The Detroit Lions parted ways with tight end Jesse James this past week following two underwhelming seasons in the Motor City. It didn’t take the new regime in Detroit very long to find his replacement.
On Saturday, the Lions signed former New Orleans Saints tight end Josh Hill to a one-year deal. The soon-to-be 31-year old Hill spent his entire eight-year career with the Saints prior to being released earlier this month.
The connection between Hill and the new regime in Detroit is crystal clear. For the past five seasons, Dan Campbell has been the assistant to head coach Sean Payton in New Orleans as well as the team’s tight end coach. Now Campbell, the new Lions’ head coach, is bringing in one of his own to backup 2020 Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson.
The signing makes sense on many levels for Detroit on top of the obvious player/coach familiarity. Signing a released veteran in Hill doesn’t hurt the Lions when it comes to potential future compensatory picks. He’s also a blocking specialist that Campbell says will do all the dirty work. Pro Football Focus ranked Hill as the seventh-best run-blocking tight end in the NFL in 2020.
Last season, Hill was targeted just 10 times, catching eight passes for 46 yards and a touchdown in seven starts. Half of his receptions resulted in first downs. Arguably posting his best season as a professional just two years ago, Hill racked up 25 receptions for 226 yards and three scores in 2019 as an 11-game starter.
Along with the signing of wide receiver Tyrell Williams recently, who used to play under new Lions’ offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn as a member of the Los Angeles Chargers, the new regime in Motown has looked to their former teams to find free agents. The addition of Josh Hill certainly falls into this category.
The pending trade of Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams was also heavily influenced by the previous relationship held by that organization and the Lions’ new general manager, Brad Holmes. It begs the question as to whether we’ll see even more signings of free agents soon with similar ties to the new regime in Detroit.