NFL free agency tracker: What DJ Chark signing means for Detroit Lions in NFL draft

Detroit Free Press

After a quiet start to free agency, the Detroit Lions made their first splash Tuesday when they agreed to a one-year contract with Jacksonville Jaguars receiver DJ Chark.

Chark may not be well known to the casual football fan — that’s what happens when you play your first four seasons in Jacksonville and miss significant time with injuries —but he fits what the Lions were looking for at the X receiver position.

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He’s big (6 feet 4) and fast (4.34-second 40 at the 2018 NFL combine) and he has the ability to stretch the field playing next to Amon-Ra St. Brown, T.J. Hockenson, Josh Reynolds and Quintez Cephus.

The Lions went into free agency with a major need at the receiver position, and that need remains long-term. Chark, who missed 13 games with a broken ankle last season, took a prove-it deal in hopes of cashing in even bigger as a free agent next offseason, and the Lions will have to either pony up to keep him or have his replacement waiting in the wings.

The Chark signing, worth a reported $10 million guaranteed with the upside for $2 million more, takes the Lions out of the market for Allen Robinson and what else remains at the top of this year’s free agent class, but it should not preclude them from spending a high pick at the position in April’s draft.

There are no receivers worth taking at No. 2 overall, but the Lions also have Picks No. 32 and 34, and should have two more selections in the third round.

With Chark manning the X position for 2022, and giving Jared Goff the kind of weapon he needs to be more willing to challenge defenses vertically, the Lions don’t necessarily need to draft a receiver who contributes in St. Brown-like fashion as a rookie.

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They wouldn’t be opposed to that, of course. And rookies like St. Brown (90 catches, 912 yards), Ja’Marr Chase (81-1,455) and Justin Jefferson (88-1,400) have shined out of the gate.

But several of this year’s top pass catchers come with injury concerns that could push them down in the draft and delay their development, including St. Brown’s former USC teammate Drake London (coming off a fractured ankle) and Alabama receivers Jameson Williams and John Metchie, both of whom tore their ACLs late in the college football season.

Given how prices at the receiver position have skyrocketed this offseason, it makes sense for the Lions to take a flier on Chark and go the draft-and-develop route in hopes of hitting it big with a young talent who can be part of their offensive nucleus for years to come.

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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