The Jets have a sizeable offer on the table for running back Le'Veon Bell, and some around the league believe it's the best offer he has. There's no indication at all that teams are engaged in any kind of bidding war for what may be the best free agent on the market.
So why won't Bell take the Jets money?
That's something a lot of people around the NFL - including the Jets -- would like to know.
In fact some people around the NFL have begun to wonder if the Jets are being played by the 27-year-old star, that perhaps he's either using their offer to try to extract more money from another team, or that he's exaggerating the interest from elsewhere to get the Jets bidding against themselves. That's why one NFL source said the Jets have told Bell they'd like a decision by the end of Tuesday night.
It's not clear if they gave him a specific time or presented their latest offer as "final." But they made it clear to him that they won't keep their offer on the table much longer, because if he doesn't want their money they'll quickly have to spend it on someone else.
The Jets are understandably sensitive to being played because it's happened to them twice in the recent past. The most famous example was with their pursuit of quarterback Kirk Cousins last March when they tried to lure him with a three-year, fully-guaranteed, $90 million deal. Cousins was later said on camera during a documentary that he wanted to use that offer to get the Minnesota Vikings to increase their package.
In the end, just as the Jets had feared from the beginning, Cousins signed with the Vikings for $6 million less.
And the same thing happened earlier on Tuesday when linebacker Anthony Barr reneged on an agreement to sign with the Jets for more than $14 million per year that he reached on Monday night. After sleeping on it, he reopened negotiations with his old team and ended up taking slightly less to return to the Vikings.
Could Bell be trying to do something similar? Or does he just not want to play for the Jets and is trying to get someone else to come close to their offer? It's hard to say, since there has been mostly silence from Bell and his agent, Adisa Bakari, with the exception of a few cryptic Tweets from Bell and some of his friends. There were times over the last two days when he appeared to be close to making a decision, though obviously there has been no announcement yet.
Bell, of course, is looking to be paid handsomely after sitting out all of last season rather than play for the Steelers on the $14.54 million franchise tag. He had been rumored to be seeking a five-year deal worth $70 million with perhaps as much as $40 million guaranteed.
But there's no evidence that his market has materialized. Plenty of teams have been rumored to be in on the chase - the Raiders, 49ers, Eagles, Bears, Colts, Texans and Ravens have all been mentioned. Many of those rumors didn't hold up to actual reporting, though. And the more other players agree to terms on huge deals in advance of the opening of the signing period at 4 p.m. Wednesday, the more everyone wonders why Bell hasn't agreed to anything yet.
If Bell does spurn the Jets in the end, they could turn their attention to Falcons free agent Tevin Coleman. They could also use some of that money to find the edge rusher they need again after losing Barr, though that market is beginning to dry up.