Two more pieces from the Detroit Lions 2017 team will be playing elsewhere next season. Cornerback DJ Hayden and tight end Darren Fells have both agreed to terms with other teams just before free agency opens on Wednesday.
Hayden is signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars after agreeing to a three-year, $19 million deal, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport:
CB DJ Hayden expected to sign with #Jaguars: 3 years, $19 million with $9.5 million guaranteed. Upside to $21 million.— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) March 14, 2018
Hayden split time with Nevin Lawson as the Lions’ No. 2 cornerback in 2017. Lawson is re-signing with the Lions on a similar, but cheaper, two-year, $9.2 million contract.
The Lions were expected to part ways with one, or both, of Hayden and Lawson, so it’s not surprising to see one sign elsewhere. Both struggled at times, but with Hayden gone, it’s expected that second-year Teez Tabor will pick up some of the slack left in Hayden’s absence.
As for Fells, he also found himself a three-year deal, but with the Cleveland Browns:
The #Browns are signing TE Darren Fells to a 3-year deal worth $12M, source said. That will help the run game immensely.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 14, 2018
Last year, Fells signed a one-year, $1 million deal with Detroit, so this represents a significant pay raise for the two-way tight end. Expected to be simply a blocking tight end in Detroit, Fells surprised many with his catching skills early in 2017 while Eric Ebron struggled to make an impact. Fells finished the season with 17 catches for 177 yards and three touchdowns.
Now the Lions must decide what their plans are at tight end. Ebron has been the source of trade rumors for a couple weeks now, but those have died down recently. The Lions also have second-year Michael Roberts waiting in the wings, after he spent most of his rookie year on the bench.
There is always expected to be a good amount of turnover on the roster when there’s a head coaching change, so none of this is too surprising. Although, it’s interesting to see some of these fringe Lions players agree to terms with other teams before free agency even opens. It speaks to the Lions’ talent level last year, and it could also result in some compensatory picks in 2019.