Boca Raton, Fla. — After signing with the Lions a couple of weeks ago, Marvin Jones said he doesn’t really look into which receivers are the No. 1 or No. 2 guy, instead expressing a desire to simply be one of the playmakers on his new team.
But, according to his former coach, Jones’ desire to be the top receiver on a team was a key reason he spurned the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency.
“His idea was to feel he could be a No. 1 at another team,” Marvin Lewis said Tuesday during an AFC coaches breakfast during the NFL annual meetings. “Even though he said that wasn’t important to him, it became important all of a sudden again.”
Even though Calvin Johnson retired, Jones won’t be a surefire No. 1 in Detroit. Golden Tate already has developed a rapport with quarterback Matthew Stafford, and during a 2014 season in which he had 99 catches for 1,331 yards, Tate looked plenty capable of being a top receiver.
Jones had career highs of 65 catches for 816 yards with the Bengals last season, but, like Tate in Seattle, Jones looked like someone who could produce more with a bigger role. In Cincinnati, Jones was always going to be the No. 2 behind A.J. Green, who has eclipsed 1,000 yards in all five of his NFL seasons.
Cincinnati had several key free agents this offseason and re-signed some, including safety George Iloka and cornerback Adam Jones. But, in addition to Marvin Jones, the Bengals lost No. 3 receiver Mohamed Sanu (Falcons) and right tackle Andre Smith (Vikings). Lewis noted that players rarely have more success leaving joining a new team in free agency, but said those players producing well on one team created such opportunities.
“I think that’s part of the NFL is our system provides an opportunity for players that they play their tail off, and it doesn’t work out where they are, they can go to another team,” Lewis said. “But the first part of it is they’ve got to produce.”
Although he shared the detail about Jones wanting to be a No. 1 receiver, Lewis wouldn’t say much else about Jones now that he’s with the Lions.
“Marvin’s their player now,” he said. “He was a good young prospect for us and did a great job.”
Browns coach Hue Jackson, who was an assistant in Cincinnati during Jones’ four years, also provided little insight because he no longer coaches Jones.
“Marvin Jones in the past was a tremendous football player, and he’ll do great in Detroit,” Jackson said.