When looking at Detroit Lions free agents, we tend to only look at the top names. Detroit’s decisions on players like Charles Harris, Josh Reynolds, and Tracy Walker dominate the conversation, and for good reason. Those are people who have a chance to be top-20 players on this team and could lead the Lions to a huge turnaround in 2022 and beyond.
But the roster is 53 players deep, and the depth of a team matters. Not every free agent signing or re-signing will be a player who will tally 100 tackles or 1,000 yards. Getting players who can play in a pinch and contribute on special teams is important, too.
And that brings us to our latest Detroit Lions 2022 free agent profile: wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge.
Expectations heading into 2021
Hodge, along with Trinity Benson, was added just before Week 1 when it was clear the Lions needed some serious reinforcements at the wide receiver position. Considering Hodge significantly more experienced than Benson—although mostly as a special teamer—he was expected to be active more this year.
That being said, expectations were pretty low for Hodge. He came to Detroit with just 273 receiving yards over three seasons, and as a 5-foot-11 receiver, he didn’t really fit the team’s need for a big, vertical outside threat.
Actual role in 2021
16 games (1 start): 13 receptions, 157 yards
PFF grade: 68.1 offensive grade (Did not qualify for ranking)
PFF grade: 53.9 special teams grade
Hodge, indeed, was not much of a receiving threat for the Lions. With the early emergences of Kalif Raymond and Quintez Cephus, Hodge only tallied 13 offensive snaps through the first four weeks. As injuries began to mount, Hodge got more opportunities, including a start in Week 6, but he did not bring much production with him. In a span of four weeks, Hodge saw 145 offensive snaps but caught just four passes for 29 yards over that time. He would really only get one more shot on offense all year, but he made the most of it. Against the Seahawks in Week 17, Hodge caught five passes for 76 yards—a career-high for the 27-year-old receiver.
That being said, Hodge was active for every single game outside of Week 1, and that was because of his special teams skills. In the past, he has been a four-phase special teamer, but with the Lions, he worked mostly on the kick return and punt coverage units. This season, he held the all-important role of gunner for the majority of the year. Hodge finished the season with five tackles, and only six players had logged more snaps on Detroit’s highly-ranked special teams units.
Outlook for 2022
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent
Hodge’s contract officially expires at the beginning of the new league year (March 16). He earned just $1 million for 2021, which was the largest payout of his four-year career. Given the relative lack of offensive production, his price should not move much next season.
The Lions’ wide receiver situation is very much in flux. The Lions have made it pretty well known that they are going to be buyers at the position this offseason. Dan Campbell listed it as one of his offseason priorities, and wide receivers coach Antwaan Randle-El is campaigning to add at least three more.
“I’m trying to draft two and bring in one,” Randle El said during Senior Bowl week.
The Lions currently have just four receivers under contract for 2022: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Javon McKinley, Cephus, and Benson. And while the Lions are going to be looking for receivers who can help them on the offensive side of the ball, it’s worth noting that the four players they have under contract provide almost zero special teams benefits, specifically as a gunner.
That leaves Hodge in a decent position to return next year. And with his solid offensive performance against the Seahawks—with backup quarterback Tim Boyle, no less—perhaps he’s done enough to convince Lions coaches of a return in 2022.
Should the Lions re-sign KhaDarel Hodge?
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