One of the free agent safeties that the Patriots reportedly had expressed interest in is now off the market. According to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com, former Miami Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell has decided to sign with the New York Jets:
A league source tells PFT's Mike Florio that Bell has signed with the Jets on a one-year, $1.4 million contract. The deal includes a $200,000 signing bonus, a $1.1 million fully guaranteed base salary and a $100,000 workout bonus.
This isn't really a big hit for the Patriots, who were also reportedly interested in signing LaRon Landry earlier in the offseason, who also signed with the Jets. Bell, while a reliable and experienced veteran, has been known to be a liability in coverage. And while the Patriots, according to one report, had "expressed interest" in Bell, they never even brought him in for a free agent visit. Nonetheless, I thought Bell could have made a nice addition as a reliable back-end option.
Now, Bell goes to the division rival Jets. And while Bell certainly helps the Jets, upon further review, this might not be terrible news for any pass-happy 2012 opponent of the Jets. Both Bell and Landry are notoriously bad in coverage, and are both known more as in-the-box safeties. Their primary back-end communicator of the last few years, Jim Leonhard, remains an unrestricted free agent. Eric Smith remains on the roster, but is far from a reliable option. The next safety on the depth chart is likely 7th round draft choice Antonio Allen. For a Patriots team looking to threaten down the field in 2012, the current state of the Jets safety group shouldn't make Tom Brady and the Patriots revamped passing attack sweat too much (although facing Darrelle Revis always will).