One of the Detroit Lions' more critical free agents would like to stay with the team -- and remain there for a while.
Running back Joique Bell, a Michigan native and Wayne State product, is a restricted free agent and could test the market starting March 11. He would prefer, though, to bypass the entire process altogether.
He said throughout the season that he would like to remain in Detroit. And on Wednesday night, after making a cameo in the Broadway play "Rock of Ages," Bell told the Detroit Free Press he would like to sign a long-term deal with the team.
"I understand how the business works," Bell told the Free Press. "I would like to just bypass all this and just sign a long-term deal, just knock it out. I don't want to go anywhere, I know the fans don't want me to go anywhere, I know the team doesn't want me to go anywhere, the front office doesn't want me to go anywhere. So let's make this [happen]. Honestly, let's just make this happen."
Bell became a better-than-expected second option for Detroit, turning into almost a co-starter with Reggie Bush. He gained 650 yards last season on a career-high 166 carries. He also scored eight touchdowns.
Bell also caught 53 passes for 547 yards but dropped six passes.
The good news for Bell, besides that the front office who brought him in has remained intact, is that he has familiarity with Jim Caldwell and Joe Lombardi. Bell was with the Colts in 2010 -- Caldwell's second season as Indianapolis' head coach -- and spent parts of the 2010 and 2011 season with the Saints.
Bell's return to Detroit is likely. The Lions are expected to give Bell a tender, which would likely mean at least one more season with the team. He would prefer it to be much longer than that. If the Lions tender Bell, it will give the team an opportunity to match any offer from another team.
"That's out of my hands right now," Bell said. "Only thing I can focus on is get ready for next season. Like I said: I love this franchise, I grew up watching it, I worked here, I always dreamed of playing here, and now I'm playing here, so let's make the best of it. I relish in these opportunities."