As expected, running back Mike Bell, who helped establish the Black and Gold’s nascent running game for the 2009 season, will join the Philadelphia Eagles for the 2010 season after the New Orleans opted not to match the Eagles’ more lucrative contract.
Bell, a restricted free agent, used his opportunity in New Orleans to reboot a career that had been marred by attitude problems during his time with the Denver Broncos.
The signs were there early on that Bell had finally tolled in the Crescent City. The Saints were not in any rush to make him an offer and when they did, it was practically an insult.
The Saints had initially made Bell a low offer to retain his services, a one-year contract worth $1,176,000. Though a restricted free agent, Bell’s departure will not land his former team a draft pick as the Saints offer to the running back was too low.
Though he blazed out of the gates rushing for 229 yards and a touchdown in his first two games, Bell’s production dropped off as the season progressed.
Bell was the target of an angry Sean Payton blow up in the Super Bowl as the Saints head coach screamed at him for not wearing the right cleats after slipping on a short run near the Indianapolis Colts end zone.
Euphoria from Lombardi Gras might have caused many Saints fans to dismiss Bell’s spill though the cerebral Payton is not so forgiving.
One cannot help but wonder if the cleat matter decided his future with the team. Or maybe Bell did some sales work for ex-long snapper Kevin Houser.
Though he’ll get a ring for his participation, Bell’s Super Bowl numbers were anything but super, rushing for four yards on two carries.
Bell’s departure is a sign that the organization has (finally) accepted big back Lynell Hamilton’s future with the team as a pounder in short yard situations. It’s also an indication that the Saints might draft a running back in later rounds if they don’t find a running back to their liking in free agency.
The team has already unrestricted free agent Oakland Raiders running back Justin Fargas while holding out on a final decision with Bell though a contract with Fargas has yet to be inked.
Because the Raiders released Fargas, the “Rule of Four” would not apply, which is significant as the Saints’ options in free agency are severely limited.