The 29-year old Bellamy is listed at 6’0” and 211 pounds and was undrafted out of Louisville in 2012. He’s spent most of his career with the Bears, starting 14 games and catching a total of 76 passes for 999 yards and five touchdowns. He signed a two-year, $5 million deal with the Jets in free agency.
Bellamy was a two-star recruit and ended up taking the junior college route before ending up at Louisville. He caught 80 passes for 1,307 yards and 17 touchdowns in his two seasons at Butte Community College, leading them to an undefeated season and JUCO title. He then transferred to Louisville in 2010.
In his first season with the Cardinals, Bellamy caught 29 passes for 401 yards and five touchdowns, but his production was down in his senior year. He ended his career with 53 catches for 681 yards and seven scores.
After a good pro day, Bellamy wasn’t selected in the 2012 draft but signed as an undrafted free agent with the Chiefs. He then became a bit of a journeyman over the next few years.
As a rookie, he was released in final cuts and added to the practice squad before being activated in December, albeit only in a special teams role.
In 2013, he was again released in final cuts, this time ending up on the practice squad for the Chargers. They eventually released him and Washington picked him up. After a few weeks on their practice squad, he was activated for five more games, once again in a special teams role.
Washington released him the following April and the Bears picked him up. After starting the 2014 season on their practice squad, he was activated a few weeks later. Again he was mostly just playing on special teams, although he did see action on offense for the first time in his career. He didn’t register a catch though.
Over the next four seasons, Bellamy established himself as a core special teamer with the Bears and started making contributions on offense. He caught the first 19 passes of his career in 2015, then 19 more in 2016. 2017 saw him start a career high seven games and rack up career highs in receptions (24) and yardage (376). However, he only had 14 catches last year.
Bellamy has never had a 100-yard game, although he once had four catches for 93 yards in a win over the 49ers.
Now let’s take a look at what Bellamy brings to the table, divided into categories.
Bellamy has decent size and is a good athlete. At his pro day, he posted good numbers across the board, including a 4.47 40-yard dash. This was seven years ago, though.
Bellamy has primarily played on the outside in his pro career with the majority of his production coming while lined up outside. Having said that, he played a higher percentage of snaps in the slot in 2018 and made seven of his 14 catches and his only touchdown from the slot.
At times, Bellamy has carried the ball on end around or jet sweep type plays. He rushed once for 12 yards in college and has carried five times for 43 yards at the pro level, including one run of 22 yards.
At Louisville, he also spent some time at cornerback.
Bellamy’s primary role with the Jets will be on special teams. He’s contributed on all the main units, including as a blocker on the return units and in kick coverage.
He’s mostly made his name as a gunner on the punt return unit, though. In all, he has recorded 23 tackles at the pro level and 12 in his two years with the Cardinals:
He also has a knack of getting downfield to down punts close to the goal line, something the Jets struggled with last year:
Bellamy also has a small amount of return experience. He’s returned six kickoffs at the NFL level, with a longest of 27. In college, he returned seven punts for an average of 9.0 yards per return and seven kickoffs for an average of 23.9 yards per return. He also had a 97-yard touchdown at the junior college level.
Bellamy has some big play abilities and had several deep catches in 2015 and 2016. In the past two years, he’s been less effective, with just two deep completions on 16 attempts, although both were touchdowns.
Although he actually only has two 40-yard plays in regular season action, he has shown he can get behind the defense with his speed:
Bellamy was already regarded as a precise route runner when he was a rookie and he does a good job of getting separation with his acceleration and change of direction abilities.
On this play, from his rookie preseason, he used a double move to blow past his man for a long touchdown:
He is particularly effective at working the seams and on back shoulder throws and crossing routes.
Bellamy’s hands have been an issue throughout his pro career. He’s dropped 12 passes in his career, with many of them being easy ones and in key situations:
In 2016, he dropped an easy touchdown pass against the Titans and then had another key drop at the end of the game. Then, his fourth down drop the following week in Detroit ended that game too. Understandably, this gave him a reputation as being unreliable among many Bears fans which wasn’t wholly unwarranted, although he only had one drop last season.
Even on the catches he does make, Bellamy is a body catcher and often juggles the ball. Somewhat frustratingly, though, he does flash the ability to cleanly snag tough catches, just not with any consistency:
With his unreliable hands, Bellamy perhaps isn’t a very good red zone option. Only one of his five NFL touchdowns came from in the red zone and that was on a wide receiver screen.
Yards after the catch
Bellamy has another issue, which is perhaps linked to his own lack of confidence in his hands. On a lot of passes, he will either jump to catch the ball or go to ground to secure it, often when he should have been able to catch it and keep running. This obviously has an effect on how much yardage he can make after the catch:
With his speed and return experience, Bellamy can be effective with the ball in his hands, so he’s missed out on some big plays by being unable to catch the ball cleanly. On this play, he showcases an impressive stiff arm:
Bellamy gives a good effort as a blocker and has graded out well over the course of his career. Here’s an example of him making a strong contribution:
He’s had 10 penalties while blocking in his career, some of which were on special teams.
Bellamy plays with energy and aggressiveness on offense and special teams. He’ll finish runs hard, give a physical effort as a blocker and fights for contested catches at the catch point, although he will allow passes to be knocked away from him because he doesn’t always catch them cleanly.
He’s only been called for one offensive pass interference penalty in his career.
Bellamy’s coaches have praised the fact that he knows the offense in respect of all three receiver roles and his football I.Q. He didn’t seem to blow many assignments, although he has two pre-snap penalties in his career.
On special teams, there was an example cited of him reading keys from the return unit to blow up a return at the 15-yard line.
Building a new culture has been a theme of this offseason so far for the Jets and Bellamy is another player who fits in that regard.
Teammates and coaches waxed lyrical about how nobody works harder than him and he brings so much energy that it gets everyone hyped up and wanting to perform at the same kind of level. He’s apparently quite a character off the field too, with some teammates describing him as hilarious.
At the same time, he’s renowned as a big-time trash talker and was once ejected for getting into a fight after a late hit on his quarterback:
Bellamy has also been fined for an illegal chop block and he reportedly had a heated argument with a teammate (ex-Jet Tre McBride III, who was released shortly afterwards) although he later downplayed the incident, calling it “brotherly love”.
Over the past four years, Bellamy has only missed one game, due to a concussion. He also had a concussion in his first ever game with Louisville.
He was also listed with a foot injury in 2017 and missed time in preseason last year with a shoulder issue.
Jets head coach Adam Gase was the Bears offensive coordinator in 2015 and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains took over from him for 2016 and 2017, so they are more than familiar with Bellamy and how he can fit into the Jets’ new system.
Although it’s likely his character and special teams abilities are the main reason he’s been brought to the team, Bellamy can perhaps be the sort of player that will contribute on offense when there are injuries, much like Andre Roberts did last year, so it’s useful that the offensive staff is familiar with him.
A lot of Bears fans were frustrated with Bellamy due to some of his mistakes as a wide receiver, but his special teams contributions are well-documented and that’s an area teams overlook at their peril.
The Jets have given him a deal that should prove to be good value even if a special teams upgrade is all he brings to the table. Presumably, he’ll be expected to beat out Charone Peake to be one of the primary gunners alongside Trenton Cannon.
Any contributions Bellamy can bring to the offense will be gravy. However, based on the film and his career so far, despite some of the issues he has had with drops, he is capable of making some big plays and is perhaps a more dynamic emergency option than Roberts.