Lions Rumors

Lions Expected To Sign UFL Kicker Jake Bates

TODAY, 9:05am: Bates will be inking a two-year deal with the Lions, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

FRIDAY, 10:00pm: The NFL interest in UFL kicker Jake Bates has been no secret over the past several weeks. Bates has been taking the football world by storm in his season with the Michigan Panthers out of Detroit. Now, it’s seeming like he’ll get a chance to play for the city’s NFL team as Aaron Wilson of KPRC 2 reports that the Lions are expected to add the big leg to their roster.

Bates signed with the Texans last year after going undrafted but was waived just prior to the preseason. This wasn’t extremely surprising as Bates didn’t kick any field goals in college. During time at Texas State and Arkansas, Bates was utilized singularly on kickoffs, using leg strength gained in two seasons of college soccer at Central Arkansas. Finding his place in the UFL, though, Bates has taken the football world by storm.

Bates started off the season extremely hot, making 15 of 18 field goal attempts, before eventually cooling off to end the season going 21-for-28 on field goals. While the initial accuracy was admirable, what really made an impression was his leg strength. Of his seven misses, five were from over 50 yards, yet he still ended the season seven-for-12 from long distance. Of those seven makes from 50+, three of those were from 60 yards or further.

The young kicker doesn’t shy away from the spotlight either. Two of his makes have been game-winners, including a career-long 64-yarder to open the season. His 64-yard make is second to only Justin Tucker‘s 66-yarder in Detroit’s stadium. He did miss a 53-yard game-winning attempt in the team’s regular season finale, though.

Bates has received interest from a few NFL teams, but because of his contract with the UFL squad, he was unable to sign with anyone until the team’s season came to an end. With Bates’ Panthers losing to the Birmingham Stallions last weekend, the window will soon open for Bates to sign. Wilson reports that any official deal won’t be signed until Tuesday of next week. Aside from the Lions, Bates recently visited the Packers and Commanders, per Wilson. The Ravens were also listed as a team of interest, and Wilson notes two other teams showed interest, as well.

Whenever Bates does arrive in Detroit, he will be in competition with the Lions’ incumbent kicker Michael Badgley. Badgley took over late in the season for Riley Patterson, who served as the team’s kicker for 13 games last year. In replacement duty, Badgely went four-for-four on field goal attempts, though he did miss two extra points. During the team’s run to the NFC Championship Game, Badgley was a perfect three-for-three on field goals and 11-for-11 on extra points. Despite this consistency, Badgley was rarely tested in big moments. Throughout the playoffs, head coach Dan Campbell repeatedly opted to go for it in long field goal scenarios.

The only other option currently on the roster is James Turner, an undrafted rookie from Michigan. A grad transfer for the Wolverines after four years at Louisville, Turner showed inconsistent production at the collegiate level. Turner missed eight field goals and two extra points in his sophomore season with the Cardinals. He never made more than 20 field goals in a season and only had a career-long of 50 yards, so he may not be the answer to Campbell’s hesitation from long distance.

That answer could come, though, in the form of Bates. With his first opportunity to placekick last year, Bates caught everyone’s attention with early accuracy, a strong leg, and a clutch ability in big moments. If he can carry that early success into his first NFL season, he should stand a solid chance at beating out Badgley and Turner for the job in 2024.

Lions Sign Round 1 CB Terrion Arnold, Complete Draft Class

Terrion Arnold signed his rookie deal with the Lions on Thursday, per a team announcement. As a result, each member of the team’s draft class is now on the books.

Detroit entered the offseason with cornerback seen as a pressing need, and the team addressed it with the trade acquisition of Carlton Davis and the signing of Amik Robertson. The Lions moved on from Cameron Sutton following his domestic violence arrest, though, leaving room for draft investments.

The 2024 draft’s hosts pulled off a trade with the Cowboys on Day 1, moving up five spots to No. 24. That allowed them to select Arnold and prevent a division rival the opportunity to do so. The Packers were reportedly high on the Alabama product, making them a threat to draft him at No. 25. Instead, Arnold will begin his career in the Motor City with high expectations.

The Freshman All-American took on a large role for the Crimson Tide in 2022. He posted one interception and eight pass breakups that season, but entering this past campaign it was teammate Kool-Aid McKinstry who was regarded as a better prospect. That changed over the course of 2023, with Arnold excelling with respect to coverage and ball production.

The latter led the SEC in interceptions (five) and finished second in the conference in pass deflections (12). Arnold – who was connected to a rumor about the Raiders deciding not to draft him via a coin flip – earned first-team All-SEC and All-American honors as a result and cemented his status as one of the top corners in this year’s class. He was the second prospect at the position to hear his name called, going two spots after the Eagles added Quinyon Mitchell.

Just like Philadelphia, Detroit doubled down on corners by adding Ennis Rakestraw Jr. in the second round. He and Arnold will compete for a starting role in a secondary which features Davis, Robertson and versatile 2023 second-rounder Brian Branch. Regardless of how the unit shakes out, Arnold’s addition should help Detroit take a notable step forward in pass defense this year.

Here is the final breakdown of the Lions’ draft class:

Minor NFL Transactions: 6/12/24

Here are Wednesday’s minor NFL moves:

Detroit Lions

Jacksonville Jaguars

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Released (with injury settlement): CB Luq Barcoo

Seattle Seahawks

Minor NFL Transactions: 6/11/24

Today’s minor transactions:

Atlanta Falcons

Detroit Lions

New England Patriots

  • Claimed off waivers (from Lions): LB Steele Chambers
  • Waived: LB Jay Person

Harrison Hand brings 27 games of experience to Atlanta. The former fifth-round pick spent the first two seasons of his career with the Vikings before spending the 2023 campaign in Chicago, where he collected 12 tackles and one forced fumble in four games (one start). Meanwhile, fellow cornerback Craig James has seen time in 23 games since entering the NFL in 2018. After going without a regular-season appearance in 2021 and 2022, James got into a pair of games with the Jets last season.

Commanders, Lions, Packers, Ravens Interested In K Jake Bates

As expected, Jake Bates‘ UFL season has generated NFL interest. A number of teams are in on the recent spring/summer league specialist, whose previous NFL path did not include any game action.

The Michigan Panthers kicker has received interest from the Commanders, Lions, Packers and Ravens, according to KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson. All four teams have requested meetings with Bates, per Wilson, and ESPN.com’s John Keim notes the Commanders will be the first team to host the young specialist. That meeting is set for today.

Washington’s kicker need formed recently, after the team released offseason pickup Brandon McManus after a lawsuit alleging sexual assault emerged. The Commanders have already signed kicker Ramiz Ahmed, but the Washington Post’s Nicki Jhabvala notes the team is looking to hold a competition between the recent signee and another option. The team also auditioned Andre Szmyt on Tuesday, per Jhabvala. Szmyt kicked for the UFL’s St. Louis Battlehawks this season.

With the UFL’s regular season ending, NFL teams are free to hold workouts. UFLers can be added next week, after the league’s weekend championship game. Considering the success the Cowboys have enjoyed with USFL players in recent years — including All-Pro kicker Brandon Aubrey, a summer 2023 addition — several of the new UFL’s top players will land opportunities to attend NFL training camps. Bates will almost definitely be one.

Bates, whom the Texans cut after barely a week during training camp last year, caught attention for making multiple 60-plus-yard field goals early this season. This included a 64-yarder. The long-range makes placed the Michigan kicker back on the NFL radar, and his second chance figures to feature a more thorough look. That said, Bates proved shakier down the stretch of the UFL season. He missed field goals five field goals over the Panthers’ final four games; that followed a two-miss performance in an April Michigan-Memphis matchup. Overall, Bates went 21-for-28 on field goals this season.

The Lions were connected to the in-state UFL team’s kicker early during the season, and the team used multiple kickers (Riley Patterson, Michael Badgley) in 2023. Detroit re-signed Badgley this offseason and added UDFA James Turner. But the team has been looking into adding another piece here, and Bates’ leg strength certainly caught attention.

Anders Carlson remains the frontrunner to kick for the Packers, but special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia mentioned a potential spring league addition (via The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman) before training camp. Green Bay’s roster already houses two other kickers — Greg Joseph, Jack Podlesny — so a Bates addition would certainly be interesting from a roster-allocation standpoint ahead of training camp. Carlson went 27-for-33 last year but missed four extra points and then missed a kick in the Packers’ narrow divisional-round loss to the 49ers.

It would obviously surprise if Bates ended up in Baltimore, given that the Ravens employ arguably the best to ever do it. Justin Tucker is going into his 13th NFL season. Bates, 24, stands to land somewhere soon. His Houston work last summer does not make it a lock he will be one of the 32 kickers in Week 1, but the UFL work will give him a shot.

Minor NFL Transactions: 6/10/24

Today’s minor moves:

Detroit Lions

  • Waived: LB Steele Chambers

New York Giants

Seattle Seahawks

  • Waived/injured: NT Buddha Jones

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Brightwell was waived/injured by the Giants in May but ultimately reverted to IR. The former sixth-round pick struggled to carve out a role behind Saquon Barkley in New York. Brightwell’s tenure with the Giants will officially end with the RB having collected 256 yards from scrimmage.

Thompkins suffered a hamstring injury in late May that ultimately led to him getting waived/injured. As ESPN’s Jenna Laine notes, it’s about a two-week recovery timeline for the Grade 1 strain, meaning the wideout should be on the brink of full health.

Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times passed along a troubling wrinkle to the situation last week, noting that Thompkins’ release quickly followed public accusations of spousal abuse from his estranged wife. The woman, Maria Castilhos, posted pictures of injuries that she claims were sustained in February of 2023.

“First and foremost, Deven categorically denies the allegations levied against him by his estranged wife, Maria Castilhos,” attorney Brett Gallaway said in the statement. “Unfortunately, Deven and Maria have been going through a contentious divorce proceeding and child custody battle, and it appears that she thought it would help her case to release these false and defamatory videos.

“… We expect he will be fully exonerated after a review of the facts, background, and clear ulterior motive behind the release of these videos and fabricated assault allegations.”

Thompkins served as Tampa Bay’s primary returner in 2023, finishing with 16 kickoff returns (for 327 yards) and 25 punts (for 234 yards). The former UDFA had a limited role on offense, hauling in 17 catches for 83 yards and one touchdown. As Stroud notes, coach Todd Bowles said the “door is open” to Thompkins returning to the Buccaneers once he’s healthy, although the team has already replaced him on the roster with Cody Thompson.

Lions To Sign LB Ben Niemann

Ben Niemann has found a new team for at least the near future. The veteran linebacker has agreed to a deal with the Lions, Justin Rogers of the Detroit News reports.

Niemann enjoyed a four-year run with the Chiefs to begin his career, logging 12 starts during that time. A Super Bowl winner in 2019, he played a rotational role on defense while proving to be a strong special teams presence. His third phase skillset has allowed him to remain in the league with stops in Arizona and Denver over the past two years.

The former UDFA had a career year with the Cardinals in 2022. Niemann started nine games that season, collecting a personal best 70 tackles along the way. He signed with the Titans last April but ultimately wound up on the wrong end of roster cutdowns at the end of training camp. That resulted in a Broncos stint featuring time on the practice squad and active roster.

Niemann made seven appearances in Denver last season, but he did not see any defensive playing time. His special teams snap share (69%) was a career high, though, and the Lions will no doubt envision a similar usage setup for him this year. The 29-year-old will be in place to compete for a roster spot over the course of training camp and the preseason this summer.

Detroit’s linebacking corps is largely intact compared to 2023, something which should limit Niemann’s path to a notable defensive role. Anthony Pittman departed in free agency, however, creating a vacancy in the special teams department for the Lions. Niemann will aim to fill that void on his latest new team.

Lions HC Dan Campbell Discusses QB Hendon Hooker

The expectation is that quarterback Hendon Hooker, whom the Lions selected in the third round of the 2023 draft, will serve as Jared Goff‘s primary backup in 2024. However, it does not sound as if he is where he needs to be just yet.

Hooker was in the midst of a terrific final season at Tennessee when he suffered an ACL tear that cut his season short and undermined his draft stock. Detroit added the big-armed passer anyway, viewing him as a talent worth developing behind Goff. The club subsequently signed Teddy Bridgewater to operate as Goff’s QB2, but with Bridgewater having retired, the backup quarterback role is there for the taking.

Hooker’s competition for the gig is Nate Sudfeld, who sustained an ACL tear of his own last August. Obviously, Hooker’s ceiling is much higher than Sudfeld’s, but Lions HC Dan Campbell will not simply hand the job to Hooker.

As ESPN’s Eric Woodyard writes, Hooker showed flashes of promise during last week’s minicamp, though he has also struggled at times with his accuracy. Per Campbell, Hooker will need to “take a step up” to secure the QB2 post.

“We need to feel like by the end of [training] camp this guy can run this offense,” Campbell said. “He’s somebody that we know we can play the game a certain way. We know he’s going to be able to process the information. He’s going to get us in the right play and he’s going to keep the ship afloat. That’s it.”

Woodyard says the Lions are committed to developing Hooker, despite Goff having proven that he is capable of leading the team on a Super Bowl run and landing a massive extension last month. To that end, Detroit put Hooker through a “rigorous routine” during their offseason work, and the expectation is that he will have a firm grasp on the offense when the club reconvenes for training camp.

“We don’t need him to come in and win a game,” Campbell added. “You just want to feel like, ‘all right.’ So obviously, he’s going to need to take another step up.”

Hooker, who threw for a whopping 58 touchdowns against just five interceptions in an admittedly QB-friendly offense during his 24-game run at Tennessee after a less productive stint at Virginia Tech, said, “I’m just learning these lessons as I go. I’m going to fail some, I’m going to pass some. But it’s all about just learning and banking these reps. … Just getting back into the rhythm of moving off my spot and completing balls and just playing free, that’s what I’m trying to get to. Just playing free like I was at Tennessee.”

Lions Docked OTA Session

NFL offseasons occasionally feature teams running into CBA-driven trouble due to overly physical workouts. This year, the Lions have run afoul of the league’s policy on OTA contact.

The defending NFC North champions revealed the NFL and NFLPA informed them of a late-May OTA violation. The team conducted at least one workout deemed too physical for the offseason setting. Per usual in this sort of violation, the NFL docked the Lions a future OTA day. Detroit’s Monday session will be canceled, the team announced.

Far from the first team to encounter an issue stemming from its offseason program, the Lions still have multiple OTA sessions scheduled. The team conducted its minicamp, usually the final part of clubs’ offseason itineraries, this week but had three more OTAs set for June 10-12. That number will be trimmed to two before the Lions disperse before training camp in late July.

OTA workouts do not feature pads, as the past two CBAs have significantly restricted the number of padded practices teams can conduct either in-season or ahead of it. Players traded part of their revenue split for improved working conditions. Since 2011, that has meant a limited offseason program and a low cap on the number of padded workouts permissible during a season. As a result, shoulder pads do not come on until several days into training camp.

This news comes as the NFLPA plans to unveil a polarizing plan to restructure the offseason program. The union’s rumored offering will eliminate OTAs from the calendar, extending the break between the season and the following training camp. Although the proposed setup would include a lengthy ramp-up period ahead of training camp, the union’s plan cutting into the calendar’s summer break has generated pushback among NFL staffers — and some players — who use the June-July off period to spend time with family.

11 Teams Gain Cap Space From Post-June 1 Cuts

Early June no longer means a mid-offseason update to the free agent market, as teams can designate players as post-June 1 cuts months in advance of that date. But June 2 does bring an annually important date in terms of finances. This year, 11 teams will see their cap-space figures expand thanks to post-June 1 release designations. One other club — the Broncos — used a post-June 1 designation, but they will not save any money from the historic Russell Wilson release.

Teams are permitted to designate two players as post-June 1 cuts ahead of that date. This designation spreads a player’s dead money hit over two years as opposed to a 2024-only blow. Courtesy of Spotrac, here are the savings this year’s teams to make post-June 1 designations will receive:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

New Orleans Saints

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Broncos’ overall Wilson cap hit, even with the quarterback’s $1.21MM Steelers salary factoring into the equation, will more than double any other single-player dead money number in NFL history. The now-Sean Payton-led Broncos, after a failed effort to move Wilson’s guarantee vesting date beyond 2024, will take their medicine for bailing 18 months after authorizing a five-year, $245MM extension. Denver will absorb the lion’s share of the dead money this year, taking on $53MM. The team will not receive the cap credit from Wilson’s Steelers deal until 2025, per Spotrac.

Annually making exhaustive efforts to move under the cap, the Saints will be hit with more than $30MM in total dead cap from the Thomas and Winston contracts. Redesigning both in 2023, the Saints will take on $8.9MM in 2024 dead money on Thomas and $3.4MM on the Winston pact. Mickey Loomis‘ operation is once again at the bottom of the NFL in future cap space, being projected to come in more than $84MM over the 2025 cap.

Baltimore structured Beckham’s one-year, $15MM contract to void, and the team will take on more than $10MM in total dead money on it. The bulk of that will come in 2025; the post-June 1 cut will produce $2.8MM in 2024 dead cap this year.