Lions cut running back Theo Riddick to make room for Mike Daniels
Allen Park — The Detroit Lions have parted ways with running back Theo Riddick.
The decision was the corresponding roster move following Detroit's signing of defensive tackle Mike Daniels.
"For us, Theo, obviously, is a great professional," Lions coach Matt Patricia said. "He is a great player and has done a lot of great things for us throughout the course of the years, and we have all the respect in the world for everything that he’s done, but in any of those situations we are going to try do what’s best for the team."
A sixth-round pick out of Notre Dame in 2013, Riddick began his pro career as a special teamer, before emerging as a key part of the offense as a receiving back. An extremely elusive player in the open field, Riddick averaged 56 receptions the past five years. In 2015, he set the franchise's single-season record for catches by a back, hauling in 80 balls.
But last year, Riddick's production dipped as he struggled to make tacklers miss the same way he had in the past. He caught 61 passes in 14 games, but his 6.3 yards per catch were the lowest of his career.
He's also battled durability issues in recent years, including ankle, knee and wrist injuries. He had surgery on both wrists in 2016.
Still, the Lions are going to need to backfill Riddick's production, particularly on third down, where he was the team's best backfield option as both a receiver and a pass protector.
By releasing Riddick, the Lions save $3.55 million in cap space. That will help absorb Daniel's contract, which will reportedly pay the defensive lineman up $9.1 million for 2019.
Meanwhile, Detroit will lean on a backfield depth chart that is headed by Kerryon Johnson and supplemented by C.J. Anderson, Zach Zenner and Ty Johnson.
Anderson, signed as a free agent after his rebound performance with the Los Angeles Rams down the stretch.
"He’s an extremely intelligent player," Patricia said. "He does a lot of different things in the run game specifically. I think throughout the course of his career he’s proven that he’s a productive back, he’s a guy that runs the ball extremely hard, he’s a difficult guy to tackle, he can get the ball vertical into the defense pretty quickly.
"I think he just gives us that toughness, that element of an attitude in the run game that we want, and we need and I’m looking forward to seeing what that looks like through the course of training camp, so that’s exciting. Through the course of his career he’s also done a lot in pass protection, too."
Perhaps more than anything, Riddick's release suggests the team's confidence that Ty Johnson, a sixth-round pick out of Maryland, will be able to contribute as a rookie.
"He has really good speed and quickness, but he also works really hard at the game," Patricia said. "I would say that his ability to keep pace with everything that we’re putting in right now has been on track with everybody else. That gives him an opportunity to now go out and to be in the reps with everybody else."
Riddick's departure should also make it easier for the Lions to fit a fullback on the roster.