Former Division II player of the year and current Detroit Lions running back Joique Bell has expressed his interest in re-signing with the team for a long-term contract. He is set to receive a one-year offer that will assure his return to the Lions next year. But it’s expected that both Bell and the Lions’ front office want to keep him in Detroit long term, considering how productive he was in 2013.
The Benton Harbor Michigan native finished last season with 650 yards rushing on 166 attempts. He also scored eight rushing touchdowns, and had 547 yards receiving on 53 catches. In two seasons with the Lions, he has totaled 1,064 rushing and 1,032 receiving yards.
The Lions signed Bell on Dec. 26, 2011 after he bounced around the NFL for more than a year. Bell spent time with the Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles, Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints over just two seasons before heading back home to Michigan.
Teammates Reggie Bush and Bell were considered to be one of the best running back tandems in the NFL last season. They became the first duo in NFL history to each rush for over 500 yards and 500 yards receiving. Bush signed a four-year, $16 million contract with the Lions in the 2013 offseason, becoming the first Lions running back to rush for over 1,000 yards since 2004. By re-signing Bell to a long-term deal, head coach Jim Caldwell could have a rushing attack that can help carry the work load for quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Caldwell and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi have had experience coaching Bell in previous years. Caldwell was the head coach of the Colts when Bell was claimed off of waivers. He appeared in five games before being waived on Dec. 14, 2010. Lombardi was the Saints quarterback coach when Bell was on the team’s practice squad for most of 2011, before being released on Sept. 20, 2011.
The 27-year-old will have to improve his ball-carrying this offseason, after fumbling a career-high four times in 2013, as well as losing three fumbles. This will be something that the running backs coach Curtis Modkins will need to emphasize during training camp.
Detroit currently has five running backs under contract. They include Bush and Bell. The team has Bush locked for another three years and is fully intent on bringing back Bell next season. Leshoure, who missed his entire 2011 rookie season due to injury, played in only three games last season and carried the ball only twice for nine yards. The 6-foot, 233 pound powerback could be let go or be traded if the team signs Bell long-term. Riddick and Owens will most likely battle it out for the third or fourth spot on the depth chart, as both were brought in for special teams help.
On Wednesday, Bell told Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press that he knows how the business works, but he doesn’t want to go anywhere else. He also knows that the fans, the team and the Lions front office don’t want him to leave.
Bell also said that he loves the franchise and always dreamed of playing for the Lions. He also believes that he and Bush can continue their 1-2 punch in the upcoming season.