"After having conversations with Le'Veon and his agent and exploring potential trade options over the past couple of days, we have made the decision to release Le'Veon," general manager Joe Douglas said in a statement. "The organization appreciates Le'Veon's efforts during his time here and we know he worked hard to make significant contributions to this team. We believe this decision is in the best interests of both parties and wish him future success."
The surprise move comes just hours after reports first surfaced indicating the Jets were shopping Bell in an attempt to trade him before this year's deadline.
It's a disastrous end to Bell's time in New York, which began when he signed a four-year, $52.5-million deal in 2019. He heads back to the open market having played in just 17 games for the Jets while tallying 863 rushing yards, leaving behind the effects of the investment gone wrong.
The Jets effectively paid $27 million in guarantees for that short stint, according to Over The Cap. Of the remaining $6 million owed to him this season, the team can only recoup the value of a deal he signs elsewhere, which is certain to be minimal, given the offset language.
New York was a long-awaited fresh start for the former Michigan State standout, who sat out the entire 2018 season rather than sign the franchise tag with the Steelers. He had been one of the league's premier running backs prior to that saga, surpassing 5,300 rushing yards and 2,600 receiving yards during his time in Pittsburgh.
The Jets, who are 0-5 to start the season, now move forward with Frank Gore and Lamical Perine atop their running back depth chart.