- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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Every day we’ll take a look at one of the Detroit Lions heading for free agency, what he has meant to the team before and a prognosis on whether or not he’ll be back with the club in 2014. Previous free agents profiled are here.
Free agent to be: Joique Bell (Restricted)
Position: Running back
Years in the league: 4
What he made last season: $630,000 (cash and cap number)
What he did last season: Bell transformed into a viable option behind Reggie Bush, last season’s big free-agent signing. Bell had 166 carries for 650 yards and eight touchdowns. He also caught 53 passes for 547 yards -- all of those numbers were career-highs. He and Bush formed the first tandem in NFL history to gain 500 yards both rushing and receiving in the same season. They were also considered one of the top running back duos in the NFL. He didn’t have a 100-yard rushing game this season, but gained more than 100 total yards in three of the Lions' last five games of the year.
His potential market value: The Lions will likely put a first- or second-round tender on Bell, who is one of the valuable pieces of their offense. While there hasn’t been a number set on 2014 tender offers, last year’s first-round tender was $2.879 million and the second-round tender was $2.023 million. Both numbers are expected to go up at least a little bit. If a team wants Bell -- and he could be an attractive free agent -- the Lions would have the ability to match that offer. Bell has said often he wants to stay in Detroit and told reporters last week he would like to sign a long-term deal with the club.
Will he fit the Lions: He should. He was a good option for Detroit last season. He wants to stay with the Lions. He also, at times, proved to be more reliable than Bush. It is highly unlikely the new coaching staff sees Theo Riddick as a strong option to be a No. 2 running back at this point and the team chose not to use Mikel Leshoure except as an injury replacement last season, so Bell would seem to still have a fairly large role in the Detroit offense.
What happens: The only way I see Bell not returning to Detroit is if a team truly covets him as a starter and makes him a massive offer the Lions are unable to match, which would then leave the team with a first- or second-round selection, depending on the tender offer. Frankly, it is difficult to see that scenario taking place, so the thought is Bell will return to the Lions in 2014 -- and perhaps beyond. Either way, this will be the first nice pay day for Bell, who spent the first two seasons bouncing around the NFL before finding a home in Detroit.