Detroit Lions punter Jack Fox signed his exclusive rights free agent tender Monday, a contract that could be a precursor to a bigger long-term deal.
Fox finished second in the NFL in net punting in his first season with the Lions in 2020, when he set franchise records by averaging 49.1 yards per punt with a 44.8-yard net.
Fox averaged 49.2 yards per punt last season, though his net average dipped to 42.3 yards. He also has handled most kickoffs the past two seasons, and last year completed 2 of 3 passes on fake punts, with his lone incompletion sailing through teammate Godwin Igwebuike’s hands in Week 18.
Lions special teams coach Dave Fipp called Fox, a high school quarterback, “a coach’s dream” as a punter because of his passing ability.
“It just puts a lot of stress on the defensive side of the ball on that play,” Fipp said during the season. “I was kind of digging to see if he had done any (passing in his life), and he said he was a high school quarterback. I’m like, ‘Geez, and you haven’t thrown anything yet? Did anybody have you or ask you, too?’ And he said, yeah, he’d done a little bit of it in the past.'”
Fox’s dual-threat ability aside, the Lions are interested in signing him to a long-term contract because of his right leg.
Fox was selected to his first Pro Bowl in the 2020 season and is considered one of the top young punters in the NFL.
The Lions could look to sign as many as three players to long-term deals this offseason. General manager Brad Holmes said at the NFL’s annual meeting in March he planned to pick up the fifth-year option on tight end T.J. Hockenson’s contract if the two sides did not strike a new deal first, and he said the team has had internal discussions about extending cornerback Amani Oruwariye.
As an exclusive rights free agent, the Lions controlled Fox’s rights once they tendered him a minimum contract offer this spring.
Fox, scheduled to make $895,000 this fall, will be a restricted free agent in 2023 without a new contract. The New England Patriots’ Jake Bailey, who will make $3.86 million this fall, is currently the highest-paid punter in the NFL.