Lions grab best free-agent WR available in Marvin Jones
Less than 24 hours after Calvin Johnson retired, the Lions found another wide receiver who can take his spot on the field.
Time will tell just how effective former Bengals receiver Marvin Jones can be, but in a lackluster free-agent class of wide receivers, Lions general manager Bob Quinn struck a deal to nab the best one available.
In addition to adding Jones, the Lions re-signed defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and added former Patriots backup safety Tavon Wilson. They declined to tender restricted free agent Tim Wright and saw a couple their unrestricted free agents sign elsewhere — safety Isa Abdul-Quddus with the Dolphins and linebacker Travis Lewis with the Vikings.
The Lions still have plenty of holes to fill — offensive line, defensive end, safety and linebacker.
The 6-foot-2 Jones will become the newest weapon for quarterback Matthew Stafford in the offense, and officials hope Jones and Golden Tate can be an effective duo atop the wide receiver depth chart.
Jones’ five-year, $40 million deal includes an $8 million signing bonus and $20 million guaranteed the first two years. His salary cap hit next season will be $6.6 million with $3 million in base salary, $2 million in a roster bonus on March 15 and one-fifth of the signing bonus.
Jones’ base salary is $7 million in 2017 — which is guaranteed if he is on the roster for the fifth day of the league year or suffers an injury — and 2018, $6.5 million in 2019 and 2020.
Jones’ contract will make him the highest-paid receiver on the roster. Tate’s contract from 2014 was worth an average of $6.2 million per year compared to Jones’ $8 million per year.
According to NFL Network, Jones chose the Lions over returning to the Bengals or signing with the Patriots.
The 6-foot-2, 198-pound Jones had 65 catches for 816 yards and four touchdowns as the No. 2 receiver behind A.J. Green for Cincinnati last year.
In Jones, the Lions saw an opportunity to fix one of the most glaring weaknesses on the roster in the wake of Johnson’s retirement. Behind Tate, the only wide receivers on the roster — TJ Jones, Corey Fuller, Corey Washington, Austin Willis and Ryan Spadola — have minimal or no experience.
Besides Jones, the top free-agent receiver available was Travis Benjamin, who left the Browns to sign with the Chargers.
Rishard Matthews (Dolphins), Rueben Randle (Giants) and Anquan Boldin (49ers) are still free agents, but none have the combination of proven ability and long-term upside as Jones.
The Lions can look for another receiver in the draft, but the top-tier players aren’t expected to have as much of an impact as the receivers in the past couple drafts, which made signing Jones more important.
A fifth-round pick by the Bengals in 2012, Jones missed all of 2014 with a right ankle injury. In the three seasons he played, he increased his receptions and receiving yards each year. In 2013, Jones had 10 touchdowns, including four in one game against the Jets.
Hometown: Fontana, Calif.
Drafted: 5th round, 166th overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2012
40-yard dash time: 4.46 seconds
Vertical jump: 33 inches
*Jones said earlier this offseason he planned to test free agency, telling the NFL Network last month that he wouldn’t give Cincinnati a hometown discount. "I love Cincinnati," Jones said. "...But at the same time, I am a free agent. It wouldn't be good for me not to test the waters a little bit. It's just an exciting process."
*Like many people, Jones was enamored with former Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, tweeting a congratulatory salute Tuesday after Johnson officially retired.
*On Oct. 27, 2013, Jones did something Johnson never accomplished in his nine-year career, catching four touchdowns in a Bengals win over the Jets. Three players hold the NFL single-game record with five receiving touchdowns, and Jones is one of 37 players with four in a game. However, that impressive performance was Jones’ only multi-touchdown game.
*Jones was college teammates with former Lions running back Jahvid Best and wide receiver Jeremy Ross. Jones improved his receiving totals each year of college, including 62 catches for 846 yards as a senior when he was the No. 2 option behind current Chargers receiver Keenan Allen.
*Jones and his wife, Jazmyn, have three sons, Marvin III, Mareon and Murrell. The couple had Marvin III when Jones was 18 and a freshman in college.