Lions sign 9 to practice squad, including Rudock, Jones

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Jake Rudock

Allen Park -- The Detroit Lions nearly established the team's full 10-man practice squad, signing nine players on Sunday. Included in that group are quarterback Jake Rudock, cornerback Alex Carter, running back George Winn and wide receivers TJ Jones and Jace Billingsley.

Rudock and Jones were both surprise cuts on Saturday, with the former University of Michigan quarterback's release drawing a visceral reaction from the fan base. But Detroit's risk paid off as the sixth-round draft pick cleared waivers and can now continue his development without taking up a valuable roster spot.

Jones, also a former sixth-round pick, started the offseason with a string of strong practices, but was pushed down the depth chart by the late addition of veteran Anquan Boldin. Still, most observers expected Jones to serve as one of the Lions' primary backup receivers heading into the regular season. Instead, the team is set to roll into Week 1 with just four wideouts on the roster.

Billingsley, another player in that receiver mix this offseason, was a preseason standout. The undrafted free agent out of Eastern Oregon led the team with 12 receptions,146 receiving yards and two touchdown catches. He also showed potential as a kick and punt returner.

The team added a third receiver, 6-foot-3 Isaac Fruechte, who was most recently with the Minnesota Vikings. He told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he felt he had better odds to eventually make the roster in Detroit.

Carter, a third-round selection just last year, struggled to move up the depth chart after missing his rookie season with an ankle injury. The six-foot, 198-pound defensive back recently celebrated his 22nd birthday and still offers intriguing upside, which is why he was brought back.

It wasn't a surprise that Detroit waived Carter this weekend, but the decision to keep undrafted rookie Adairius Barnes in that spot, instead of veteran Darrin Walls, turned some heads. Carter was one of four draft picks made by former general manager Martin Mayhew, along with Jones and defensive tackles Caraun Reid and Gabe Wright, who were cut by the Lions on Saturday.

Reid was claimed by the San Diego Chargers.

Winn returns to the practice squad after spending two years bouncing between the group and the Lions’ main roster. A valuable special teams contributor and capable power back, the Metro Detroit native gives the team a plug-and-play backup in case Zach Zenner or Dwayne Washington suffer an injury.

Additionally, the Lions added defensive back Charles Washington, guard Brandon Thomas and tight end Brian Leonhardt to the practice squad.

Thomas was acquired in a trade last weekend from the San Francisco 49ers, in exchange for receiver Jeremy Kerley. Leonhardt is one of just two players, along with Fruechte, who weren’t with the Lions at some point prior to joining the team’s practice squad.

Undrafted out of Bemidji State in 2013, the 6-foot-5, 255-pound Leonhardt has spent time with four other NFL teams. He's appeared in 16 games the past two seasons, catching seven passes for 39 yards and a touchdown in limited work.

NFL practice squad players earn minimum of $6,900 per week. That's $117,300 if they stick the entire season, significantly below the $450,000 veteran minimum for players on the regular roster.

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