Fells signed a one-year deal with the Lions on Wednesday and should take the retiring Josh Hill’s role as the team’s No. 2 tight end.
Hill signed a free agent deal with the Lions in March, but told the team in recent weeks he planned to retire. Fells, similarly, is best known for his blocking ability and physical prowess in the red zone.
The Lions are thin at the tight end position behind Pro Bowl starter T.J. Hockenson.
They waived-injured Hunter Bryant last week – Bryant reverted to injured reserve and will miss the season – signed depth players Alize Mack and Hunter Thedford this offseason, and added blocking tight ends Jake Hausmann and Brock Wright in undrafted free agency.
Fells has played seven NFL seasons with four different teams after a stint playing basketball overseas. He caught 17 passes for 177 yards and three touchdowns in his one season with the Lions in 2017.
Fells had his best year as a pro in 2019, when he set career-highs with 34 catches and seven touchdowns. Last season, he had 21 catches for 312 yards for the Houston Texans.
Hill spent eight seasons with the New Orleans Saints and suffered multiple brain injuries in recent years. He previously contemplated retirement after the 2019 season, but decided to return in 2020.
In New Orleans, he played five seasons with first-year Lions head coach Dan Campbell.