After just two seasons, the Lions cut running back Reggie Bush on Wednesday.
With general manager Martin Mayhew declining multiple opportunities to support Bush publicly, this was an expected move for the cash-strapped Lions, who save about $1.72 million in salary cap space this season.
Team officials announced the move around 5:30 p.m. Bush and his agent, Joel Segal, did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
"It's really about the value you bring to the organization that's constantly re-evaluated every offseason," Mayhew said when asked about Bush at the combine last week.
Bush's value to the Lions diminished significantly after he produced 297 rushing yards and 253 receiving yards last season, one that saw him miss five games with an ankle injury. With Bush ailing, Joique Bell emerged as the top player in the Lions backfield, and Theo Riddick proved worthy of increased playing time as a receiving threat.
Moving forward, the Lions likely will have Bell as the featured back and Riddick as the change-of-pace back, but could look for reinforcements in the draft.
With the Lions needing to clear cap space in their pursuit of All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, Bush emerged as a likely candidate to be cut. Bush was due $3.25 million in base salary this year and $3.75 million in 2016, and cutting him now gives the team more than $16 million in projected cap space before free agency begins March 10.
"I do know the business side of it that I have a contract that says I'm here for another two years," Bush said in January. "That's the business side of it, and until somebody tells me otherwise that's when I'm planning on being back."
The Lions signed Bush to a four-year, $16 million deal in 2013, hoping he could be a solution at running back after the failed draft picks of Jahvid Best (2010) and Mikel Leshoure (2011).
In his first season in Detroit, Bush rushed for 1,006 yards — the team's first 1,000-yard rusher since Kevin Jones in 2004 — and had 506 receiving yards. He and Bell became the first duo in history to each eclipse 500 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards.
But, Bell established himself as the top back early last season, and Bush had a season-high of 61 yards in Week 3. He had eight carries for 37 yards and a touchdown against the Cowboys in the playoff loss.
"He's a warrior," Mayhew said last Friday of Bush. "That Dallas game, he was hurt, but he went out and he played his butt off … in the playoff game, I thought, and he gave everything he had. And I have great respect for guys that are able to do that."
Bell finished last season with 860 rushing yards and 322 receiving yards. Riddick added 316 receiving yards and averaged 9.3 yards per catch, significantly better than Bush's 6.3 yards per catch. Plus, Riddick displayed better hands than Bush, who had multiple drops.
The No. 2 overall pick in 2006, Bush spent his first five seasons with the Saints, but became expendable when they drafted Mark Ingram in 2011. He spent the next two years with the Dolphins and had his first 1,000-yard rushing season in 2011, following it with 986 yards the next year.
"It's not about Reggie Bush," Mayhew said. "It's about the process of evaluating where you are as a football team. ... In Reggie's situation, last year obviously he was injured and so you've got to look at the contributions versus how much you're paying a player. And it's not just Reggie, it's every player on the team."
Bush, who turns 30 on Monday, should have some value on the open market.
"I think I have a lot left to give this game," Bush said last month. "My body still feels pretty good, obviously with the exception of the injuries that I went through, but my body feels good.
"I don't feel worn down; I don't feel beat up as a running back. Nine years in this league can make you feel that way, but I still feel pretty good, still feel pretty young, so I'm planning on playing for a while."