Joique Bell was one of the most popular Lions players the past four seasons, but if the former Wayne State standout’s NFL career will continue, it won’t be in Detroit.
The Lions terminated Bell’s contract on Tuesday, according to the league’s transaction wire. The first major cut by new general manager Bob Quinn saves the Lions $2.5 million in salary cap space for 2016, but it also results in the dismissal of the most recognizable hometown face of the team.
“It’s been a pleasure Detroit,” Bell wrote on Twitter. “Home is where the heart is and my heart will always be here.”
A Benton Harbor native, Bell went undrafted in 2010 after winning the Harlon Hill Trophy as the top Division II player his senior year at Wayne State.
He was on four teams — the Bills, Eagles, Colts and Saints — before the Lions signed him in December 2011. Over the following three seasons, Bell became an increasingly important part of the offense.
In 2012, Bell was the backup to Mikel Leshoure, but gained 414 rushing yards on a career-best 5 yards per carry as well as 485 receiving yards. In 2013 as Reggie Bush’s backup, Bell had 650 rushing yards, 547 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, which helped him earn a three-year, $9.3 million contract in March 2014.
When Bush dealt with injuries the following season, Bell became the starter and led the team with 860 rushing yards and eight total touchdowns.
But offseason surgeries in the winter of 2015 limited Bell last offseason, and he struggled at the start of the year, gaining just 22 yards on his first 20 carries in the first three games.
Bell sat out the next three games and played better the rest of the season, particularly as a receiver, but with younger options in the backfield, the Lions decided to move on from Bell.
Ameer Abdullah was a second-round pick in 2015, and Theo Riddick has improved in each of his first three seasons in the NFL. Zach Zenner, an undrafted rookie last year, will compete for playing time, too, and the Lions could look to add a veteran in free agency.