clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2023 Detroit Lions roster preview: Can Jalen Reeves-Maybin contribute beyond special teams?

Jalen Reeves-Maybin seems destined for a special teams role in 2023. But could he contribute on the Detroit Lions defense?

Green Bay Packers v Detroit Lions Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions linebacker room has gone through a pretty drastic change under Dan Campbell. The team quickly moved on from the likes of Christian Jones, Jahlani Tavai, Jamie Collins, and Reggie Ragland, and replaced them with players like Alex Anzalone and draft picks Derrick Barnes, Malcolm Rodriguez, and now Jack Campbell.

But one player who has managed to survive in both of the past Lions regimes is Jalen Reeves-Maybin. Back after a one-year stint with the Houston Texans, Reeves-Maybin is getting a bit overlooked in Detroit’s newly-bolstered linebacker room. Could there be more in store for Reeves-Maybin in 2023?

Let’s take a closer look.

Previous roster previews: Aidan Hutchinson, Jameson Williams, Josh Paschal, Kerby Joseph, James Mitchell, Malcolm Rodriguez, James Houston, Chase Lucas, Obinna Eze, Greg Bell, Penei Sewell, Levi Onwuzurike, Alim McNeill, Ifeatu Melifonwu, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Derrick Barnes, Jermar Jefferson, Brock Wright, Jerry Jacobs, Cameron Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley, David Montgomery, Graham Glasgow, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, and Marvin Jones Jr.

Jalen Reeves-Maybin

Actual role in 2022 (with Texans)

17 games (0 starts): 88 defensive snaps, 390 special teams snaps
Stats: 15 tackles, 1 fumble recovery
PFF special teams grade: 71.8 (47th out of 102 STers with at least 300 snaps)
PFF defense grade: 41.7

After signing a two-year, $7.5 million deal with the Texans, Reeves-Maybin served as the team’s primary special teamer. His 390 special teams snaps were not only third on the Texans in 2022, but it was also a career-high for Maybin in his sixth NFL season.

He was fifth on the team with six special teams tackles and his 71.8 PFF grade was the second-highest of his career.

However, he rarely played on defense—playing 51 snaps in relief against the Dolphins in Week 11 and just 37 in the remaining 16 games combined.

The special teams contributions were not enough for Reeves-Maybin to stick around for the second year of his contract, and the Texans cut him in March to save $2.25 million, eating $2 million in dead cap in the process.

Outlook for 2023

The Lions quickly scooped up Reeves-Maybin less than a week after he was released, inking him to a one-year, $1.75 million deal. It’s a decently-sized contract, but only $500,000 of that deal is guaranteed, meaning his spot on the roster is far from settled.

That said, he’s in a very good spot right now. This offseason, the Lions moved on from two key special teamers at the linebacker level: Chris Board (359 special teams snaps, 78.5 PFF ST grade) and Josh Woods (322 snaps, 90.9 PFF ST grade). That leaves a ton of snaps to be reclaimed. And it’s certainly worth noting that this Lions regime saw Reeves-Maybin play on their special teams unit in 2021 and opted to bring him back.

His special teams role seems almost certain but could it expand beyond that? His teammate Derrick Barnes believes he provides more value to the room than just as a specialist.

“Just having ‘Germ’ back is a blessing to me,” Barnes said this spring. “I know ‘Germ’ came in, he’s a really good player, really good special-teams player, and also, a really good linebacker. He knows what he’s doing. He’s a leader on and off the field.”

It’s easy to forget that Reeves-Maybin was actually a major player on defense in this regime’s first year. He started 11 games in 2021 and had a decent statline: 82 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 4 passes defended.

His play that year earned him the title of most reliable player from coach Dan Campbell.

“One of the first ones that pops in my head is Jalen Reeves-Maybin pops up,” Campbell said. “And I know he missed a couple of games here due to injury, but when he’s been out there on defense and on special teams, he makes plays. He’s a football player. That doesn’t go unnoticed.”

The route to playing on defense is tougher than his previous stint here, though. Since leaving in 2021, the Lions have drafted Malcolm Rodriguez and Jack Campbell, and Barnes himself seems primed for a Year 3 jump. With Alex Anzalone re-signed to a big deal, that likely puts Reeves-Maybin fifth in order to play on defense.

Still, Reeves-Maybin is a special teams captain candidate and will clearly be a valuable resource in the film and locker room this year. A direct impact on defense seems unlikely, but Reeves-Maybin is the type of “glue guy” that this team has prioritized to help their young players, and pairing him with Anzalone to help guide Campbell, Barnes, and Rodriguez should be a significant help on Sundays.

NEW: Join Pride of Detroit Direct

Jeremy Reisman will drop into your inbox twice a week to provide exclusive, in-depth reporting and insights from Ford Field. Subscribe to go deeper into Lions fandom, and join us on our path to win the Super Bowl.