Shortly after it came out that the Detroit Lions were looking to trade for a veteran safety, the team made a move. It didn't involve a safety, though. Instead, as reported by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Lions traded for wide receiver Mike Thomas from the Jacksonville Jaguars. The deal has a mid-round pick going to the Jaguars, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, and Detroit has released cornerback Justin Miller to make room for Thomas.
This is a surprising move simply because Thomas plays wide receiver. While the Lions are in need of more depth with Nate Burleson being out for the season, I didn't exactly envision a trade being necessary to fill his shoes. Titus Young and Ryan Broyles seem capable of stepping in for Burleson, and the Lions just signed fellow former Jaguars wide receiver Brian Robiskie last week.
Another surprising aspect of this trade is that Thomas hasn't exactly put up great numbers this season. He entered the NFL as a fourth-round pick in 2009, and the first three years he played quite well. In 2010, for example, Thomas had 66 catches for 820 yards and four touchdowns. So far in 2012, however, Thomas only has 13 catches for 80 yards, and he hasn't scored a single touchdown. Here's what Big Cat Country, SB Nation's Jaguars blog, had to say about Thomas:
During training camp, Mike Thomas struggled to catch the football and left many to wonder if he would even make the roster or if the Jaguars would just eat his salary and release him. Thomas' struggles continued during the 2012 season, especially returning punts and catching the football.
BCC points to Thomas' big contract extension in 2011 as when his production "fell off a cliff." Perhaps a change of scenery will do him well, and perhaps that's what the Lions are banking on.
Still, it seems a bit odd for the Lions to trade a mid-round pick for Thomas considering they already gave up a fourth-rounder in 2013 during this year's draft to move up and get Tahir Whitehead. I can't imagine the mid-round pick is anything higher than a fifth-round selection, but you would have thought that the Lions would save a pick like that for a deal involving a position more in need of added depth than wide receiver.
In any case, Thomas is excited to join the Lions, and the timing of the trade really couldn't be better from a football standpoint. The Lions play at Jacksonville on Sunday, and although this isn't exactly an opponent that should require extra help to beat, it certainly doesn't hurt to have someone who knows their offense joining your team the week of the game. You can bet coaches will pick Thomas' brain as they get ready for Sunday's game.
With the trade deadline being pushed back to Thursday, there is still time for the Lions to make additional moves. Martin Mayhew has shown that he's not afraid to pull the trigger on a deadline deal, as evidenced by Tuesday's move to acquire Thomas from the Jaguars, so this could merely be the first of a few deals involving the Lions.
UPDATE: The Lions gave up a fifth-round pick in 2014 for Thomas.