Change is inevitable in the NFL, and as anticipated, the Detroit Lions are still finessing their roster two days after establishing their initial 53-man team. On Thursday, the Lions made a few more moves on the active roster, as well as some adjustments to the practice squad they established on Wednesday.
This season, teams can keep up to 16 players on their practice squad and while the Lions only initially kept 15, they waived four of those players and added five to bring them up to the maximum allotment.
Here’s a look at the released practice squad players, and a more extensive look at the five new additions.
- Dedrick Mills, RB
- Alize Mack, TE
- Miles Brown, NT
- Rashod Berry, EDGE
Steven Montez, QB
With Tim Boyle headed to injured reserve, the Lions needed roster depth behind starter Jared Goff and backup David Blough, and Montez will fill that role on the practice squad.
Montez went undrafted out of Colorado (where he held over 40 school records) after the 2020 NFL draft and signed with the Washington Football Team, eventually landing on their practice squad. He saw himself elevated to the roster twice late in the season and was signed to the active roster in Week 17 but didn’t see the field. He stayed with WFT during the offseason but was waived at cutdowns.
With an above-average arm, Montez can make throws to all three levels of the field. He also possesses above-average athleticism, which allows him to keep plays alive, as he has the ability to tuck and run with the football. There are concerns about how quickly he can develop, as there was not much at Colorado, which is likely a reason he is on the practice squad and not on an NFL roster at this time.
Jared Pinkney, TE/H-B
In 2019, Pinkney was one of the focal points of Vanderbilt’s offense but a shift in offensive philosophy cut his numbers in half in 2020. He then followed that up with a poor pre-draft workout, which led to him being undrafted. He signed with the Atlanta Falcons following the draft and was eventually added to their practice squad. He saw a roster elevation in Week 17 but was inactive for the contest. When his contract expired with the Falcons, Pinkney opted to sign a futures deal with the Tennessee Titans but was waived at cutdown earlier this week.
Pinkney (6-foot-4, 257 pounds) is an H-back style tight end that was viewed as a potential TE2 in 2019 due to his pass-catching skills. His blocking needs refinement, and his athleticism limits what he can do as a receiver, but he’s close enough to improving in each area that with proper development, he could be a quality TE3 option.
Shane Zylstra, TE
A record-setting wide receiver at Minnesota State, Zylstra (6-foot-5, 215 pounds) went undrafted after the 2020 draft and, like a lot of UDFAs that season, was out of football during the pandemic. He managed to stay in football shape and after a strong spring tryout with the Minnesota Vikings, he earned a job as a converted tight end. Still raw for the position, Zylstra appears to be more of a developmental player as opposed to someone ready to be elevated for an early call-up.
Jessie Lemonier, EDGE
Undrafted out of Liberty in 2020, Lemonier signed with the Los Angeles Chargers and then-head coach, now Lions’ offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn. Lemonier would spend the year switching between the practice squad and active roster, playing in a total of six games, mostly on special teams.
During this preseason with the Chargers, Lemonier showed off his pass-rushing prowess and was credited with five quarterback pressures and two sacks. Released at cutdowns, the Chargers were reportedly interested in bringing him back to their practice squad but he landed in Detroit instead.
Parnell Motley, CB
Another undrafted player from the 2020 draft cycle, Motley (Oklahoma) signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the draft and earned a spot on their initial 53-man roster. He played in two games over the first month and a half of the season, but was released mid-October and claimed off of waivers by the San Francisco 49ers. He lasted two weeks on the 49ers' active roster before being released and signing into their practice squad. A month later the Denver Broncos signed him off the 49ers practice squad where he remained for the season. After staying with the Broncos this offseason, he was released at cutdowns.
Highly productive at Oklahoma, Motley (6-foot, 180 pounds) is an upside talent who uses his vision and instincts to help him locate the ball. A press corner in college, he lacks the burst to succeed there in the NFL, but he has enough skills in off coverage that he should fit what the Lions are looking for in their scheme. His background as a gunner on special teams will also help his cause with this coaching staff.