Free agent profiles: Is there any way of coaxing Marvin Jones Jr. back?

Pride of Detroit

Despite the fact that the Detroit Lions are still using his signed jersey as a giveaway prize, all signs are currently pointing towards Marvin Jones Jr. playing elsewhere in 2021.

Jones has had a solid five years in Detroit, outplaying his modest contract while not putting up much of a stink despite all the losing. In a way, it was a mutually beneficial relationship. While the two sides never found team success together, the Lions benefitted from Jones’ playmaking ability, while Jones was given the stage to display his talents thanks to having a franchise quarterback and a team mostly unafraid of testing defenses deep.

But with Jones headed towards free agency and the Lions undergoing just about as many offseason changes as realistically possible, is there any chance they decided to keep a relatively good thing going?

Let’s take a closer look.

Previous free agent profiles: Danny Amendola, Matt Prater, Jamal Agnew, Everson Griffen, Duron Harmon, Kenny Golladay, Don Muhlbach, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Darryl Roberts

Marvin Jones Jr.

Expectations heading into 2020

In 2019, Jones had a fairly successful season despite missing the final month of the season with an injury. Though it was his second straight season cut short due to injury, many remained high on Jones. He was still one of the better contested catch receivers in the NFL, and in two of his previous three seasons, he had tallied nine touchdowns.

With no significant competition for the No. 2 job behind Kenny Golladay, Jones’ relatively high production was expected to continue despite crossing into his thirties.

Actual role in 2020

16 games (16 starts): 76 catches, 978 yards, 9 TDs
PFF grade: 73.6 (48th out of 122 qualifying WRs)

For much of the season, Jones had to assume the No. 1 receiver role with Golladay only playing five games. After a slow start, Jones grew into the role well. In fact, from Week 10 and beyond, Jones’ 670 receiving yards were sixth-most of any NFL wide receiver.

Over Jones’ five-year span with the Lions, he’s amassed 36 touchdowns, ranking him eighth among all other receivers in that time frame.

Outlook for 2021

Contract status: Unrestricted free agent

The Lions are going through a massive rebuild. Jones is losing just about everything that has made him familiar with the organization. Gone is long-time wide receivers coach Robert Prince and his well-liked offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. The quarterback he grew to love in Matthew Stafford is headed to Los Angeles. And Jones may even be losing the 1A to his 1B in Golladay, as the Lions have a difficult decision looming there.

As a result, Jones has made no effort to hide his excitement for free agency.

“I’m a free agent and the free agent process is always exciting, and it’s something I’m obviously excited about,” Jones said back in December.

He’s also teased on social media about potentially joining both the Jaguars and the Rams, and let it be known publicly that he’s hoping to both get paid and potentially get a ring.

The Lions can’t really offer promises in either of those categories. They’re likely a couple of years away from seriously competing, and they’re tight against the cap. However, they can offer one thing for certain: opportunity. Detroit may not have a No. 1, No. 2, or No. 3 receiver on their roster currently. If Jones wants targets, he’d get plenty in Detroit.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem like enough for either side of the table. Jones clearly is looking for greener pastures, while the Lions wouldn’t be doing themselves any favors by spending a moderate amount on a 31-year-old receiver. A divorce here would be mutually beneficial.

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