Originally signed to the Lions to help their lack of depth at the tight end position following the parting of ways with Eric Ebron, James never lived up to the hype. Despite signing a four-year, $22.6 million deal with the Lions, James caught just 30 passes for 271 yards over two seasons. He had more production with the Pittsburgh Steelers in each of his three seasons prior to landing in Detroit.
When the Lions drafted T.J. Hockenson in the same year they acquired James, the former Steeler clearly took a back seat in terms of priority and was overshadowed for the next two seasons.
James was due to count $6.43 million against the cap this year, but Detroit will clear up $2.14 million of that upon his release. If the Lions decide to designate James with a June 1 release, they could free up $5 million in cap space this year and incur a $2.86 million dead cap in 2022.
The Lions will now move forward with Hockenson and Hunter Bryant as their top two tight ends. They also have Alize Mack and Hunter Thedford signed to future deals. However, expect the Lions to look to free agency to add some depth. It’s worth noting that the Saints recently released two tight ends in Josh Hill and Jared Cook. Lions head coach Dan Campbell coached them directly last year in New Orleans.