Detroit Lions to release TE Jesse James as roster overhaul continues

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett | Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Lions went on a spending spree at the start of free agency two years ago, signing Trey Flowers, Justin Coleman and Jesse James to big-money contracts.

Now, two of those players are gone.

The Lions plan to release James before the start of the new league year next week, a person informed of the move told the Free Press. ESPN first reported the news late Thursday night.

The Lions previously informed Coleman of his release, a second source said.

Neither James nor Coleman lived up to deals they signed that made them among the highest-paid players at their positions two years ago.

James caught 30 passes in 32 games with the Lions and played primarily as a second-string tight end after the Lions spent the No. 8 pick of the 2019 draft on T.J. Hockenson.

Hockenson made the Pro Bowl after catching a career-high 67 passes for 723 yards last season. James played primarily in blocking role.

James was due a base salary of $4.95 million in 2021. His release will free up either $2 million or $5 million in cap room, depending on if the Lions designate him a June 1 release.

By cutting Coleman, who was briefly the highest-paid nickel cornerback in the NFL, the Lions will create either $5 million or $9 million in cap room.

The Lions could use free agency next week to find a replacement for James. In addition to Hockenson, Hunter Bryant, Hunter Thedford and Alize Mack are the only other tight ends under contract for 2021.

In the past week, the Lions done significant work paring their roster of overpriced players and reworking the contracts of others.

Along with Coleman and James, they plan to cut or trade cornerback Desmond Trufant before free agency opens next Wednesday and already have released linebacker Christian Jones.

The Lions also restructured the contract of linebacker Jamie Collins to free up cap space.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. 

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