The Detroit Lions are signing linebacker Curtis Bolton from the practice squad to the active roster, according to a tweet from his agent, Orlando J. Castaño, Jr. of 4front Sports. The deal will reportedly extend through the 2022 season.
Signing youth to the active roster and extending them through the following season is common practice for NFL teams who have been eliminated from playoff contention. The Lions have already utilized this practice as recently as last week when they signed running back Craig Reynolds to a contract that extends through next season.
Often, this strategy is utilized when a player on the active roster is placed on injured reserve, but won’t be able to return this season. This affords a general manager the opportunity to remove a player from the active roster while securing youth for the future.
Bolton has been active each of the last three weeks—once a standard elevation, as twice as a COVID-19 replacement—as the Lions have dealt with injuries to their linebacker group. Last week, Alex Anzalone was placed on injured reserve, ending his season, while his replacement, Josh Woods, has also been injured (neck) and unable to play.
Recently, the Lions have turned to Jalen Reeves-Maybin to hold down the green dot (play relayer) while using a rotation of linebackers through the other spot, most notably rookie Derrick Barnes and local product Anthony Pittman.
Bolton hasn’t cracked the defensive rotation yet, but he has contributed on special teams on 35 snaps over the last three weeks and earned a special teams grade of 80.2 from PFF.
With Bolton’s contract reportedly extending through next season, he will provide the Lions with some stability at the position, as only Barnes is currently under contract among the off-the-ball linebackers—though it’s worth noting that Woods is an RFA (restricted free agent) and Pittman is ERFA (exclusive rights free agent).
Anzalone, Reeves-Maybin, and Shaun Dion Hamilton (who was placed on IR during training camp) are all on expiring deals, as is practice squad linebacker Tavante Beckett, though he is a candidate for a futures deal at the end of the season.
The Lions have not confirmed this move, nor announced a corresponding move at this time.