Before free agency even started this week, the Detroit Lions made sure to take care of some of their own players. One of the biggest priorities, it seemed, was bringing back wide receiver Josh Reynolds on a two-year deal. Added midway through the 2021 season as a waiver wire pickup, Reynolds added an extra dimension to the Lions passing game and seemed to unlock a dormant downfield passing game from Jared Goff.
Let’s take a closer look at the Reynolds deal and give it an arbitrary grade, because that’s what we do during free agency: give immediate judgement and declare winners and losers before free agency is even done.
As we saw last year, Reynolds is a capable downfield receiver who can win in several ways. He has decent speed to test defenses downfield, and his route-running is a truly underrated part of his game, creating the necessary separation to draw Goff’s attention.
This route from Josh Reynolds pic.twitter.com/ZH0QWd2RMe— PFF (@PFF) November 25, 2021
Perhaps most importantly, Reynolds has very reliable hands that allow him to make catches in traffic. At 6-foot-3, that makes him a dangerous jump-ball receiver and red zone threat.
This 22-yard TD pass from Jared Goff to Josh Reynolds had only a 21.1% probability of being completed, per @NextGenStats. The 2nd most difficult completed pass of Week 15. pic.twitter.com/MbutrCvpQc— Erik Schlitt (@erikschlitt) December 20, 2021
That all said, Reynolds’ best career season was in 2020, when he produced just 618 yards and two touchdowns. In his seven games with the Lions, he averaged 43.7 yards per game, which is a career high for him. There’s certainly a chance Reynolds hasn’t reached his production ceiling yet, but expecting him to be a 1,000-yard receiver may be setting the bar a bit too high.
For now, Reynolds is firmly entrenched as the Lions’ No. 2—or Z—receiver. He’ll mostly be lined up outside, but is certainly capable of stepping in as the No. 1 guy if DJ Chark is injured or needs a break.
His clear chemistry with Goff is Reynolds’ best asset. It only take a game or two for him to get back into the swing of things with his former Rams teammate.
We broke down the specifics of Reynolds’ contract here, but pending the details of the incentives in the contract, he will only cost $2 million against the cap in 2022 and $4 million in 2023. If these incentives are likely to be earned—meaning he hit that benchmark last season—it will add to the cap hit. If they’re unlikely to be earned, but Reynolds does earn them, they’ll be added to future caps. There are reportedly $4 million worth of incentives in this deal, so the cap hit could go up considerably.
However, even if every incentive is earned and it rises to a $6 million cap hit over two years, that is still an unbelievable deal for general manager Brad Holmes and the Lions. Reynolds is a capable No. 2 receiver who has already proven to be an efficient player under this offense. Considering all the crazy money being thrown around right now—do I need to remind you that the Jaguars paid Zay Jones $24 million for three years and Christian Kirk $72 million for four years—this may be Detroit’s most valuable contract on the books.
The Lions got a proven productive player back, who has expressed his admiration for the franchise both in his words and his actions. Is he a top-10 No. 2 receiver in this league? No. He may not even be in the top half of the league in that discussion. The Lions should—and probably will—continue to look for upgrades at the receiver position.
But he’s a good player, a good cultural fit, and a heck of a bargain for Detroit. Considering Detroit has a plethora of weapons surrounding him in Chark, Amon-Ra St. Brown, T.J. Hockenson and D’Andre Swift, the addition of a decently-productive receiver like Reynolds at this price is a very logical move for this team. Grade: A-
Grade the Josh Reynolds re-signing
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