Lions Re-Sign Joique Bell
The Lions locked up Joique Bell Tuesday, re-signing the fourth-year running back to a three-year, $9.3 million deal. The years and money far exceed the second round tender of one-year, $2.187 million required to retain Bell’s services for 2014 and show some level of commitment and faith in the undrafted 27-year-old. He’ll continue to be in a timeshare with Reggie Bush, who signed during the offseason last year.
After bouncing around a few practice squads since 2010, Bell finally caught on in 2012 with Detroit and has played in all 32 games since then. In his first season of significant playing time, Bell carried the ball 82 times but had an impressive 5.0 YPC for 414 rushing yards and three touchdowns. He showed even more prowess in the passing game, hauling in 52 catches for 485 yards. On only 392 snaps, Bell finished 12th among all running backs in Pro Football Focus’ overall rankings.
But even after that impressive season, not much was expected of Bell heading in to 2013 after the Lions signed Bush to be their starting running back. Bush did lead the team with 223 carries but Bell wasn’t far behind with 166. For the season, Bell totaled 650 rushing yards and eight touchdowns while repeating his success in the passing game with 53 catches for 547 yards. And even playing in limited time again (just 562 snaps), Bell ended the season as Pro Football Focus’ ninth best running back. By comparison, Matt Forte led all running backs with 940 snaps but finished as only the 16th best running back. Bell also finished fifth in our Elusive Rating, which takes into account blocking-independent stats. Only Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, Chris Ivory and DeMarco Murray finished ahead of him, putting Bell in pretty good company.
For 2014, new coach Jim Caldwell has publicly committed to running the ball more after Detroit was just 14th in rush attempts last year. This most likely means Bell and Bush won’t both have 50 receptions like they did in 2013 but should set up more chances for long gains and rushing touchdowns for both.
As for the fantasy implications, Bell and Bush are locked in a timeshare for at least 2014 and, possibly, beyond. Both are signed for less than $4 million per season for the next three seasons after splitting snaps almost evenly (625-562) in 2013. However, Bell stands a better chance of holding up as he’s only played 954 snaps for his entire career and has yet to miss a game since finding full-time work. Bush, on the other hand, has played a full 16-game season just twice in his eight-year career and was even benched toward the end of last season for fumbling issues. That said, neither should be counted on as a RB1 until the other is sidelined with an injury or has moved on to another team.
Michael Moore is a contributor to the IDP and Dynasty sections of Pro Football Focus Fantasy. Check out his dynasty-centric website at www.DynastyFantasyFootballCentral.com or follow him on Twitter @Dynasty_FFC.