Late on Wednesday afternoon, Marvin Jones Jr. broke the news that he was coming home and re-signing with the Detroit Lions on a reported one-year deal, worth $3 million, with another $2 million potentially available via incentives.
Jones is a 10-year veteran who was originally drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2012 and after his rookie contract expired, he joined the Lions in 2016. Jones would set career marks in his first two seasons in Detroit, including leading the NFL in yards per reception (18.0 YPR) in 2017. Jones would miss 10 games over the next two seasons, but otherwise, he has been predominantly healthy, as those games were the only time missed over the last seven years.
After his contract with Detroit expired in 2021, and with the Lions in the midst of a regime change, Jones left for Jacksonville, where his previous offensive coordinator with the Lions, Darrell Bevell, was in the same role with the Jaguars. Jones signed a two-year, $13.5 million contract to act as the team's No. 2 WR alongside DJ Chark. When Chark injured his ankle and was lost for the season, Jones stepped into the WR1 role. Despite the extra responsibility, the Jaguars’ offense was a disaster, and Jones’ stats took a hit—his YPR dipped under 12.0 for the first time since his rookie year.
In 2022, the Jaguars overhauled their franchise and added more offensive talent—including bringing on two starting wide receivers after losing Chark to the Lions in free agency—and Jones dropped to a WR3 role. Jones saw a slight uptick in YPR, but his volume took a hit, both in production and opportunity. Jones started the season with 80-90% of game snaps, but after five weeks, that was reduced into the 45-65% range. Despite the reduced snap counts, Jones remained consistent, though his targets dropped from seven per game in 2021, to just five per game in 2022.
Now back in Detroit, Jones has just turned 33 years old and is joining a roster that is drastically different than it was when he left two years ago—specifically in the wide receiver room, where only Quintez Cephus and Tom Kennedy will be familiar faces. Jones will also have a new quarterback in Jared Goff throwing him the ball as well. Goff and Jones both attended the University of California, and while they missed each other on campus, they are surely familiar with one another both being alums.
The Lions’ wide receiver room was completely turned over the past two seasons, with Detroit investing in both youth and veteran players. Pro Bowl slot receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown has been the focus of the passing offense the last season and a half, and speedster Jameson Williams—who the Lions traded up into the first round to select—will be fully recovered from his ACL surgery and should be ready to increase the level of his contribution. Josh Reynolds has been the steady veteran of the group the last year and a half, while All-Pro punt returner Kalif Raymond has started 21 games over the last two years in Detroit. Jones will give the group a solid fifth wide receiver, leaving potentially one more spot open on the roster, which Cephus occupied last season before getting injured and the WR6 role turned into a revolving door.
The Lions lost Chark this offseason, creating a natural void in the receiver room, but with Williams expected to see his role increase this upcoming season, it will be interesting to see how snaps will be divided up amongst the players.
And that brings us to our question of the day:
How big of a role will Marvin Jones Jr. have for the 2023 Lions?
My answer: As the elder veteran receiver, Jones will have multiple roles, but a starting job seems far from guaranteed.
First and foremost, the Lions have invested in St. Brown and Williams, and at a minimum, Jones can be a mentor who can show them the path to a long career. St. Brown’s focus on becoming the best he can be seems unwavering, but he is also a very hungry learner, and Jones will surely have tips and tricks for him to absorb. Jones’ biggest role could be taking Williams under his wing, both on and off the field. On the field, Jones is a vertical threat who understands how to manipulate his body to win contested catches. The nuances in his route running and at the catch point are skills Williams could use to elevate his game. Off the field, Jones is one of the nicest players to ever wear the Honolulu blue uniform, and his life balance between work and family is an incredible model to follow.
Beyond his leadership, Jones is still a very capable receiver and will challenge for snaps and opportunities. St. Brown is locked into a starting role, and while the coaching staff loves Reynolds, and have invested a lot in Williams, neither of the latter two has secured a starting role in 2023. Could Jones cut into their playing time?
At a minimum, Jones looks like he and Raymond will compete for a WR4 role and for a chance to jump into the starting lineup in case of injury—which the Lions had a lot of at receiver last season. At his best, Jones wins a starting role and lets the remaining players fight it out for time.
In reality, his role will probably fall somewhere in the middle.
The Lions didn't give Jones starter money. His reported $3M salary is less than half of the deal that he got in Jacksonville, which averaged $6.75M per year. That being said, Jones will also very likely start multiple games in Detroit in 2023, whether that is due to him holding down the fort while Williams develops, due to injury, or it’s something he earned.
Your turn. Let us know what you think Jones’ role will be in the comment section.