Week 4 for the Detroit Lions could see three players return to the roster and play for the first time in 2020. On Monday, safety Jayron Kearse was reinstated into the NFL after serving his three-game suspension. Additionally, running back Bo Scarbrough and cornerback Mike Ford have spent the minimum amount of time (three weeks) on injured reserve to return from injury and be placed on the 53-man roster. Of course, for any of these players to return, a player has to go.
But none of these three players are guaranteed to return this week, either.
For Kearse, the Lions have been given a temporary roster exemption. This will not last forever, though, so Detroit will have to make a decision: keep Kearse and bump someone else off the roster or decide to release Kearse and move forward without him.
The argument to keep him is easy. The Lions have struggled on the back end of their defense, as they’ve shuffled between Tracy Walker and Will Harris at strong safety, and neither have played particularly well thus far. Kearse could slide in as much-needed depth at the position, while someone like C.J. Moore—who is purely special teams and has not been able to stay healthy—could potentially get cut or moved to IR.
However, it wouldn’t be unheard of to see Detroit cut him, either. The Lions did something similar with tight end Andrew Quarless, who was released by the Lions in 2016 immediately after serving his two-game suspension. The Lions have shown an affinity for Will Harris, and they love their special teams contributors. Kearse’s one-year, $2 million contract only carries $500,000 of guaranteed money, so the Lions wouldn’t take a big financial hit if they go that route. They’d also create nearly $1.3 million in cap space.
It’s always dangerous to play the “interpret a player’s social media conduct” game, but on Monday, Kearse appeared to delete his Twitter account and posted this curious message to his Instagram account:
Instagram is still up. Last story post: pic.twitter.com/MkR98icXCX— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) September 29, 2020
As for the other two players, it’s hard to know what the Lions will do with Mike Ford and Bo Scarbrough without knowing their current health status.
Ford suffered what Patricia called a “rolled ankle.” Patricia seemed to indicate the injury was not too serious back in August, but it’s hard to know whether the injury was aggravated or if the Lions were just being overly careful by placing him on IR. Either way, the Lions could probably use Ford both as cornerback depth and as a special teams contributor. Though Desmond Trufant appears to be nearing a return to the roster after missing the past two games, Ford could easily take Chris Jones’ spot on the roster. Jones was signed two weeks ago when the team placed Darryl Roberts on injured reserve.
Scarbrough situation is a little less clear. He didn’t practice for almost the entirety of training camp, and the addition of Adrian Peterson makes him a bit redundant at the moment. With the Lions’ entire running back squad healthy, the Lions may decide to keep Scarbrough on the injured reserve list for now until they actually need him. The Lions are already overloaded at running back to the point where they made Ty Johnson a healthy scratch in Week 3.
With Detroit’s big game against the New Orleans Saints just five days away, expect the Lions to make some of these decisions soon. Of course, with the early Week 5 bye, Detroit may simply wait until after the break to decide the fate of their injured players.