Use him or move him.
The Jets need to either use Le’Veon Bell properly or trade him.
This figures to be a critical issue that the team, beginning with general manager Joe Douglas, must tackle in the offseason.
Because this question has yet to be answered though 12 games this season: Why pay one of the premier running backs in the NFL some $13 million a year if you’re not going to use him as your Bell cow?
The Jets — particularly head coach Adam Gase — have tap-danced around the underutilization of Bell so much this season that it has become tiresome and a waste of everyone’s time: theirs, Bell’s, Sam Darnold’s and the fans’.
Use him or move him.
Once this miserable season comes to its merciful end, Douglas needs to make a decision: Is he going to build this Jets offense around both Darnold and Bell?
If Bell, who was acquired in the offseason with thoughts that he was going to transform Darnold and the offense into an unstoppable force, is going to continue to be used essentially as a part-time player, the Jets should get whatever draft pick they can for him in an offseason trade — even if they have to swallow some of his guaranteed money (which they surely would have to).
The question, particularly after coming off his worst season, is what the market would be for Bell, who’s guaranteed $13.5 million in 2020.
The Jets’ leverage in trading Bell is, to borrow an oft-used Gase phrase, “not ideal.’’
The secret that Gase was not in favor of then-GM Mike Maccagnan signing Bell has long been out of the bag. It’s not that Gase doesn’t like Bell personally. It’s that Gase favors a passing attack and doesn’t value running backs highly. He believes he can get by with a complementary running game.
Gase should worship Bell for the way he’s conducted himself all season, keeping his frustrations to himself and not sabotaging the team by ranting in public. Bell has been a model teammate and, by all accounts, is one of the hardest workers in the building.
It would be a shame to see him go. But this clearly has not been a fit.
And, unless Douglas and Gase commit to figuring out how to turn Bell into the weapon he was in Pittsburgh, this will continue to be a waste of money and potential draft resources that could be acquired in a trade.
It’s not clear what Douglas’ philosophy is on the importance of Bell — essentially because he rarely is made available to speak to reporters, and he’s not likely to make his exact thoughts on the matter public anyway. Bell, remember, was not a Douglas signing.