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Kerley eager to connect with ‘unbelievably talented’ Stafford

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Jeremy Kerley

Wide receiver Jeremy Kerley can’t wait to play with Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Over the past five seasons, Kerley regularly saw Stafford and the Lions during film study, and in a phone interview Tuesday, he heaped praise on his new teammate.

“Just playing with Matthew Stafford, the dude is unbelievably talented,” Kerley told The Detroit News. “I don’t want to brag about him too much, but I’m obsessed about the dude — just how he plays, how he carries himself, how he slings that ball out. I can’t wait.

“He made amazing throw after amazing throw after amazing throw; it was crazy man. It was a beautiful thing to watch.”

Now, after signing a one-year deal Monday, Kerley will have the chance to receive some of those Stafford throws in 2016.

The New York Jets cut Kerley, a fifth-round pick in 2011, earlier this month after he slid down the depth chart. The Jets traded for Brandon Marshall last year, offensive coordinator Chan Gailey wanted to use 6-foot-3 Eric Decker in the slot in three-receiver packages, and Quincy Enunwa earned the No. 3 job.

Kerley finished 2015 with career lows of 16 catches for 152 yards in 2015. Considering the Jets also used a second-round pick on wide receiver Devin Smith last year, Kerley would’ve had extremely limited opportunities in New York. So the team cut him two years into his four year deal, saving $1.3 million in cap space for 2016.

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The Lions, meanwhile, had been looking for an experienced slot receiver in free agency and mutual interest led to a deal.

“It just seemed the best fit, the best opportunity to showcase everything that I’ve been doing over the last three or four years with the Jets,” he said.

Kerley comes to the Lions as the presumptive No. 3 receiver behind Golden Tate and Marvin Jones, whom the team signed to a five-year, $40 million deal two weeks ago.

“I’m trying to get out there with Marvin and Tate and try to get the team in a good place to win,” he said.

Kerley said he thinks Tate is “definitely an all-around receiver” and a player who’s good with the ball in his hands. Kerley admittedly doesn’t know as much about Jones, but thinks he “seems explosive and is a great competitor.”

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Asked how he’d describe himself, Kerley said he’s a “field rat,” the football version of a gym rat.

“Whatever I can utilize and wherever the ball is, that’s where I want to be at,” he said.

Kerley led the NFL with 48 punt returns last season, and he hopes to handle those duties with the Lions in 2016, though Tate might give him some competition.

“I think the position is open,” Kerley said of the punt returner situation. “I definitely think I’ll try my best to fill that spot if needed. That’s something I love to do so I’d be excited do it.”