In many ways, Detroit Lions backup running back Joique Bell was given the perfect name at birth that would eventually describe the makings of his NFL playing career. The name Joique is French in origin meaning Conqueror and all he has done since getting a legitimate shot in the NFL is overcome and answer the Bell.
I, for one, believe that the Lions should make it a top priority to re-sign Bell to a multi-year contract this offseason. If you ask Bell how long he wants his next contract with the Lions to be, and I did, he will tell you that he, “want(s) to be a Lion forever, so however long that is.” But can Joique Bell conquer the Detroit Lions numbers game?
There is the argument out there that Bell is a backup running back and the Lions won’t pay Bell a starters salary because he was an Undrafted Free Agent (UDFA) and that there will be other teams willing to tender Bell higher than the Lions are willing to pay and that the Lions will let Bell go. I beg to differ and I am going to explain why the Lions would be out of their minds NOT to lock Bell up for at least another 3-5 years.
Let’s start at the beginning
Joique Dewayne Bell, Jr. was born in Benton Harbor, Michigan where he also played his high school football. He was switched from running back to quarterback in his senior year of high school and wasn’t able to put up the flashy numbers that the recruiters like. In turn, he wasn’t highly recruited by Division I schools as a running back, but he was recruited on the defensive side of the ball. Bell wound up going to Division II’s Wayne State University in Detroit, though, after their coaches convinced his mother, Althea Gaddy, to go there – where he became an Ultimate Warrior.
When asked if he felt like switching from running back to quarterback in his senior year of high school prevented him from playing at a Division I program he replied, “No, I Don’t think it was a factor. Other Division I schools wanted me for positions besides running back. Mostly on defense.”
Through four years at WSU (2006-2009) Bell played in all 44 games amassing 6,728 yards on 1,181 rushing attempts and 88 touchdowns. He went over 2,000 yards rushing in two separate seasons (2006, 2009). He also pitched in 79 receptions for 918 yards and 8 touchdowns and, oh yeah, another 4 passing touchdowns in those four years. A whopping 100 touchdowns in 44 games! In his 2009 senior season, Bell won the Harlon Hill Trophy which is the Division II equivalent of the Division I Heisman Trophy and he received numerous other awards over his college playing career.
Bell’s College Breakdown:
- Never missed a game (44 straight)
- Rushed for over 2,000 yards twice
- 100 TDs in 44 games (88 rushing, 8 receiving, 4 passing)
- Best player in Division II one time and a semi-finalist (top 24 nationally) two other times
Bell went undrafted in 2010 and had a whirlwind first two seasons in the NFL. In 2010 he signed to the Bills’ practice squad, then a first stint with the Eagles who signed him from the Bills’ practice squad, then on to the Colts who picked him up off of waivers where he played in five games before being waived for an offensive lineman. Bell then re-signed with the Eagles for a second stint in December of 2010. In January of 2011 Bell was signed off of the Eagles practice squad by the Saints before the 2011 playoffs began and was released in September 20, 2011, but was signed to New Orleans’ practice squad the next day. He was then signed by the Detroit Lions in December of 2011. Bell played his first game for the Lions on September 9, 2012 and appeared in all 16 games of the 2012 season, compiling 414 rushing yards on 82 carries (5.0 average) with 3 rushing touchdowns. He also hauled in 52 receptions for 485 yards. 28 of his receptions went for first downs. Bell earned a spot on the Lions 53-man roster and a one year deal worth $630,000 in March of 2013 after impressing the Lions coaching staff with his 2012 contributions.
After a very impressive 2013 campaign as Reggie Bush’s backup (stats comparing Bell and Bush below) Joique Bell will be heading into 2014 as a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) and will be sought after by many other teams this offseason. When asked if he thought he could be a starter in the NFL Bell replied, “Most definitely. I can handle the load. Would love to reach 2,000 (yards) at this level also. Get in that 10,000 yard club.” I followed with “I see a huge amount of desire and fire on the field. Where does that angry edge come from, and why do you think you were undrafted?” he said,”the energy comes from the love of the game. The edge is because I went undrafted. To be honest, I don’t know why (I went undrafted). Maybe coming from Division II played a huge part.”
Well, from undrafted rookie free agent to looking a big time NFL contract squarely in the face is a dream that many young and gifted athletes never get or they let slip. Not a high character, hard working guy like Joique Bell, though.
As a RFA, Bell can accept an offer sheet from a new club, but the Lions will have “right of first refusal,” a five-day period in which they may match the offer and retain him, or choose not to match the offer, in which case they may receive one or more draft picks for the upcoming draft from Bell’s new club. If an offer sheet is not executed, Bell’s rights revert to the Lions a day after negotiations must end. It is expected that Bell would require a second round tender, which in 2013 is $2.023 million and figured to increase slightly in 2014. Many argue that Bell is not a starter and paying a backup running back a second round tender is far too much money. I refute that argument stating that Bell is more like an RB1b on the Lions and could easily be the starter in Detroit, but most definitely could be a starting running back on many other teams in the NFL. Paying Bell a slightly elevated contract for his production on the field and his character off of it is more useful than retaining let’s say a backup quarterback like Shaun Hill for another $2.75 million or the $5 million a year on average that wide receiver Nate Burleson or cornerback Chris Houston are receiving. Lions President Tom Lewand just needs to be as savvy and creative as he has been in the past and find a way to keep the players that produce on the field on the roster and not just look at the numbers game. Players that produce should be the players that get paid.
Bell’s Lions 2 Year Breakdown:
- Never missed a game since given a legitimate chance (36 games)
- 31 consecutive games played with the Lions
- 1,033 yards rushing on 240 attempts
- 1,007 yards receiving on 101 receptions
- 11 touchdowns
- 4 fumbles in 341 touches
Bell and Bush 2013 Comparisons
TSB – I have heard you referred to as a “tweener.” What do you think about that label?
JB- Lol what is a tweener
TSB – you are bigger than a speed back and smaller than a power back
JB – Lol I say to that I’m a RB with a little bit of both Speed and Power
TSB – Do you feel like there is more individual pressure playing in your home state than somewhere else?
JB – I have been in Detroit since 05 so no pressure
TSB – What is it like going out in public now that you are so popular?
JB -A lot of pictures and autographs but its part of what I do. The fans are why we are here
TSB – Of all the RBs you have played with, who was the most willing to give you pointers and helped you the most transitioning to the NFL?
JB – Everywhere I went the RB groups were helpful
TSB – I loved seeing you and Reggie Bush on the field at the same time and wished we would have seen more of that. What are your thoughts on those plays?
JB – I love it, was with Reggie in NEW ORLEANS, so I’m very comfortable with him
TSB – That offensive line is young and going to be together for a while. Especially Warford, Reiff, and Waddle Mountain. Can you give me your thoughts on the Oline and their youth?
JB – Special group of guys we have here.
TSB – Fans are high on your pass catching ability. Do you like catching the ball as much as getting the handoff?
JB – Either or I love it the same. I just thank God for the ability to do both
TSB – How is your schooling going? Still working on the Masters?
JB – Yes I’m continuing my education before its over I’m reaching for my DR.
Through 15 games in 2013, Joique Bell has 49 catches for 522 yards, giving him an impressive 1,141 yards from scrimmage off the bench when you add his 619 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns with one more game remaining in 2013.
Bell and Bush are tied with 49 receptions. Bush has 10 more targets and 49 fewer yards than Bell.
Bell has 51 less rushing attempts than Bush but 4 more TDs and 2 less fumbles
Bell is second on the Lions with 8 TDs. Calvin Johnson has 12 TDs
Do you think Joique Bell will survive the Lions Numbers Game?
Comment below or on my facebook page to let me know!
Follow the Detroit Lions Recliner Report & Moore on facebook.