(97.1 The Ticket) The Lions are reshuffling the deck at linebacker heading into the 2018 season.
Shortly after agreeing to a deal with Devon Kennard, the team came to a two-year agreement on Tuesday with former Bears linebacker Christian Jones, according to ESPN. Jones’ deal is worth a total of $7.75 million, according to NFL Network, with a $2.8 million signing bonus.
The 27-year-old led the Bears with 90 tackles (60 solo) last season. The Lions’ top two tacklers in 2017 were Tahir Whitehead (110) and Jarrad Davis (96).
The additions of Kennard and Jones signal the end of Whitehead’s time in Detroit, with the six-year vet becoming an unrestricted free agent. At the same time, the Lions appear ready to turn the keys of the defense over to Davis, their first-round pick in 2017.
Davis began last season as the team’s lead linebacker, but his role was scaled back amid some rookie growing pains. He rebounded down the stretch, and the Lions like what they see in him moving forward.
Both general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia spoke highly of Davis at last month’s scouting combine.
“Jarrad, going through last year’s film, obviously was thrown into the fire pretty quick,” Patricia said. “Had a lot of snaps out there as young guy, which I’ve been through before with a couple of players, especially at the linebacker position. In my history, that’s an extremely difficult thing to do.
“When you’re in the middle of the defense and you’re trying to control and tie together both the front end and the back end, there’s a lot of pressure in that situation. For him to go out obviously and do it a high level like he did last year is a great sign.”
Said Quinn, “We have a great deal of faith in his future.”
The Lions also return linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin, their fourth-round pick in 2017. Reeves-Maybin figures to have an expanded role in 2018 if he can continue to bulk up. Along with Whitehead, the Lions are likely to lose linebackers Paul Worrilow and Nick Bellore via free agency.
Jones, an undrafted free agent out of Florida State, is entering his fifth season. His 90 tackles in 2017 were a career high. He also notched two sacks. With an average annual salary of $6.25 million, Jones becomes the fifth highest-paid player on Detroit’s defense, behind Ziggy Ansah, Darius Slay, Glover Quin and Kennard.