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NFL free agency rumors: Lions want to re-sign RB Zach Zenner

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The Lions aren’t going to tender Zenner a RFA offer, but they want him back, according to reports.

Carolina Panthers v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Earlier on Thursday, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reported that the Detroit Lions are not expected to offer any of their restricted free agents a tender before hitting free agency. That means that players like TJ Jones, Brandon Copeland and Zach Zenner will more than likely become unrestricted free agents at the beginning of the league year on March 14.

But Birkett clarified his report on Thursday evening, and it may be a little too early to say goodbye to some of those players. According to Birkett, head coach Matt Patricia would like to see Zenner back in Detroit in 2018.

“New Lions coach Matt Patricia would like to re-sign Zenner and have him compete for a backup spot,” Birkett wrote.

This is a bit surprising considering how far Zenner fell out of favor last season. After assuming and somewhat succeeding in the starting role in 2016 when Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick went down with injury, Zenner was barely used at all last year. He made eight game appearances for just 65 offensive snaps and only 14 total carries.

However, according to Birkett, Zenner is the type of back that fits Patricia’s style more than some of the other backs on the Lions’ roster. What kind of style is that? It’s hard to know for sure, but on Wednesday, general manager Bob Quinn emphasized that pass protection was drastically important for incoming running backs.

“ ou know, one underrated aspect of this running back class as I go through it is pass protection,” Quinn said. “When you put on three or four games you can tell if a guy can pass protect, which is crucial in this league.”

Zenner has shown in the past that he is more than capable of being that pass protecting back. Oftentimes when Zenner gets into the game, it’s on an obvious passing downs to help add another blocking threat who can also catch the ball. Check out his key block on this Golden Tate touchdown:

In addition to Zenner, Birkett says the Lions are also interested in bringing back TJ Jones, but it doesn’t quite sound as strong as their interest in Zenner. “The Lions have interest in re-signing Jones before he officially becomes a free agent later this month,” Birkett wrote. “But for now they’ve told him they won’t use the tender to bring him back.”