Brock Wright

Lions Match 49ers’ Brock Wright RFA Offer Sheet

The Lions will not let Brock Wright leave for California. Detroit is matching San Francisco’s three-year, $12MM RFA offer sheet, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports. The Lions have announced their decision to retain the fourth-year veteran.

Wednesday marked the deadline for the Lions to keep Wright on the 49ers’ terms or pass. Despite rostering breakout tight end Sam LaPorta, the Lions view Wright as a key auxiliary component of their offense. By virtue of the 49ers‘ offer sheet, Wright is no longer going year to year. Rather than playing out a rookie contract, he is now signed through 2026 with Detroit.

San Francisco lost top George Kittle backup Charlie Woerner, who joined the Falcons on a three-year, $12MM deal. That set the market for Wright, who became the rare RFA to receive an offer sheet. The 49ers included $6MM guaranteed in an attempt to prevent their most recent NFC championship game opponent from matching, but the Lions will do so anyway.

While this decision will extend the 49ers’ search for a No. 2 tight end, the Lions will end up paying Wright more than they had planned. They had given the former UDFA the low-end RFA tender, which called for a $2.99MM salary in 2024. The LaPorta sidekick will instead see a nice guarantee and see some security rather than playing out a contract year as a backup. Used frequently as a run-blocking presence in Detroit, the Notre Dame alum will continue developing in OC Ben Johnson‘s system rather than transitioning to Kyle Shanahan‘s.

Wright, 25, played 44% of Detroit’s offensive snaps last season. In 2022, that number came in at 52%. The 6-foot-5 pass catcher totaled 18 receptions for 216 yards and four touchdowns in 2022. This included a 51-yard game-winner against the Jets. With LaPorta in the fold last season, Wright totaled just 13 passes for 91 yards and a touchdown. Pro Football Focus did not rate Wright well as a run blocker last season, grading him in the bottom quartile at the position. Still, 263 of Wright’s 423 offensive snaps came on run plays.

The 49ers will join the Dolphins and Bears as recent teams to submit an RFA offer sheet only to see it matched. The Broncos matched the Fins’ C.J. Anderson offer sheet in 2016, while the Bills kept Ryan Bates (before sending the O-lineman to the Bears earlier this year). San Francisco used a third-round pick on tight end Cameron Latu last year, but he suffered a torn ACL during the preseason. The 49ers viewed Latu as more of a developmental player, per The Athletic’s Matt Barrows, explaining their Wright move.

49ers Sign Lions TE Brock Wright To RFA Offer Sheet

MARCH 30: The 49ers signed Wright to a three-year, $12MM offer sheet that features $6MM in guaranteed money, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area notes that the 49ers have no interest in negotiating “a contract for another team,” and they executed the offer sheet with the belief that the Lions won’t match.

The Lions now have until Wednesday to match. If they don’t, they’ll lose the tight end to the Niners for nothing in return.

MARCH 29: The Lions tendered Brock Wright as a restricted free agent earlier this month, keeping the young tight end around. The team did not use a second-round tender, opening the door to a potential offer sheet.

Although RFA offer sheets are fairly rare, the 49ers have submitted one to Wright, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets. The Lions have five days to match. The 49ers are looking for a backup tight end to replace Charlie Woerner, per the San Jose Mercury News’ Cam Inman. The NFC champions have identified a target.

The Falcons gave Woerner a three-year, $12MM deal in free agency, adjusting the 49ers’ depth chart behind George Kittle. A former UDFA out of Notre Dame, Wright has spent the past three seasons with the Lions. The 25-year-old pass catcher worked as one of Sam LaPorta‘s backups last season, enjoying a bigger aerial role previously.

Wright, 25, played 44% of Detroit’s offensive snaps last season. In 2022, that number came in at 52%. The 6-foot-5 pass catcher totaled 18 receptions for 216 yards and four touchdowns in 2022. This included a 51-yard game-winner against the Jets. Pro Football Focus did not rate Wright well as a run blocker last season, grading him in the bottom quartile at the position. Still, 263 of Wright’s 423 offensive snaps came on run plays. Woerner ranked second in this department, which has long been critical in a run-focused and play-action-oriented 49ers offense.

The Lions tendering Wright at the original-round level cost $2.99MM; due to applying the low-end tender, Detroit would not receive any draft compensation if it failed to match San Francisco’s offer. The Lions used a fifth-round pick on James Mitchell in 2022, and veteran Shane Zylstra joins the third-year player on Detroit’s TE depth chart. Wright would represent a modest loss for the Lions while strengthening the roster of the team that narrowly beat them for the NFC title.

The terms of this offer sheet are not yet known, but Wright no longer appears on schedule for unrestricted free agency in 2025. If the Lions do not match, Wright would join a 49ers team rostering two 2023 draftees — Cameron Latu (Round 3) and Brayden Willis (Round 7) — behind Kittle. Latu did not play as a rookie, suffering a season-ending knee injury during the preseason.

While offer sheets are rare, a few notable players — a list including Bills guard Ryan Bates, Cardinals D-tackle Xavier Williams and Broncos running back C.J. Anderson — have received them over the past decade. Teams regularly construct offer sheets to make it difficult for the player’s current club to match, but it will likely not be too costly for the Lions to match this one.

RFA/ERFA Tender Decisions: 3/7/24

Thursday’s tender decisions from around the NFL:

RFAs

Tendered:

Non-tendered:

ERFAs

Tendered:

Non-tendered:

It will cost the Lions $2.99MM to retain Wright, who will receive the right-of-first-refusal tender. That doubles as the lowest number within the three-tiered RFA tender formula. A 2021 UDFA, Wright has been a regular in Detroit; the Notre Dame alum has started 19 games with the team. He played 423 offensive snaps last season, which marked a step back from 2022 (591). The Lions’ tight end plans changed when they chose Sam LaPorta in the 2023 second round, but Wright (13 receptions, 91 yards last year) remains in the team’s 2024 blueprint.

Lions Place TE Brock Wright On IR, Promote DL Tyson Alualu

The Lions continue to tinker with their roster ahead of the team’s Conference Championship matchup against the 49ers. Third-year tight end Brock Wright was placed on injured reserve today as he continues to deal with a hip injury, and practice squad defensive lineman Tyson Alualu has been signed to the active roster to take his place.

Wright has been dealing with his hip troubles since Week 16, when the injury forced him to miss the final three games of the regular season. With star rookie tight end Sam LaPorta dealing with his knee injury, though, Wright toughed it out through the first two weeks of the playoffs to help Detroit get to this semifinal game. As his season ends on IR, he will also be a pending free agent. He’s started 19 games for the Lions over the last three years and has proven to be an effective blocker.

The Lions’ depth at tight end continues to take hits as Wright now joins James Mitchell on IR. This leaves a banged up LaPorta and former practice squad tight end Anthony Firkser as the only two tight ends on the active roster. Reinforcements of a big nature are likely on the horizon, though, after the team’s signing of veteran tight end Zach Ertz to the practice squad this week.

Ertz only played in seven games this year before being placed on IR with a quadriceps injury in Arizona. Over a month later, the Cardinals waived Ertz after the 11-year veteran asked for his release. Ertz informed the media that he wanted to join a contender, and now he has as he joins one of the four remaining teams vying for a Lombardi Trophy. He steps into a favorable position with the Lions, as well, as the team’s lack of tight end depth will allow him to step into a big role almost immediately. Obviously, chemistry and learning the offense will be hurdles, but Ertz could provide a big boost to a limping tight ends room.

Alualu is another veteran addition to the active roster. After 13 years in Jacksonville and Pittsburgh, the 36-year-old signed with Detroit’s practice squad. Alualu had been called up twice as a standard gameday practice squad elevation in the regular season, even starting a game for the Lions, and has done the same so far in the playoffs, appearing in two games off the practice squad and starting one in the postseason.

Lions TE Sam LaPorta To Play In Wild-Card Round

JANUARY 14: Per Rapoport and NFL Network colleague Tom Pelissero, LaPorta now has more than an outside shot to play in tonight’s wild-card contest against the Rams. The duo report that while LaPorta was limited in practice and will likely require a brace on his leg, he is “trending in the right direction to play.”

JANUARY 8: When speaking about the LaPorta injury on Monday, Campbell said the standout rookie has “an outside shot” to play against the Rams in the wild-card round (h/t Justin Rodgers of the Detroit News). He added that the Lions will not add a tight end during the week, so LaPorta can be expected to miss only the coming game at the most.

JANUARY 7: Sam LaPorta is putting a bow on what will go down as one of the greatest rookie seasons for a tight end of all time. He hoped to put up 35 receiving yards today in order to pass Jeremy Shockey for the third-most receiving yards for a rookie tight end in NFL history, but he ultimately fell six yards short after suffering a hyperextended knee and a bone bruise in the Lions’ season finale, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. According to his head coach, Dan Campbell, while the injury is not as bad as it could’ve been, he’s likely to miss some time.

LaPorta has been a pivotal part of the Lions’ first playoff season in seven years. While running backs David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs held down the running game, LaPorta paired up with wide receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown and Josh Reynolds to provide quarterback Jared Goff with a formidable receiving trio. LaPorta finished the year second on the team in receptions and receiving yards while matching St. Brown on the year with 10 receiving touchdowns.

If Campbell is accurate and LaPorta is forced to miss time in the playoffs, Detroit is going to have trouble replacing the production lost during LaPorta’s absence. Third-year tight end Brock Wright is the team’s second-leading receiving tight end, and he only has 91 yards on the year. Last year, when Wright started 10 games after the departure of T.J. Hockenson, Wright recorded only 18 receptions for 216 yards, though he did prove to be formidable in the red zone with four touchdowns.

The only other tight end to receive even a target for the Lions this season was second-year tight end James Mitchell, who caught his only two targets for 28 yards in the last two weeks. Wright and Mitchell will be asked to step up when the Rams come to town next week for Super Wildcard Weekend. The Lions also hold veteran fullback/tight end Anthony Firkser on the practice squad.

Luckily, though, it sounds like LaPorta avoided the worst-case scenario, which could’ve seen him missing time all the way into next year. Instead, the Lions will hold out hope that LaPorta will be able to make a return sometime during the playoffs, on the off chance that Detroit can win their first playoff game since 1992.

Lions TE Sam LaPorta To Have Significant Role In 2023

Fantasy football managers are well aware that rookie tight ends often face a steep learning curve, and that expectations for those players should generally be tempered. But Lions TE Sam LaPorta, a second-round pick in this year’s draft, has a real chance to make significant contributions to Detroit’s offense in his first professional season.

According to Tim Twentyman of the team’s official website, LaPorta was one of the Lions’ most impressive players during OTAs and minicamp. TE coach Steve Heiden was especially pleased with LaPorta’s instincts and feel for the game, traits that were honed during his time in a pro-style Iowa offense that gives tight ends a great deal of responsibility. In addition to those intangibles, LaPorta also offers prototypical size (6-4, 249) and athleticism and displayed considerable receiving and YAC ability at the collegiate level.

As such, Twentyman expects LaPorta to have a major role right out of the gate. He will be aided in that regard by a depth chart that, in the wake of the trade that sent T.J. Hockenson to the Vikings at last year’s deadline, is light on proven talent.

After the trade, James Mitchell, Brock Wright, and Shane Zylstra saw expanded playing time, and while those players combined for nine touchdown grabs following Hockenson’s departure, none of them offer LaPorta’s upside. Wright and Zylstra are both former UDFAs, and Mitchell was a fifth-round pick in the 2022 draft.

Nonetheless, Heiden has (predictably) spoken highly of all of his charges, and given that offensive coordinator Ben Johnson‘s scheme relies heavily on tight ends, Twentyman believes there is a good chance that Detroit’s Week 1 roster will include four TEs, just as it did in 2022. LaPorta’s ability to line up out wide will, in addition to increasing his own snap share, make it even more likely that the team keeps four tight ends. That is especially true since WR Jameson Williamssix-game suspension creates an immediate need for outside-the-numbers talent that LaPorta can fill, thereby opening up more in-line opportunities for the players below him in the pecking order.

Of the above-mentioned players, Twentyman believes that Zylstra’s job security is the most tenuous, while LaPorta, Mitchell, and Wright appear to be roster locks. The Lions’ TE allotment could also be influenced by the presence of Jason Cabinda, who can play both fullback and tight end.

Minor NFL Transactions: 4/17/23

Here are Monday’s minor moves:

Atlanta Falcons

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Rams

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New York Jets

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Commanders

Teams with returning head coaches are now free to begin offseason workouts, leading to this high number of RFA and ERFA tenders being signed. Bryant and Reaves signed the low-end tender, while the Packers gave Nijman a second-round tender. Bryant and Reaves are tied to $2.62MM salaries; Nijman is attached to a $4.3MM number. Nijman has both played left and right tackle, settling in at the latter spot after the Packers moved Elgton Jenkins back to guard last season. ERFAs are two years from unrestricted free agency; RFAs are one year away.

An August shoulder injury cost Williams his 2022 season, but the former second-round pick was trending in the wrong direction with the Patriots. New England chose Williams 45th overall in 2019 but used him as a starter only once. New Vikings DC Brian Flores was no longer with the Pats when they drafted Williams, 25, but the team will take a flier on the Vanderbilt alum.

RFA/ERFA Tender Decisions: 3/13/23

Today’s tender decisions from around the NFL:

RFAs

Tendered:

ERFAs

Tendered:

Did not tender:

Trade Deadline Notes: Burns, R. Smith, 49ers

The trade deadline passed on Tuesday, but reports of near-deals and trade talks featuring high-profile players continue to trickle in. Though the NFL trade deadline may never produce the anticipation that the MLB deadline seems to generate, NFL front offices are increasingly amenable to making deals, and this year’s deadline day brought with it 10 trades and 12 players changing teams, both league records. As Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets, that type of activity is wildly popular among fans and therefore good for business, and Yates’ ESPN colleague, Adam Schefter, says multiple clubs have reached out to the league office this week to discuss the possibility of moving future deadlines to later dates.

In 2012, the league pushed the deadline back two weeks, from the Tuesday after Week 6 to the Tuesday after Week 8. Another move could see the deadline moved to sometime after Week 10 or Week 12, which would presumably produce even more trades. The idea is that, the later the deadline, the more clarity teams will have with respect to their status as a playoff contender, which will lead to more trade activity. Schefter hears that the issue will be raised at the general manager committee meetings later this month.

Now for more fallout and other notes from this year’s deadline extravaganza:

  • Teams were perhaps most interested in improving their receiving talent at the deadline, as players like Chase ClaypoolCalvin RidleyKadarius Toney, and T.J. Hockenson changed hands on or before deadline day, and big names like Brandin Cooks, Jerry Jeudy, DeAndre Hopkins, and D.J. Moore generated conversations as well. According to Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports, the aggression on that front was inspired at least in part by a weak 2023 class of free agent receivers headlined by the likes of Jakobi Meyers, Deonte Harty, Nelson Agholor, Allen Lazard, Mecole Hardman, and JuJu Smith-Schuster. On a related note, Joel Corry of CBS Sports believes that, if the Saints choose to move on from Michael Thomas this offseason, they may find a number of suitors, despite Thomas’ recent injury woes (Twitter link).
  • It was indeed the Rams who were willing to trade two first-round picks to the Panthers in exchange for DE Brian Burns, as Jones writes in a separate piece. Confirming prior reports, Jones says Los Angeles offered its 2024 and 2025 first-round selections — the team is without a 2023 first-round pick to due to last year’s Matthew Stafford trade — and he adds that the club also included a 2023 second-round choice in its final proposal. Carolina gave serious consideration to the offer, but it ultimately elected to hold onto Burns, which will increase the player’s leverage in offseason extension talks. Per Jones, Burns is likely to land a deal that far exceeds the $110MM pact that the Dolphins recently authorized for their own deadline acquisition, Bradley Chubb.
  • Speaking of the Panthers, we learned earlier today that the club also turned down a first-round pick for Moore. The Panthers’ reticence to trade its young talent (aside from Christian McCaffrey, of course) was on full display at the deadline, and while the decisions to retain Moore and Burns were certainly defensible, every executive with whom Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post spoke was shocked that the club did not pull the trigger on Burns. “I can’t believe they turned [the Rams’ offer] down. Now they almost have to pay him whatever he wants because everyone knows they turned down two [first-round picks] for him,” one GM said. Apparently, cornerback Donte Jackson also drew some trade interest, though another GM said the Panthers were asking too much for him as well.
  • The 49ersacquisition of McCaffrey will necessitate some “bean-counting creativity” from GM John Lynch this offseason, as Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle opines. The team’s impending cap crunch, intensified by McCaffrey’s $12MM cap hit for 2023, will make it more difficult for the club to retain QB Jimmy Garoppolo — though that may not have been in the cards anyway — and RT Mike McGlinchey.
  • Bears head coach Matt Eberflus acknowledged that one of the reasons his team traded linebacker Roquan Smith is because of Smith’s lack of ball production relative to his peers, particularly the peers who have contracts that Smith wants to top, as Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic writes (subscription required). Compared to fellow 2018 draftee and three-time First Team All-Pro Shaquille Leonard, for instance, Smith has five fewer interceptions (seven), 16 fewer forced fumbles (one), and six fewer fumble recoveries (one) over the course of his career.
  • The Lionstrade of Hockenson will naturally create more playing time for second-year pro Brock Wright — who is expected to step into the starting TE role — and fifth-round rookie James Mitchell, as Tim Twentyman of the team’s official website notes. Mitchell, who is still strengthening and rehabbing the torn ACL he suffered as a collegian at Virginia Tech in 2021, has played just 21 offensive snaps this season but offers big-play upside at the tight end position.

NFC North Notes: Smith, Lions, Vikings

A strange situation may be developing in Chicago. Roquan Smith made his trade request public earlier this week, and the standout linebacker is staging a hold-in effort at Bears camp. Smith does not have an agent, but Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports a person claiming to represent the fifth-year defender has been contacting teams to gauge trade interest. The person calling teams is not an NFLPA-certified agent, per Florio, and the Bears have not given Smith permission to seek a trade. The team still wants to extend the two-time second-team All-Pro, even though Smith does not have much hope for salvaging this situation. A team that negotiated with this unknown Smith representative would face tampering charges. While teams are interested in the former top-10 pick, Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus does not expect a first-round pick to be offered — if it reaches the point the Bears are fielding offers.

Here is the latest from the rest of the NFC North:

  • The Lions signed veteran wide receiver Devin Funchess and converted him to tight end, a position where he spent some time while a Michigan freshman in 2012. Funchess is not a lock to make the Lions’ roster, and Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes the team may only keep three tight ends. In addition to T.J. Hockenson, Dan Campbell plans to a keep a blocking tight end and an all-purpose player. Funchess would obviously be competing for the latter spot, with Birkett adding Shane Zylstra and fifth-round pick James Mitchell are in that group as well. Garrett Griffin and Brock Wright are vying for the blocking gig. Funchess would still have practice squad eligibility, and teams can still keep 16 players on their taxi squads.
  • Detroit also brought back Jarrad Davis this offseason, but the former first-round pick is not a lock to make the team. Davis has worked with the second- and third-team defenses in training camp, per Birkett, who adds the ex-Florida standout might need to show he can be a productive special teams player to make the team. Davis logged a career-high 46% special teams snap rate with the Jets last season. The Lions are not particularly deep at linebacker, but this regime did not draft Davis, who was brought in during Jim Caldwell‘s final season under GM Bob Quinn. Davis, 27, started 45 games for the Lions from 2017-20.
  • Despite the Vikings selecting Kellen Mond in last year’s third round, they brought back Sean Mannion for another potential run as Kirk Cousins‘ backup. The two have split time behind Cousins at training camp, per the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson. They are listed as co-backups on Minnesota’s depth chart, with Mond — after a year of seasoning — seemingly having a better chance to move into the QB2 role. Under Mike Zimmer, Mond worked only with the Vikings’ third-team offense. The quarterback said earlier this offseason he played at less than full strength throughout his rookie year due to contracting COVID-19 during camp.