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2022 Detroit Lions free agent profile: Jack Fox still shines in a ‘down’ year

This one seems pretty straightforward.

Baltimore Ravens v Detroit Lions Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

I don’t mean to scare you by the fact that this is a free agent profile; there’s very little reason to believe Jack Fox should be heading anywhere. As an exclusive rights free agent (ERFA), it’s highly likely the Detroit Lions lock him down and give him the payday he’s due.

If you missed any of the previous articles, you can check them out here: Tyrell Crosby, Tracy Walker, Charles Harris, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Alex Anzalone, Josh Reynolds, KhaDarel Hodge, Nick Williams, Dean Marlowe, Kalif Raymond, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Tim Boyle and Joel Heath.

Jack Fox

Expectations heading into 2021

Jack Fox had high expectations entering this year after bursting onto the scene in 2020 and earning second-team All-Pro honors in his first year as a starting punter. That’s saying a lot considering how hard it is to gain recognition as a punter. Fox was one of the few highlights from that abysmal 2020 season, and a cornerstone (if you can call a punter that) of this team’s rebuild as they face lots of punting throughout the process.

Fox continued his role in handling kickoffs, as well as holding on field goals and extra points attempts.

Actual role in 2021

17 games: 65 punts, 49.2-yard gross average, 42.3-yard net average

Jack Fox continued to show the same leg strength and, for the most part, pinpoint accuracy that led him to All-Pro honors in 2020, but it was clear that the regime change impacted how the team operated on punt coverage.

For those unfamiliar, punts are measured in two ways: gross yardage and net yardage. Gross yardage measures the punt without any regard to coverage or returns; it’s the distance from the line of scrimmage to where a punt is caught prior to returning. Net yardage takes into account returns and touchbacks, and thus is more reflective of team performance on punts as a whole.

In 2020, Jack Fox had a gross punt average of 49.1 yards. In 2021, that number actually increased to 49.2. Net yardage was a different story, however, dropping staggeringly from 44.8 to 42.3 yards per punt. A drop of 2.5 yards is steep and likely represents a problem that goes beyond just Fox. In unrelated news, I found myself muttering this while watching several games this season.

While we saw a decrease in the frequency of Fox’s punts downed inside the 20, I can name three or four instances off the top of my head in which the return team got sloppy, greedy, or both, leading to a touchback when it absolutely should not have been. It stuck out to me that KhaDarel Hodge had this issue several times this season, doing Fox no favors.

Outlook for 2022

Contract status: exclusive rights free agent

As an exclusive rights free agent, it’s likely Fox returns to the Lions in 2022. The Lions can offer him a league minimum contract, and because of the ERFA rules, he can only re-sign with the Lions unless the team lifts the restrictions. The Lions also have the option to re-sign him to a long-term, which would likely cost more money, but it’s also a deal he’s earned and would surely make Fox feel appreciated.

They’ll also need to get their punt coverage team in order because it’s a crime to waste a leg like that on poor put coverage and dumb penalties. Otherwise, coach Dan Campbell would be wise to pick up the phone and call Brayden Coombs.

Regardless, Fox looks to continue his standing as one of the best punters in the league heading into next season.

Poll

Should the Lions re-sign Jack Fox?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    Extend ERFA offer
    (112 votes)
  • 83%
    Re-sign to an extension
    (601 votes)
  • 0%
    No offer, let him test free agency
    (4 votes)
717 votes total Vote Now