By: Will Burchfield
The Lions appear ready to let their restricted free agents test the open market.
Per the Free Press, the team is unlikely to tender any of its four RFAs, including TJ Jones and Zach Zenner. Lions general manager Bob Quinn has until March 14 to make a final decision.
Detroit’s other two RFAs are linebacker/defensive end Brandon Copeland and offensive lineman Zac Kerin.
If the Lions don’t tender those four players it doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be back. The team may believe it can re-sign them as unrestricted free agents for less than the cost of a tender. TJ Jones, who caught 30 passes for 399 yards in 14 games last season before injuring his shoulder, is certainly a candidate to return.
Teams can offer three types of tenders to restricted free agents that typically dissuade other teams from making that player an offer. But even the lowest level tender in 2017 cost about $1.8 million. That amount will be similar in 2018, and none of Jones, Zenner, Copeland or Kerin is worth the cost.
Jones, a sixth-round draft pick in 2014, made $690,000 last season. Zenner, Copeland and Kerin, all of whom were undrafted, each made $615,000.
Jones figures to draw some interest on the open market, as does Zenner. The hard-nosed running back notched 334 yards and four touchdowns in 2016, though he saw scant playing time last season.
The Lions have four running backs under contract next season: Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Tion Green and Dwayne Washington. Quinn is comfortable with as many as five running backs on the roster, and he said earlier this offseason he “absolutely” intends to add one to the group. Zenner appears to be the odd man out.
Copeland missed all of last season with a torn pectoral muscle. Kerin started in Week 3 on a banged-up offensive line before going down for the year with a knee injury. Both players can likely be re-signed for the league minimum should the Lions be inclined.