a couple big catches for us the other night."

Although Cohen is gone, the Bears still have Cordarrelle Patterson as a potential passing game threat out of the backfield, and he showed some dimensions as a downfield threat against Tampa Bay that he previously hadn't displayed. A 25-yard pass play to set up a touchdown before halftime indicated his potential in this area.

"I think CP gets better and better every day but I think Lamar can bring another dimension in there," London said. "A guy that has played of football, a guy that understands a lot, a guy who can fit into the scheme that we're trying to do so you can never really have enough good backs on your team, in your system."

Of course, this could apply to Bell if he was willing to go that route. But backs who pry themselves away from two teams don't seem to fit in well with others.

Bell's abilities have to be questioned, as well. His average per catch last year was 7.5, which is solid for a running back but was his lowest ever for a full season. He averaged 3.2 yards a carry last year for the Jets, by far his worst average per cary.

Bell's willingness to take backup money is another issue.

The Bears apparently are saving some of the $10 million they have available under the salary cap for Allen Robinson's often-rumored extension, and paying any sort of big bonus for yet another back seems unlikely.

Bell's contract and the questions about his willingness to be a secondary part of the rushing attack behind Montgomery would likely be enough to keep the Bears away, while they're trying to find out what they can get out of Miller and their remaining backs.

Finally there's the competition involved. Kansas City is a perfect fit for Bell if he wants to win a Super Bowl. Who wouldn't want to play with Patrick Mahomes?

If the Chiefs could get Bell at a bargain rate because he's already made a ton of money for doing little in New York, he likely would want to play for the Chiefs and win a Super Bowl regardless of the pay.

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