General manager Martin Mayhew made it clear how important running back Joique Bell was to the offense moving forward into the Jim Caldwell era. On Tuesday, about three hours before the free agent signing period was to begin, he proved it.

Bell, the Wayne State product, agreed to a deal that will keep him in Detroit the next three years and pay him $9.17 million, with $4.3 million guaranteed. He will play this season for the $2.187 million second-round tender he was offered last week, then be paid $7 million for 2015 and 2016.

"I don't think this could have played out any better in a movie,” Bell said. “I'm speechless."

Bell’s agent Isaac Conner confirmed the deal.

“He’s going to be here,” Mayhew said at the combine last month. “We met with his agent a couple of nights ago and had a good discussion. There is a possibility we might work on a long-term deal with him, but either way, he’s going to be with us.”