After weeks of speculation and rumors, the only thing remaining is the dotted line. According to ESPN, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Marvin Jones will sign with the Detroit Lions. The Lions made the move to fill the void left by retired receiver Calvin Johnson. The deal can’t be made official until the start of the new NFL year begins at 4 p.m. ET Wednesday.
Jones had been rumored to be a leading candidate for a spot with the Cleveland Browns. Coach Hue Jackson, a former Bengals offensive coordinator, was considering adding the speedy Jones to bolster the Browns receiving corps. Cleveland had been pursuing Jones but came in with a low offer. He’s expected to make about $8 million a year, and the Browns may not have wanted to go that high.
The Browns are also not in the mix for the other Bengals free agent receiver Mohamed Sanu, whom Jackson also loved coaching. Sanu has drawn interest from the Giants and other teams.
When asked which of the Bengals players had the most untapped ability, Jackson had an immediate answer. He showered his former player with praise, via the Cincinnati Enquirer.
“Marvin Jones. Not even close. The guy is so talented. He has so much ability. We haven’t even touched how good he can be.”
The signing of Jones comes less than 24 hours after Johnson announced he was retiring from the NFL after nine seasons.
As a fifth-round pick in 2012, Jones wasn’t viewed as a true No. 1 or No. 2 pass-catcher when he entered the league. During his time with the Bengals, he became the perfect complement to Pro Bowler A.J. Green. In 2013, Jones caught a career-high 10 touchdown passes, and each of them came from inside the red zone. Green had 11 touchdown catches that year, making it only the second season in franchise history that the Bengals had two receivers with 10 or more touchdown receptions.
Jones told NFL Insider Mike Silver that his decision came down to sign with the Patriots, Detroit Lions, or his former team, the Cincinnati Bengals. Jones ultimately chose to sign with the Lions. The Patriots have wide receivers Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Keshawn Martin, Aaron Dobson, Chris Harper, and Matthew Slater under contract for the 2016 season. Their need for a starting-caliber receiver increased when they released Brandon LaFell last week.
Marvin Jones told me it was a 'stressful decision' & that he ultimately chose the Lions over the Patriots and Bengals @nflnetwork— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) March 9, 2016
Foot and ankle injuries caused him to miss all of his third season in 2014, but when Jones returned healthy in 2015, he produced. Targeted 98 times, he caught a career-high 65 passes for 816 yards and four touchdowns.
The Lions appeared to be unwilling to pay Jones’ asking price earlier this week, but that changed after Johnson announced his retirement Tuesday, freeing up more than $11 million in salary cap space. Jones, at the Super Bowl last month, told the Detroit Free Press that whomever replaces Johnson would have “big shoes to fill” in Detroit.
“Whoever they get, he has his particular game,” Jones said. “You can’t replace or replicate some of that 6-5, 240 stuff, running a 4.3. You can’t do it. And obviously, there’s receivers that bring different parts to the game and stuff like that. So you don’t get his replacement, you get somebody that you want that’s going to fit what you’re trying to do.”
Jones is now that man.
He also was quick to point out that the player replacing Megatron could never be the same as him. That receiver would have to be willing to utilize his own strengths and rely on what helped them into the NFL.
“You can’t go in there trying to be Calvin Johnson. You have to be who you are and what’s gotten you in this league and successful in the league. That’s what I say.”
Jones will be able to say much more once the season starts.
[Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images]