Allen Park — The Detroit Lions are signing one of the top running backs on the free agency market, maybe just not the one everyone expected. The team reached an agreement with David Montgomery Tuesday night, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.
According to multiple reports, it’s a three-year, $18 million deal for Montgomery, which includes $11 million guaranteed. The move almost certainly signifies the end of Jamaal Williams’ time in Detroit.
Montgomery, 25, was a third-round pick out of Iowa State in 2019, spending his first four seasons with the Chicago Bears. A dual-threat out of the backfield, he’s racked up more than 3,600 rushing yards and 4,800 yards from scrimmage in 60 games.
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A division rival, the Lions have got plenty of time to get an up-close look at Montgomery’s skill set. In eight games against Detroit, he’s compiled 484 yards on 110 carries and another 108 yards on 13 receptions, scoring five total touchdowns.
One of the top players available at the running back position following Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs and Tony Pollard receiving franchise tags, Montgomery was ranked ahead of Williams on most publications’ free agency rankings.
“Montgomery is a reliable three-down back who is as tough as any player in the NFL, returning to the lineup from injury faster than expected several times over his career and never showing signs of weakness,” Pro Football Focus wrote.
“Beyond rushing and receiving, Montgomery is also a reliable pass protector. As a playmaker, the former third-rounder can routinely shake off tacklers and make defenders miss in a phone booth, with his 185 missed tackles forced over the past four seasons the fifth most in the NFL. His biggest knock is his lack of top-end speed to break off big gains, as he has recorded just 21 rushes of 15-plus yards on 915 carries.
Williams, a fan favorite, is now expected to sign elsewhere. The six-year veteran, who led the NFL with 17 rushing touchdowns last season, has reportedly been drawing interest from a number of teams, including AFC Super Bowl contenders Buffalo and Cincinnati.
Signed to a two-year deal in 2021, Williams appeared in 30 games for Detroit, rushing for 1,667 yards on 415 carries (4.0 YPC) and scoring 20 times.
“He’s one of the most unselfish players that I’ve ever been around,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said after the season finale, when Williams set the franchise’s single season record for rushing touchdowns against his former team, the Green Bay Pakcers.=. “He is all about it for the team. … He brings some energy to us. And I tell you what, in some critical moments today, once again, he showed up. And he’s one of the most consistent players we have. I’ve said that from Day 1. You can always bank on the production you’re going to get from him. You know exactly what he’s going to do. He’ll be where he’s supposed to be when he’s supposed to be there.”
Williams had expressed a strong interest in returning to Detroit after that performance.
“I would love to be back on this team, just because of our players and just how everybody is really — when you go through adversity, you see who really for the team,” he said. “Everybody was for the team when we were 1-6. Everybody was still down for the team. All for one. Ready to go out there and do they job when we was 1-6.
“So that right there, when you at your lowest, you show up, you see what people’s true colors are,” Williams continued. “You see what they true heart is and where they at. And, I’m just grateful for this team, because we went on a tear from there. It just shows everybody’s loyalty. It shows the type of personality they have. And I’m just grateful to be around a group of guys and hopefully I’ll be back.”