React: Bell goes west, defense going south

March, 13, 2013
3/13/13
6:44
PM ET
Quick takeaways on S Yeremiah Bell signing a one-year contract with the Cardinals:

1. THE EXODUS CONTINUES: On a conference call with season-ticket holders last week, Rex Ryan talked about how most players in the NFL ("if not all") would love to play for the Jets. Oh, really? Bell became the third free agent in 24 hours to leave them, joining DT Mike DeVito (Chiefs) and RB Shonn Greene (Titans). To be fair, the Jets weren't hot to re-sign Greene, but you get the point. Bell and DeVito were "glue" guys that could've helped the defense in 2013.

2. POOR REX: His defense, ranked No. 1 in 2009, is crumbling. Since the end of the season, they've cut three starters (Bart Scott, Calvin Pace and Sione Po'uha) and lost two to free agency (DeVito and Bell). It'll be three when LaRon Landry signs elsewhere, and that could be any minute with the Colts -- or perhaps the 49ers. Another free agent, Bryan Thomas, won't be back. So, if you're scoring at home, the Jets could go into next season with eight new starters (if they trade Darrelle Revis). If it looks like rebuilding, and it smells like rebuilding, it's rebuilding.

3. STARTING OVER: With Bell gone and Landry expected to follow him out the door, it means the Jets will have a new starting safety tandem for the second straight year. That's a tough deal, especially in a Ryan defense, which requires a heavy mental burden from the safeties. That's why Jim Leonhard always was so important; he played "quarterback" from the safety spot. The troubling part is, the young safeties -- Josh Bush and Antonio Allen, 2012 draft picks -- aren't ready for starting roles. They'll have to look to the draft and free agency.

4. THE BELL TOLLS: The Jets will miss Bell. He didn't provide huge production (no interceptions, one sack, three fumble recoveries), but he rarely looked bad. He was a smart player and a good locker-room presence, a true grown up in the room. After one game, when Scott was ranting at the media, Bell basically told him to put a sock in it. One thing Bell couldn't change: His birth certificate. He's 35, and 35-year-old safeties usually don't get to stick around on rebuilding teams.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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