The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed free agent running back Le'Veon Bell on Wednesday, adding an experienced veteran to an offensive backfield that has recently been thinned by injuries. The Buccaneers did not have to make any corresponding moves as they began the day with four available spots on the 53-man roster.
Bell most recently played five games for the Baltimore Ravens in October and November, logging 31 carries for 82 yards and two touchdowns. Last season, he split time between the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets and ran 82 times for 238 yards and two scores and also caught 16 passes for 138 yards. Bell was on the Chiefs' roster for Super Bowl LV against the Buccaneers in February but did not record any snaps.
The Buccaneers had a need in their running back room after lead back Leonard Fournette suffered a hamstring injury in Sunday night's game in New Orleans. Giovani Bernard, who primarily had operated as a third-down back through the Bucs' first 12 games, landed on injured reserve on December 14. That left Tampa Bay with just two healthy backs on the active roster in Ronald Jones and Ke'Shawn Vaughn before the addition of Bell.
View pictures from running back Le'Veon Bell's NFL career thus far.
Fournette has not been placed on injured reserve but Head Coach Bruce Arians indicated on Monday that Ronald Jones has an opportunity to take over the lead role in the Bucs' backfield, suggesting that Fournette may miss some time. With Fournette and Bernard unavailable, Bell could add value as an accomplished pass-catching back. Bell has 395 career receptions for 3,258 yards and eight touchdowns and has three separate seasons with 75 or more catches.
Bell also has 1,587 career carries for 6,536 yards and 46 touchdowns. He had more than 1,200 yards in each of the 2014, 2016 and 2017 seasons, all with the Pittsburgh Steelers, earning Pro Bowl nods in each of those campaigns. After five seasons in Pittsburgh, the former second-round draft pick out of Michigan State sat out the 2018 season in a contract dispute and then signed with the Jets in 2019.