On Wednesday morning, Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said recently waived fullback Michael Burton, “[...] won’t be out of a job very long.” Caldwell was right, as just a few hours later, Burton was claimed on waivers by the division rival Chicago Bears, according to ESPN’s Field Yates:
Source: the Bears claimed former Lions FB Michael Burton off of waivers. He stays in the division.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) May 31, 2017
Burton was waived by the Lions on Tuesday because, according to Caldwell, fullback was no longer a position necessary to run their offense.
“The reason why Burton is no longer here is because that position—as you’d call it, slotted as such a fullback, is not a part of how we function,” Caldwell said. “We find a way to get it done with other positions, tight ends and things of that nature.”
Detroit, under then general manager Martin Mayhew, drafted Burton in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL draft. In his rookie year, Burton was already one of the better fullbacks in the league, coming in third amongst fullbacks in Pro Football Focus’ ratings that season. However, the Lions fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi halfway through that season, and since Jim Bob Cooter took over, Burton has seen his role in the offense decrease incrementally.
In Chicago, Burton will compete with undrafted rookie free agent Freddie Stevenson for the starting fullback role. Last year, the Bears seldomly used a fullback. Their starter in 2016, Paul Lasike—who was waived earlier in May—only received 76 total offensive snaps for the season. In comparison, Burton had 95 snaps in 2016 for the Lions.
But Chicago’s scheme may change now. As Caldwell said on Wednesday, “It’s hard to find good (fullbacks).” Now that the Bears have one—by Caldwell’s admission—they could be altering their offensive scheme to accommodate Burton’s skills, something the Lions were apparently unwilling to do.
In other Lions roster moves, Brandon Chubb, who was waived on the same day as Burton, cleared waivers and was placed on the Lions injured reserve list on Wednesday.