Lions add versatility at wide receiver by signing Jermaine Kearse

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — The Detroit Lions added to their depth at wide receiver on Thursday, signing veteran free agent Jermaine Kearse. He had worked out for the team late last month. 

The Lions wasted little time getting Jermaine Kearse involved, giving him plenty of reps during Thursday's mini-camp practice.

Contract terms were not disclosed by the team, but ESPN reported its a one-year, $1.35 million deal with $350,000 guaranteed and incentives which could bring the total compensation to $2.3 million. 

The Lions wasted little time getting Kearse involved, giving him plenty of reps during Thursday's minicamp practice.

"I was training back home, but you can't replicate actual football until you're in it," Kearse said. "It felt good out there today." 

The 6-foot-1, 209-pound Kearse spent the last two seasons with the New York Jets, collecting 37 catches for 371 yards and a touchdown in 14 games last season.

He's entering his eighth NFL season, spending his first five with the Seattle Seahawks after going undrafted out of Washington in 2012. He's appeared in 99 games, including 74 starts, and has 255 catches for 3,290 yards and 17 touchdowns.

During his time in Seattle, he overlapped with current Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, giving Kearse a familiarity with the new scheme being installed by the Lions this offseason. 

"When you move into different schemes or different systems, offensively or defensively, the hardest thing to do is, really, it’s the vernacular," Lions coach Matt Patricia said Thursday. "It’s just learning the language because it really is like learning a foreign language at that point.

"A lot of guys, whether you come from whatever offensive tree or defensive tree, when the terminology is familiar to you, then you can pick up the scheme part of it a lot faster. So it’s just being familiar with the terminology which will help you apply the concepts, so when you go out there, you can learn faster or quicker from that standpoint."

When installing a new scheme, there's an obvious benefit to having a couple players on the roster who have previous experience in the system and are knowledgeable with the terminology. Kearse is prepared to help his new teammates with their transition. 

"I'm just opening my door for any of them," Kearse said. "Having the familiarity with Bev's offense, being able to answer any questions and help them out any way I can, I'm very available and I left them know that." 

Kearse also brings a wealth of postseason experience to Detroit. He's played in two Super Bowls, catching four passes, including a touchdown in Seattle's 43-8 victory over Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII. 

He nearly managed to top that moment the following year, when he hauled in a tipped pass for a 33-yard gain down to the 5-yard line in the closing minutes of Super Bowl XLIX, with the Seahawks trailing by four points. 

The defensive coordinator on the other sideline in that game, Patricia, then with the New England Patriots. 

"He can obviously make some pretty ridiculous catches down by the goal line, in some pretty big games, at the last second, that give defensive coordinators a problem."

The pass caught by Kearse, which set up a first-and-goal situation, had been deflected by Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler. The rookie defensive back made up for it two plays later, intercepting a pass in the end zone to seal the Patriots' victory. 

"We kind joked about it a little bit and then we quickly moved on," Patricia said. "Obviously, a great little tie in our history together, which is fun. It doesn’t mean anything going forward, but it’s fun."

Kearse is a versatile receiver, having plenty of experience working both outside and in the slot. Last year was the first time he played the majority of his reps from the slot, more than doubling the work he got on the outside. 

"It was just an unfortunate year," Kearse said. "We had some changes that happened and things just didn't work out. I'm ready to move on and be able to get back on the field and show what I can do, what I did two years before."

In 2017, used more out wide by the Jets, he set career-highs with 65 receptions for 810 yards.

Kearse joins a depth chart that is headed by Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola. Golladay and Jones are still rehabbing from injuries suffered late last season and not participating in the team's minicamp. 

Given his experience, familiarity with the scheme, skill set and contract guarantees, Kearse becomes an immediate front-runner to serve as the Lions' top depth receiver. That role was previously held by TJ Jones. The other contenders for depth spots on the roster include Andy Jones, Chris Lacy, Brandon Powell, Tommylee Lewis and draft pick Travis Fulgram. 

"This is a place where I wanted to be," Kearse said. "Having the familiarity with coach Bev and getting to talk to coach Patricia, understanding his philosophy, I felt it was a good fit." 

To clear space on the roster, the Lions waived receiver Jordan Smallwood.