John Cominsky decided to bet on himself.
At his exit interview with the Atlanta Falcons last January, Cominsky asked for his release from that team that made him a fourth-round pick in the 2019 NFL draft.
Cominsky’s career was trending downward. He played in just four games in 2021 after logging a then-career-high 28 tackles a season earlier, and he believed there was something else better out there for him — but he never imagined it would be this.
The Detroit Lions claimed Cominsky off waivers last May, and after he set career-highs in sacks (four), tackles (30) and quarterback hits (12) as a key part of the Lions defensive line last fall, the team rewarded him with a new two-year contract Tuesday.
NFL Network reported the deal was worth $8.5 million, with another $1 million in incentives.
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“That was like the first time to really show true confidence in myself,” Cominsky told the Free Press on Tuesday. “To have somebody fulfilling your NFL dream and you tell them like, I don’t want it anymore. I think there’s something else out there. It’s insane. It’s insane.
“(Last) year, I gave Detroit everything I got and obviously they were able to tell with this contract. I already told them, I told A.G. (defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn) I’m ready to run through a brick wall for that organization and he said, ‘Well, when you run through that brick wall I’m going to be right behind you.'”
Cominsky was one of the feel-good stories of the Lions’ 2022 season, and in some ways personified their run from NFC North afterthought to legitimate playoff contender.
The do-it-all lineman earned playing time with a strong training camp and after injuries sidelined young defensive linemen Josh Paschal and Levi Onwuzurike, and he finished the season as a crucial cog on their line.
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The Lions went 9-3 with Cominsky in the lineup last season, and were 0-5 when he was out with a broken hand.
“I think the timing of it was perfect,” Cominsky said. “I think this past year I really adopted just an attitude of just letting it rip and not playing so tight, and to have gotten the opportunity once I finally figured that out about football, I get my chance to start and get to show what I got. So it worked out perfect. Last year alone was enough for me, enough of a reward just to have gotten out on the field and play with a group of guys. I was happy, and then to get a contract and be told that you get to do it two more times is just, it’s amazing. I’m pumped to say the least.”
Cominsky, who had 1½ sacks in his first three years with the Falcons, said he will fly back from a family vacation in Florida on Wednesday to sign a contract he called “the cherry on top” of an amazing season.
He had interest from several other teams in free agency, but said he choose to stay with the Lions because it’s close to home, he liked the contract and he likes the people he’s surrounded by in the organization.
“There’s a piece of me that I feels like I owe something to Detroit because they gave me that opportunity to show what I got,” Cominsky said. “Gave me eight starts, gave me a chance. They offered a solid contract. It was two years, it’s close to home. Everything was just — everything lined up perfectly. Everything about Detroit, I just don’t know how many other places that exists that guys fight for their coaches the way they do in Detroit.”
With Cominsky back, the Lions will return every key member of their front seven from a defense that ranked last in the NFL in total defense last season but played its best football in the second half of the year.
Defensive linemen Aidan Hutchinson, Alim McNeill and Josh Paschal and linebackers Malcolm Rodriguez, Derrick Barnes and James Houston are under contract for 2023 on rookie deals, and the Lions re-signed nose tackle Isaiah Buggs to a two-year deal, tendered a contract to exclusive rights free agent Benito Jones and agreed to a new three-year contract with linebacker Alex Anzalone on Monday.
The Lions have added two potential starters, Cam Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley, at cornerback in free agency, and Cominsky said he’s excited to see the defense this fall.
Free agents can begin signing with new teams at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
“You’re looking at most of that defense being the same guys and we upgraded in a couple spots,” Cominsky said. “It’s awesome. We got chemistry and it’s only going to get better.”
Contact Dave Birkett at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.