"The NFL is a crazy business," Bell told reporters Saturday night, per Justin Rogers of MLive.com. "You never know. The Lions made me an offer. I thought I did what was best for my career. I ended up declining the offer."
The writing appeared to be on the wall for Bell as the 2015 season wore on. He averaged a career-low 3.5 yards per carry on just 90 attempts, his fewest in a season since 2012.
However, per Birkett, Bell did not seem to have any indication as recently as last week that something was coming:
Dave Birkett @davebirkett
Saw Bell at the Super Bowl and he seemed like he thought he'd be a Lion 2016.2016-2-16 22:19:20
Bell didn't have any hard feelings about the decision on Twitter:
Joique Bell @JoiqueBell
It's been a pleasure Detroit. Home is where the heart is and my heart will always be here. #DVE4Ever #WSU #B.H. https://t.co/56xME7C7nN2016-2-16 23:00:28
The Lions drafted Ameer Abdullah in the second round last year. The former Nebraska star didn't have a spectacular rookie campaign, averaging 4.2 yards per carry, but he proved to be capable as a runner and a pass-catcher with 25 receptions.
In addition to Abdullah's emergence, the Lions also have Theo Riddick—who was third on the team in receptions (80) and receiving yards (697) last season—and Zach Zenner on the roster to fix a rushing attack that finished last in the NFL with 1,335 yards in 16 games.
Even though Bell's career never took off following his breakout 2012 season, Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com did point out the unlikely path taken by the 29-year-old to get as far as he did:
Gregg Rosenthal @greggrosenthal
Joique Bell released. Was undrafted out of Wayne State and on 3rd team. Had a nice run w hometown squad2016-2-16 22:24:33
The Lions do gain $2.5 million in cap space with an additional $1 million in dead money by releasing Bell, per Over the Cap. It's not a huge amount to save, but every bit helps for a franchise that is still awaiting official word on star wide receiver Calvin Johnson's future.
Bell is hardly old by normal standards, though for a running back whose performance is in decline, it will be difficult for him to latch on with another team this offseason. He could get invited to camp with the hope of making an impression during the preseason to keep his career going.
Stats courtesy of ESPN.com.