Marvin Jones Jr. might still be one of the best signings general manager Bob Quinn has made since he took control of the Detroit Lions. He inked the receiver to a five-year, $40 million deal back in 2016. While the receiver took some time to truly find his role in the offense, he eventually became a star and proved to be the perfect target for Matthew Stafford.
The receiver has notched 3,318 yards in 53 games for the Lions over the past four seasons. While his health has been a concern at times— he has missed nine games over the past two years—he has overall been a reliable player. 2020 is a contract year for the receiver, though, and the team could let him go a year early and save almost $7 million this offseason. Could we have already seen the last of Jones in the Lions uniform?
Marvin Jones Jr.
Expectations heading into 2019
Jones’ role has not changed at all from what it was when he stared his Lions career. He is a co-WR1 (just with Kenny Golladay instead of Golden Tate) whose job is to win against man coverage with his ability to catch contested balls downfield. The receiver has always found himself towards the top of the NFL yards per catch standings, as his production is more based on efficiency rather than volume, and the Lions needed that to continue.
Actual role in 2019
2019 Stats: 62 receptions, 779 yards, 9 touchdowns, 12.6 yards per catch
The receiver was very productive despite missing three games. He likely would have eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark once again had he played a full season. His nine touchdown receptions was also just one short of the career high he set as a Cincinnati Bengal back in 2013. While 12.6 yards per reception is among the lowest totals of his career, it is still a fine mark, especially for a player that rarely accrues many yards after the catch.
He excelled when Matthew Stafford was in the lineup and a late season down tick in production probably had more to do with Jeff Driskel and David Blough than Jones himself.
Outlook in 2020
While Jones is clearly still a starting caliber NFL receiver who can produce at a high level, Detroit may decide they are better off without him heading into the future. The wide receiver will count for around $9 million in cap space this season, but the Lions can shed that number down to $2.6 million by cutting or trading him. He also is entering a contract year, meaning his career in Detroit is likely coming to a close soon anyways.
If the team does not think it can compete in 2020 and instead wants build towards the future then Jones could be expendable. They could most likely nab a day 2 or day 3 pick for his services on the trade market, and even if they cannot, the cap savings are still worth a potential release. Kenny Golladay looks like he will become a franchise caliber WR1, and the Lions may want to try to put a younger talent across from him to develop for the future.
Jones is a great player who can still do a lot for any NFL roster, but if the team wants to rebuild, then the cap space and potential draft capital may be more valuable long term.