Here’s the way things work on Twitter: As soon as a talented or once-talented player gets released or hits the trade block, Patriots fans start asking if he’d be a good fit in New England.
But this tweet from Al Karstens, or @bigalfredosauce, was eye-catching:
Those stats are correct. In five regular-season games against the Patriots, Bell has 94 carries for 377 yards with one touchdown and 24 catches for 215 yards. He also carried the ball six times for 20 yards in a partial game against the Patriots in the 2016 playoffs before he left the game with an injury.
Because I’m an email hoarder, I also have most quotes Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has said about players since 2013.
Belichick has been extremely complimentary of Bell in the past.
Here’s a selection of things Belichick said about Bell last season:
“Bell’s clearly one of the top backs in the league. Outstanding with the ball in his hands, great receiver, just a really hard matchup player and does an excellent job of breaking tackles. He’s a hard guy to get on the ground, whether he spins, jumps over guys, makes them miss in the open field, puts his shoulder down and runs through them. …
“He’s a very explosive player. Yeah, if it’s there, he’ll hit it. If not, he does an excellent job of setting the blockers up and making the defenders commit, and then finding space and going. You don’t see him running into the back of his blockers and running into a pile and things like that. He makes guys commit, and then he finds space and is able to get to it. He’s an excellent player. …
“Catches the ball well, is very good in the open field, he’s a strong in-line runner.”
Here’s what Belichick said about Bell in 2017:
“He’s really good. He’s a tremendous player. He leads the league in yards from scrimmage and that?s about really all you need to know. He?s a receiver when he?s out of the backfield. He can run any run you want — inside, outside, runs with power, runs with a lot of skill and quickness in the open field. He?s an excellent receiver in the passing game. A big guy, blitz pickup, matches up well against linebackers and DB’s that he has to block. He?s a tremendous player. …
“He does whatever he needs to do. If you want to see him run hard, run over people, run downhill then you can find plenty of plays of that. You can see him with his vision finding space in the defense. There?s plays on that. Catching the ball — plenty of plays on that. The guy doesn?t lead the league in yards from scrimmage by doing one thing, doing it a little bit. He does everything. He does it well, does whatever he needs to do. You give him an opening, wherever it is, and he’s going to make you pay for it.”
And in 2016:
“Oh my god. Oh yeah. He?s a tremendous player, great hands, catches the ball, very quick, makes people miss, strong, breaks tackles, excellent balance, tough, doesn?t run out of bounds, fights for extra yardage, a great player. … But Bell?s as good as anybody we?ll play. …
“He?s a great back, does everything well. Very good with the ball in his hands, good patience, good in pick-up, good in protection, great route-runner, good vision, hard to tackle. He does a good job of setting up blocks and does a good job of reading blocking schemes (and) has great vision. He is one of the top players in the league.”
According to our notes, Bell is the only player that has caused Belichick to utter, “Oh my god” since 2013.
So, do the Patriots need Bell? No, definitely not. They have one of the most crowded running back depth charts in the NFL with Damien Harris, Rex Burkhead, James White and talented rookie J.J. Taylor on the active roster and Sony Michel on injured reserve.
But if Bell would take the veteran minimum (he’ll make $6 million regardless this season because of the way his Jets contract was structured), and if Belichick still believes he’s “clearly one of the best backs in the league,” as he did a year ago, then it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility that New England could make room to add him.
It’s the Patriots. There’s a reason why Patriots fans always think any player could be signed. If the price is right, any player is on the table.