In wild WR market, Detroit Lions show restraint, add Jaguars’ DJ Chark on 1-year deal

Detroit Free Press

In an exploding wide receiver market, the Detroit Lions took a measured approach to their free agent shopping at the position.

The Lions agreed to a one-year contract Tuesday with Jacksonville Jaguars receiver DJ Chark, a league source told the Free Press. The deal includes $10 million guaranteed and could be worth up to $12 million, according to ESPN.

INSTANT ANALYSIS: What DJ Chark signing means for Lions in 2022 NFL draft

Chark was considered in the second tier of available receivers, behind Detroit native Allen Robinson, but inflation rocked the market in recent days.

The Los Angeles Chargers signed Mike Williams to a three-year, $60 million contract before the start of free agency. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers used the franchise tag on Chris Godwin at the cost of about $19 million. The Cleveland Browns traded for Amari Cooper and his $20 million contract. And Christian Kirk agreed to a four-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Day 1 of free agency Monday that has a maximum value of $84 million.

The Lions entered free agency determined to add an outside receiver to their offense that struggled in the red zone and to push the ball downfield last season.

Chark, 6 feet 4, ran a 4.34-second 40-yard dash coming out of college, has the speed to threaten defenses vertically and is one of the better contested-ball catchers in the NFL.

He missed most of last season with a broken ankle, catching only seven passes for 154 yards in four games, but had career-highs of 73 catches, 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns when he made the Pro Bowl as an alternate in 2019.

Chark joins a Lions receiving corps that leaned heavily on Amon-Ra St. Brown as a rookie last season.

St. Brown had six straight games with at least eight catches to finish the season while playing a variety of roles on offense. He is most effective as an inside receiver.

The Lions re-signed Josh Reynolds to be their No. 3 receiver last week, and they return Quintez Cephus coming off a broken collar bone and top tight end T.J. Hockenson to their passing corps.

Lions receivers coach Antwaan Randle El said at the Senior Bowl he hoped to add one receiver in free agency and two through the draft, including one receiver to play the X position.

“You always want to have a guy, so to speak,” Randle El said. “Like that guy, we’re throwing to him and we don’t care who’s covering what. We know he can go up and get it. And my guys know we haven’t had that guy yet, so it’s nothing new from them. It’s not a slap to them or a jab to them in anyway, but that’s what we need to be able to complement (the guys we have).”

Chark’s addition does not change the Lions’ long-term need for help at receiver, and the team is expected to remain in the market for a young pass catcher in April’s draft. The Lions have the second and 32nd picks in the first round, and will have three picks on Day 2, including No. 34 overall.

For Chark, 25, signing a one-year deal allows him to test the market again next spring, when he could be in line for a major pay raise if he stays healthy.

DAY ONE OF FREE AGENYCY: Lions smart not to splurge on oversized deals

The LSU product also missed time with an assortment of injuries in 2020 and five games with a quadricep injury as a rookie in 2018.

Chark is the first free agent the Lions have added to their roster this spring.

On Monday, the Lions re-signed three of their own free agents, agreeing to a three-year deal with safety Tracy Walker and inking one-year contracts with backup quarterback Tim Boyle and middle linebacker Alex Anzalone.

The Lions still have needs at tight end, safety, linebacker and defensive end, where Charles Harris will be an unrestricted free agent Wednesday coming off a career-best 7.5-sack season.

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

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