Lions free agent DJ Chark signs with Carolina Panthers: Opportunity ‘second to none’

Detroit Free Press

After one “amazing” season with the Detroit Lions, DJ Chark is leaving town.

Chark posted Friday on Twitter that he has agreed to a free agent contract with the Carolina Panthers. The deal is for one year, NFL Network reported.

“The past year has been incredible for me,” Chark wrote on Twitter. “Signing with Detroit and meeting the great people of that organization was huge for me. Playing with my brothers and going from 1-6 to 9-8 was amazing! I believe transparency and honesty is everything. With that being said this chance in Carolina is second to none! Can’t wait to see what this journey holds for me!”

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Chark, the Lions’ top free agent signing of 2022, missed six games with ankle pain last season that was residual from the season-ending injury he suffered in 2021. He finished with 30 catches for 502 yards and three touchdowns, but was a key part of the Lions’ high-powered passing attack in the second half of the season, when they won eight of their final 10 games.

Chark had back-to-back 90-plus-yard performances in early December wins over the Jacksonville Jaguars and Minnesota Vikings, and a season-high 108 yards on four catches in the Lions’ Christmas eve loss to the Panthers.

Chark, 26, signed a one-year, $10 million prove-it deal with the Lions last spring in hopes of cashing in with a bigger long-term contract this offseason.

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He found a tepid receiver market — Allen Lazard and Jakobi Meyers landed the biggest free agent deals by receivers, at $11 million per season — and chose another one-year contract from the Panthers, and the opportunity to play as the team’s No. 1 receiver, over returning to Detroit.

The Lions return leading receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and top backups Josh Reynolds and Kalif Raymond, expect Jameson Williams to take a major step forward in his second NFL season, and still could add another pass catcher through free agency or the draft.

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The Lions also return 4/5ths of last year’s starting offensive line, added Graham Glasgow in free agency and still have Halapoulivaati Vaitai under contract; quarterback Jared Goff is coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he went 324 straight pass attempts without an interception to finish the year; and David Montgomery joins a backfield that includes D’Andre Swift.

The Lions ranked fifth in the NFL in scoring offense (26.6 ppg) and fifth in yards per pass play (7.3 ypp) last season.

In Carolina, Chark heads a receiving corps that includes free agent additions Adam Thielen and tight end Hayden Hurst. The Panthers traded top receiver D.J. Moore to the Chicago Bears in a package to move up for the No. 1 pick in next month’s draft, where they are expected to draft a quarterback.

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

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