The Detroit Lions’ decision to release Joique Bell came down to only one thing and it isn’t a ready-made replacement or the need for cap space.
The news of Joique Bell‘s release by the Detroit Lions didn’t come as a great shock. It could be framed in a couple different narratives but the decision comes down to one thing: production, or a lack thereof.
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The 2015 season saw Bell rush for just 311 yards on 91 carries – far short of the 1,200 yard goal he publicly announced before the season began. Even worse, his yards per carry average not only came in below 4.0 for a third year in a row, but dropped to 3.5.
The term “cap casualty” is widely used this time of year and while Bell’s release does clear $2.5 in salary cap space, that couldn’t have been a motivating factor. The Lions could have upwards of $40 million in cap space when free agency begins, so there would have been no trouble accommodating Bell’s $3.5 million cap number for 2016 had his play not declined as it has over the last year.
That being the case, consider Bell’s departure about him and him only. With Theo Riddick living up to they hype last season it was Zach Zenner‘s turn to gather a bandwagon following. With a skill-set similar to Bell’s it would be easy to see Bell’s release as a vote of confidence for Zenner. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case.
Zenner remains unproven having averaged just 3.5 yards per carry, the same as Bell, in his 17 carries before being lost for the season due to injury. Will Zenner have a chance to fill Bell’s role? It would be prudent to give him that chance. But it would also be prudent to consider upgrades to complement what the Lions have in Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick.
That could come in the form of another draft pick or a veteran free agent. It will all depend on where the Lions want to slot a new face in the depth chart.