The Ravens brought back a trio of veterans to their 53-man roster. Brent Urban is probably destined for the biggest role, with the veteran lineman serving as the top backup to Broderick Washington at defensive end. Urban got into 16 games for Baltimore last season, collecting 21 tackles and one sack. Veteran QB Josh Johnson will slide behind Lamar Jackson and Tyler Huntley on the depth chart, and Kevon Seymour will continue his role as a key special teamer.
The Cardinals are temporarily losing some production with offensive lineman Dennis Daley and linebacker Myjai Sanders being placed on IR. Daley joined the Cardinals on a two-year deal this offseason after starting 15 of his 17 appearances for the Titans in 2022. Sanders had a productive rookie campaign, with the third-round pick collecting 23 tackles, three sacks, and one forced fumble.
Julian Okwara has turned into a productive pass-rushing option in Detroit. The former third-round pick has collected seven sacks over the past two seasons, but he’ll now be sidelined for the start of the season while recovering from a knee injury suffered during in the preseason finale.
We knew the Lions were going to make a handful of QB transactions leading up to today’s deadline, with Hendon Hooker destined for NFI and Nate Sudfeld tearing his ACL. Of course, the team made many additional moves to get to the 53-man roster limit:
Craig Reynolds spent the past two seasons with the Lions, and he made the most of his opportunities while on the field. He was limited to 14 games across the two seasons, but the RB still posted 500 yards from scrimmage on 94 touches. With a new-look depth chart in 2022, Reynolds found himself on the outside looking in.
The same goes for Benny Snell, who joined the organization earlier this offseason. The running back has spent his entire career in Pittsburgh, starting five of his 63 appearances. He didn’t miss a game for Pittsburgh over the past three seasons, although he’s seen a drop in productivity. After compiling 429 yards from scrimmage during the 2020 campaign, Snell has only collected 218 yards in 34 games since.
Nixon was a first-team All-Pro returner for the Packers this year. He’s signed to a new one-year deal with a maximum value of $6MM, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
Wharton’s new one-year deal is reportedly worth $2.03MM, according to Aaron Wilson of KPRC 2. The contract has a guaranteed amount of $850,000 consisting of a $500,000 signing bonus and $350,000 of the base salary (worth $1.01MM total).
Adams, Dulin, Ellefson, Galeai, Washington and Willis each have until Nov. 30 to be activated from IR. Should they not be activated, they would revert to season-ending IR. The Colts and Vikings are in solid shape regarding activations, having only used one apiece. The Bears, Cardinals, 49ers and Packers have used three such moves apiece. Teams are allotted eight injury activations this season.
The Cowboys dangled Basham in trades before last week’s deadline, but no takers emerged. While the team cut the other D-lineman they were hoping to deal — Trysten Hill, who has since been claimed by the Cardinals — they ended up using one of their injury activations on Basham. A former Colts third-round pick, Basham notched 3.5 sacks during his first Cowboys season last year. He played in one game this season (Week 1) before going down with a quadriceps injury. The Cowboys, who have Tyron Smith and James Washington on their IR-return radar, have used two injury activations this season.
The 2021 Lions saw injuries nag at their running backs room throughout the season last year and were forced to rely on the backs they had stashed further down on the roster. Coming into the 2022 NFL season, Detroit’s running backs room looks mostly the same, but improving health could leave some contributors from last year as the odd man (or men) out.
There’s obviously no question atop the Lions’ depth chart at running back. Despite his lack of starts last season, D’Andre Swift dominated the position’s snap count totals. He was nearly matched in rushing statistics by the team’s No. 2 back, but Swift played a much more impactful role in the passing game, catching 62 passes for 452 yards and two touchdowns. That No. 2 back was Jamaal Williams, picking up a role he held for four years across the division in Green Bay. Williams rushed for 601 yards, to Swift’s 617, on 153 carries, an amount almost identical to Swift’s 151. While not quite as impactful, Williams was still effective receiving out of the backfield, adding 26 catches for 157 yards.
Swift and Williams are set to return to their roles at the top of the depth chart and, perhaps, improve on them. Swift’s health is paramount to his potential impact. If he can stay on the field, many in Detroit’s camp believe he could be a Pro Bowler after his third year in the league. He’s spent a lot of time with running backs coach Duce Staley analyzing where he can improve, and his first two seasons have proven he is a much more dangerous weapon receiving the ball than anyone saw during his college years. Williams is a great complement to Swift. He’s a tough back with experience to help lead the youthful position group.
Now behind those two, four running backs are left to compete for one or two roster spots. Godwin Igwebuike may have the clearest line to a roster spot. Despite entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent four seasons ago, Igwebuike made his first rush attempt last season. He ended the year with only 18 total carries (though one of those carries was a 42-yard touchdown), but he really made his impact as the Lions’ primary kick returner. His special teams experience gives Igwebuike a bit of an edge over the other three fighting to make the 53-man roster.
Even if Igwebuike’s role as a return man solidifies his job, the Lions entered the 2021 season with four running backs on the roster. If they were to do the same in 2022, Craig Reynolds, Jermar Jefferson, and undrafted rookie Greg Bell would be the ones competing this summer for that final spot.
Reynolds appeared in games with Washington and Jacksonville after going undrafted in 2019, but finally got a chance to show his stuff last season in Detroit. When Swift and Williams were both ruled out for the team’s Week 14 matchup against the Broncos, Reynolds was elevated from the practice squad. After amassing 83 yards on 11 carries, Reynolds was given the opportunity to start the following week versus the Cardinals. Reynolds answered the call with a 112-yard game on 26 carries, helping the Lions beat Arizona as massive underdogs. Reynolds’ role was relegated a bit after the return of Williams, but Detroit still seems to like what he can offer as they gave Reynolds some run with the first-team offense in OTAs this spring.
Despite the opportunities provided by the injuries to Swift and Williams, Jefferson failed to find his way to the field much as a rookie last season. As a freshman in college, Jefferson excelled with 1,380 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. Injuries and COVID-19 limited his production over the next two years, but he still found himself on the Lions’ draft board on May 1st of last year. In order to secure a roster spot, Jefferson is going to have to find a way to contribute as a pass catcher or a pass blocker, roles he didn’t perform much in college. Otherwise, Jefferson may find himself on the outside looking in come September.
Bell took advantage of the extra year of eligibility afforded to college players due to COVID-19 last year and earned himself an opportunity as an undrafted free agent in Detroit. In his final college season, Bell rushed for 1,091 yards and 9 touchdowns on 245 carries. He was virtually non-existent in the passing game for San Diego State, though. He has some impressive rushing tools that force the Lions to keep him in the conversation, but he has a lot of work to do to ensure a spot on the final 53-man roster.
Swift and Williams are cemented in their roles. Igwebuike and Reynolds have shown how they can contribute. Jefferson and Bell are young, promising backs that will attempt to wreak a little havoc in the personnel decisions that face Detroit. They’ll all have lots to prove this summer leading into the regular season.
December 20th, 2021 at 11:59am CST by Zachary Links
The Lions have officially signed Craig Reynolds to the 53-man roster, per a club announcement. This comes one day after Reynolds amassed 112 yards off of 26 carries in an upset win over the Cardinals.
Reynolds was elevated to fill in for D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams. On Sunday, he made the most of his opportunity. Per league rules, stashing Reynolds on the practice squad again would have required the Lions to expose him to waivers. After his showing against the Cardinals, it’s likely that another team would have snatched him up.
The Lions aren’t playing for much over these final three games, but Reynolds has tons to gain. The Kutztown product was previously earning just $165K in base salary while on the taxi squad. Now, he can solidify his place on the 2022 roster as the Lions continue their rebuilding process.
Reynolds figures to see plenty of carries next week when the Lions face the Falcons in Atlanta. Whether Lions fans want it or not, they’ll be gunning for their first winning streak of the season on Sunday.