Lions release running back Stevan Ridley

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — The Detroit Lions partially cleared up the team's logjam at running back Thursday, releasing veteran ball carrier Stevan Ridley.

Signed in April to compete for a roster spot, the former New England Patriots standout was never able to establish momentum with the Lions. He battled an unknown injury throughout the early portions of the team's offseason program, and by the time training camp rolled around, he found himself behind Zach Zenner and George Winn on the depth chart.

"Just like anything else we do in terms of our evaluation process, we take a look it and we go through our transactions and we make moves according to what we think is best for us," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "He's still obviously got some juice left and he's a good player, just in our situation we just did what we think is best."

The Lions released running back Stevan Ridley (39) on Thursday.

Ridley played just 26 snaps in the team's two exhibition contests, largely working with the third-team offense. He registered nine carries for 27 yards and caught a single pass for a gain of five.

Combined with the preseason emergence of rookie Dwayne Washington, Ridley became expendable. The release carries a $250,000 cap hit, which consists of a $50,000 signing bonus and $200,000 of his base salary, which was guaranteed.

Ridley, a third-round draft pick in 2011, rushed for 2,817 yards and 22 touchdowns during his four seasons with the Patriots. He suffered an ACL tear during the 2014 campaign and wasn't re-signed by New England the following offseason. He spent last year with the New York Jets, appearing in just eight games and recording just 36 carries.

The release leaves Zenner, Winn and Washington competing for up to two jobs.

"The most important thing is obviously the production," Caldwell said earlier this week. "That’s what you look at in all phases, whether it’s pass protecting, carrying the ball, or involvement in special teams. Because all of those things are extremely important and so we’ll take a look at those guys and evaluate them accordingly."

Based on preseason usage, Zenner appears to have an inside track on a job. Washington has also made a strong case, recording a touchdown as a ball carrier and also a return man.

"I’ve been impressed with some of the things he’s done," offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said of Washington. "You know, when the guy gets the ball he does impressive things. That’s a good trait to have."