In a move it plans to downsize Le’Veon Bell’s role, the New York Jets agreed terms Tuesday with running back Frank Gore for a one-season deal, agent Drew Rosenhaus told Adam Schefter of ESPN.
Gore, who turns 37 on May 14, is the third most productive running back in NFL history. He will be reunited with head coach Adam Gase, who coached Gore with the Miami Dolphins in 2018. They were also together with the San Francisco 49ers in 2008, when Gase was a low-level assistant.
Gore’s arrival adds another layer of intrigue to the Jets’ running situation.
Just last week, Gase told ESPN he wanted to “lighten the load” for Bell, who had 311 touchdowns last season, the eighth-most in the NFL. Gase said his hope was that one of the “younger runners” would emerge to create a one-two combination in the backfield.
Gore is not a young runner, but he has impressed Gase with his work ethic and professionalism. “Unbelievable,” was how Gase described Gore’s longevity before the Jets faced him last year.
It will be Gore’s 16th season. He played last year for the Buffalo Bills, finishing with 599 rushing yards and 3.6 rushing yards, in both cases, the lowest career totals. He topped Barry Sanders on the all-time running list, finishing the year with 15,347 yards, and behind only Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton.
Despite his modest numbers, Gore was a positive influence on rookie Devin Singletary, who trained with Gore in Florida before the season. The Jets certainly hope it will have the same impact on former Florida star La’Mical Perine, drafted in the fourth round.
Gore projects as the second runner in the squad order, but his presence will certainly raise questions about Bell, whose first campaign in New York was a disappointment. He ran for just 789 yards and averaged 3.2 yards per carry, the lowest total in franchise history for a minimum of 175 opportunities.
Bell’s relationship with Gase was under constant scrutiny. Gase was also criticized for the way he employed Bell in his offense.
Bell enters his second season on a four-year, $ 52.5 million contract, including $ 13.5 million fully guaranteed by 2020. He will have $ 15.5 million against the salary cap, the second highest total at the club, behind the linebacker. CJ Mosley.
The Jets could try to trade Bell – there were rumors of it before last fall’s deadline – but moving his $ 8.5 million base salary won’t be easy. They would have to eat a considerable amount of that salary to facilitate a transfer, and it will be difficult to find a partner for a 28-year-old runner coming out of his less productive season.
Bell’s substitutes last season were Bilal Powell and Ty Montgomery, both free agents with little chance of being rehired.
A third-round pick for the 49ers in the 2005 draft, Gore has also played for the Indianapolis Colts. He has been selected to play in five Pro Bowls and has run for more than 1,000 yards nine times in his career.
Gore has 15 seasons with at least 500 rushing yards, the most in NFL history. The next three players on that list (Smith, 14; Payton, 13; Marcus Allen 13) are in the Hall of Fame.