D.J. Chark Jr.

Panthers Still Seeking WR Help In Free Agency

The Panthers have been working extremely hard this offseason to become unrecognizable from last year. After major changes all over the coaching staff, the team made moves to acquire the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2023, following that up with a litany of free agent moves aimed at improving the roster for new head coach Frank Reich and company.

There’s no doubt that Carolina has been swinging big in their attempts to bring in talent. Apart from retaining center Bradley Bozeman, who joined a much-improved offensive line last year, and extending their defensive leader Shaq Thompson, the team has acquired some major talent on both sides of the ball. Former Bengals safety Vonn Bell and former Saints defensive tackle Shy Tuttle will come in to bolster a defense that ranked in the bottom half of the league in point allowed, total yards allowed, passing yards allowed, and rushing yards allowed.

While the Panthers’ defensive unit wasn’t great, it wasn’t one of the league’s very worst. The team’s offense, on the other hand, ranked 29th in the NFL in total yards and passing yards, leaving Carolina’s passing attack in need of some major upgrades. The Panthers were a top-10 rushing team, and despite trading away Christian McCaffrey and losing D’Onta Foreman to free agency, they are set up extremely well at running back after signing former Eagle Miles Sanders.

In the passing game, the Panthers biggest move was perhaps the trade that gave them the first pick of the draft, but they’ve made other complimentary moves, as well. While it’s widely expected that Carolina will use the pick to draft a franchise quarterback, the team made an extremely savvy move by signing former Saints and Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. Dalton became superfluous in New Orleans after the arrival of Derek Carr and the announcement that Jameis Winston would remain with the team. In Carolina, though, Dalton serves a new, major role. He will either serve as a transitionary starting quarterback bridging the gap from last year’s starters to whomever the Panthers select in the draft, allowing that player to sit, learn, and develop, or he will remain one of the league’s more experienced backups, capable of starting in case of injury to or inconsistency from the team’s rookie starter.

The team also addressed the tight end position, bringing in a strong receiving tight end in Hayden Hurst, who has joined his fourth team after stints with the Ravens, Falcons, and Bengals. This addition surely helps, but after trading away D.J. Moore in the deal that gave them the top overall draft pick, more help at wide receiver is clearly needed. The team currently rosters some decent options in Terrace Marshall, Shi Smith, and Laviska Shenault, but without Moore, there is an obvious absence of a No. 1 receiver.

The Panthers aren’t content with finding only one new contributor at wideout, according to Dov Kleiman of BroBible. The team has wanted two major free agent wide receivers: long-time Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen and former Jaguars and Lions receiver DJ Chark. Carolina hosted Thielen on Wednesday and, as of minutes ago, are finalizing a deal to bring in the 32-year-old veteran. Chark visited two days ago and would be a strong option across from Thielen. Chark also provides the benefit of long-term potential at only 26 years old.

The Panthers’ locker room will be looking extremely different in 2023. Already on offense, Dalton, Sanders, Hurst, and now Thielen form an impressive collection of experience and talent. If the team can bring in the right quarterback in the draft and lure Chark in to join his former NFC North rival in Carolina, the Panthers’ offense could become a new strength for the team next season.

Panthers To Host WR DJ Chark

After the deals which have taken place so far amongst free agent wideouts, DJ Chark may very well be the top option still available at the position. He will visit the Panthers tomorrow, as first reported by Jordan Schultz of The Score (Twitter link).

Chark went through free agency for the first time in his career last offseason, after his rookie contract with the Jaguars expired. He inked a one-year, $10MM deal with the Lions as a contract aimed at giving Detroit a boost in the passing game and allowing the 26-year-old to prove his abilities when healthy. He was limited to just 11 games this season, but his production was still noteworthy.

The former second-rounder recorded 502 yards and three touchdowns on 30 receptions in his debut Lions campaign. That yielded a yards-per-catch average of 16.7, the second-highest total of his career. Having reaffirmed his status as one of the league’s top deep threats, Chark figures to have a notable market for his services this offseason. The Lions are interested in a deal which would keep him in the Motor City, but outside offers are likely as well.

The Panthers have a need at the position after they included D.J. Moore in the trade package sent to the Bears for the top pick in this year’s draft. Replacing Moore’s contributions will likely involve multiple additions out wide after the former first-rounder comfortably outpaced the rest of the team’s contributions in the passing game. As a team, Carolina ranked 29th in the league with an average of 176 passing yards per game in 2022.

The new quarterback the Panthers will draft next month will go a long way in determining the team’s ability to improve in that regard in 2023. To little surprise, though, they have already hosted fellow veteran free agent Adam Thielen as part of their search for additions in their receiver room. Chark will be the next member of that process, as he searches for his best fit on what will be his third NFL contract.

2023 Top 50 NFL Free Agents

Super Bowl LVII provided the latest example of the value free agency can bring. The Chiefs revamped their receiving corps on last year’s market, while the Eagles acquired three defensive starters — including sack leader Haason Reddick. The Jaguars also used a March 2022 splurge to ignite their surprising surge to the divisional round.

Beginning with the legal tampering period, which starts at 3pm CT on Monday, and continuing with the official start to free agency (3pm Wednesday), the next several days represent a highlight on the NFL calendar. Which teams will change their 2023 outlooks for the better next week?

While the 2023 free agent class has absorbed its share of body blows and indeed lacks depth at certain spots, a few positions will bring waves of starter-level talent. Right tackle will invite some big-money decisions, and the safety and off-ball linebacker positions feature considerable depth. A few ascending talents and hidden gems appear in this class as well.

This list ranks free agents by earning potential. In terms of accomplishments, Bobby Wagner, Fletcher Cox and Lavonte David would lap most of the players included here. With each defender going into his age-33 season, however, the standouts’ ability to command big contracts is certainly not what it once was.

In terms of possible destinations, not every team is represented equally. Some teams will bring more needs and cap space into this year’s marketplace than others. With some help from Adam La Rose, here is this year’s PFR top 50 free agents list, along with potential landing spots for each player.

1. Orlando Brown Jr., T. Age in Week 1: 27

As the 49ers did two years ago with Trent Williams, the Chiefs will let Brown hit the market. This could end up benefiting the veteran tackle, who was offered a deal with an average annual value north of Williams’ tackle-record $23MM per year before last July’s franchise tag deadline. Citing insufficient guarantees, Brown turned it down. Kansas City’s offer did contain a bloated final year to bump up the AAV to $23.1MM, but will Brown – a quality left tackle but not a top-shelf option at the position – do as well this year? He will soon find out.

Brown has now made four Pro Bowls and carries positional versatility that would intrigue were he open to a return to right tackle, which by all accounts he is not. The 363-pound blocker can struggle against speed-rusher types, but he is set to be the rare accomplished left tackle in his prime to hit the market. The Chiefs sent a package including a first-round pick to the Ravens for Brown, whose bet on himself led to a $16.6MM tag and an open market. The bidding will run high, though it might not reach the places the Williams pursuit did in 2021.

The Chiefs’ exclusive negotiating rights with Brown end March 13; they have had nearly two years to complete a deal. The market will determine if the league views the sixth-year blocker as an elite-level left tackle or merely a good one. Then again, bidding wars drive up the prices for O-linemen on the market. O-line salary records have fallen four times (Williams, Corey Linsley, Joe Thuney, Brandon Scherff) in free agency since 2021. This foray could give Brown the guaranteed money he seeks, and it puts the Chiefs at risk of seeing their two-year left tackle depart. The Ravens also passed on this payment back in 2021, in part because they already had Ronnie Stanley on the payroll.

The defending champions have Brown and right tackle Andrew Wylie eligible for free agency; some of their leftover funds from the Tyreek Hill trade went to Brown’s tag. Although some among the Chiefs were frustrated Brown passed on last year’s offer, the team will be hurting at a premium position if he walks. Given the importance the blindside position carries, fewer teams are in need compared to right tackle. The Titans losing Taylor Lewan and continuing to clear cap space could point to a run at Brown, though the team has a few needs up front. The Jets likely have needs at both tackle spots. Would the Bears relocate Braxton Jones to the right side? Ryan Poles was with the Chiefs when they traded for Brown, and the Bears could outmuscle anyone for cap space.

Best fits: Titans, Chiefs, Commanders

2. Mike McGlinchey, T. Age in Week 1: 28

Teams in need of right tackles will participate in one of the more interesting markets in recent memory. Above-average-to-good offensive linemen do well in free agency annually, and this year will send three experienced right tackles in their prime to the market. A five-year starter in San Francisco and former top-10 pick, McGlinchey has a good case as the best of this lot. The five-year vet’s run-blocking craft eclipses his pass-protection chops exiting Year 5, but he will walk into a competitive market. The former Notre Dame left tackle should have a lucrative deal in place during next week’s legal tampering period.

Although mutual interest existed regarding a second 49ers-McGlinchey agreement, John Lynch acknowledged the only viable path for McGlinchey to stay in San Francisco would be his market underwhelming. That seems unlikely, so right tackle-seeking teams – and there are a handful – will jockey for the sixth-year veteran. McGlinchey turned 28 in January, making this his obvious window to cash in. He rated fifth in ESPN’s run block win rate stat last season, bouncing back from the quadriceps injury that ended his 2021 season.

There is no shortage of Kyle Shanahan– or Sean McVay-influenced schemes around the league. The Bears employ Luke Getsy as their play-caller; Getsy worked for Shanahan/McVay tree branch Matt LaFleur, and the Bears’ cap space dwarfs every other team’s. After fielding a shaky O-line (on a team full of substandard position groups), Chicago needs a better idea of Justin Fields’ trajectory. Outbidding the field for the top right tackle available is a good start. The Patriots want a right tackle – on a line without a big contract presently – and the Raiders might have a say here as well. In need at multiple O-line spots, Las Vegas will have cash as well if it passes on a big QB investment.

Best fits: Bears, Patriots, Raiders

3. Jawann Taylor, T. Age in Week 1: 26

As expected, the Jaguars took Evan Engram off the market via the franchise tag. The tight end tag being $7MM cheaper than the $18.2MM offensive lineman tag always pointed Taylor toward free agency, and after never missing a start in four Duval County seasons, Taylor will be tough for the Jags to retain. They already drafted Walker Little in the 2021 second round, and no team that is currently paying a left tackle top-10 money (Cam Robinson is seventh) has a top-10 right tackle contract on the books. Taylor is expected to land at least a top-10 right tackle deal, with a $17MM-AAV figure being floated. That would place the former Florida Gator in the top five at the position, depending on how McGlinchey fares next week.

Taylor resembles the genre of player that usually populates the top of a position’s free agency market: a dependable performer who checks in below the top tier at his job. Taylor enjoyed his strongest year in his platform campaign. The former second-round pick dropped his hold count from 11 in 2021 to two in 2022. While PFF charged Taylor with five sacks allowed, Football Outsiders measured his blown-block rate at a career-low 1.3%. Offering a disparate skillset compared to McGlinchey, Taylor has fared better as a pass protector than in the run game. PFF slotted him as a top-10 pass protector among right tackles but viewed him as a dismal run-blocker.

The Jags have presumably made Taylor an offer, but other teams will probably top it. The Dolphins gave Terron Armstead a five-year, $75MM deal in 2022 but have needed a right tackle ever since Ja’Wuan James’ 2019 exit. They were forced to start in-season pickup Brandon Shell for much of the year and have cleared more than $45MM in cap space over the past two days. The team just picked up Tua Tagovailoa‘s fifth-year option, and the league’s lone southpaw starting QB needs better blindside protection after a season in which he suffered at least two concussions. Overspending on O-linemen is not the Patriots’ M.O., but they have a need at right tackle and do not have big dollars devoted to quarterback or any position up front. New England is on the hunt for a right tackle upgrade, and the team’s 2021 free agency showed it would spend when it deemed expenditures necessary.

Best fits: Dolphins, Patriots, Jaguars

4. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB. Age in Week 1: 31

The quarterback market cleared up this week, seeing Geno Smith and Daniel Jones extended and Derek Carr’s lengthy street free agency stretch end with $70MM in practical guarantees. Garoppolo’s injury history will affect his value, but teams kind of make it a priority to staff this position. The former Super Bowl starter is in his prime and on the market for the first time. How high this market goes will depend on what the Raiders want and what Aaron Rodgers decides.

The 49ers’ 12-game win streak that included Brock Purdy’s stunning displays began with Garoppolo at the controls. Guiding San Francisco to four straight wins, Garoppolo was at or close to his best when he suffered a broken foot in Week 13. He sported a 7-0 TD-INT ratio during that win streak and closed the season 16th in QBR. He would have walked into a better market had the injury not occurred; the setback came after a string of health issues. He tore an ACL in 2018, missed 10 games in 2020 after an ankle sprain and was significantly limited by the end of the 2021 slate due to a three-injury season. Garoppolo’s March 2022 shoulder surgery hijacked his trade market.

Ideally for Garoppolo, Rodgers returns to Green Bay or retires. While that is looking unlikelier by the day, it would put the Jets in a desperate position following Carr’s decision. The Raiders represent the other wild card. Garoppolo would slide into Josh McDaniels’ system seamlessly, given the parties’ three-plus years together in New England. The Raiders have operated a bit more stealthily compared to the Jets; they have been connected to Rodgers, Garoppolo and rolling with a rookie. Plan C here would be a tough sell given the presences of 30-year-old skill-position players Davante Adams and Darren Waller, but Las Vegas’ plans cloud Garoppolo’s market. If the Raiders pass and Rodgers chooses the Jets, Garoppolo’s earning power could drop.

McDaniels not fancying a Garoppolo reunion opens the door for the Texans, who hired ex-49ers pass-game coordinator Bobby Slowik as OC, and others. Houston’s situation may not appeal to Garoppolo, but Slowik and Nick Caserio being in Houston make this connection too clear to ignore. The Buccaneers and Commanders are in win-now positions but are giving indications they do not want to spend much at QB. The Commanders were deep in talks for the then-49ers QB last year, however. Garoppolo will test those squads, along with the Falcons, who are entering Year 3 of the Terry FontenotArthur Smith regime. The Panthers’ acquisition of the No. 1 pick likely takes them out of the running, and Carolina not being in the mix could also affect how high the Garoppolo price goes.

Bottom line, there should be enough teams interested in staffing their 2023 QB1 spots that the best free agent option should do OK no matter what happens with Rodgers.

Best fits: Raiders, Texans, Commanders

5. Jamel Dean, CB. Age in Week 1: 26

The Buccaneers retained Carlton Davis last year, but their dire cap situation should force a Dean departure. Dean’s age/performance combination should make him this year’s top cornerback available. With corner a position of need for many teams, the former third-round pick stands to do very well. Dean has only been a full-time starter in one season, however, seeing his defensive snap share jump from 67% in 2021 to 90% last season.

Excelling in press coverage, Dean played a major role for the 2020 Super Bowl champion Bucs iteration and overtook fellow free agent Sean Murphy-Bunting last year. Dean did perform better in 2021 compared to 2022, allowing no touchdowns and limiting QBs to a collective 50.0 passer rating; those numbers shot up to four and 86.0 last season. Still, PFF rated Dean as last year’s 10th-best corner. J.C. Jackson did not break into the top five among corners upon hitting the market last year; Dean should not be expected to do so, either. But many teams will be interested.

The Patriots have paid up for a corner previously, in Stephon Gilmore (2017), but Jonathan Jones – forced to primarily play a boundary role in 2022 – wants to re-sign and will be far cheaper than Dean. The Falcons need help opposite AJ Terrell and trail only the Bears in cap space. Although a Terrell payment is coming, it can be tabled to 2024 due to the fifth-year option. The Dolphins are clearing cap space and now have a corner need, with Byron Jones no longer with the team after his missed season.

Best fits: Dolphins, Falcons, Patriots

6. Jessie Bates, S. Age in Week 1: 26

Bates stands to be one of this free agency crop’s safest bets, combining extensive experience – the final two years as a pillar for a championship threat – with a host of prime years remaining. Beginning his career at 21, the Wake Forest product has started 79 games and anchored the Bengals’ secondary for most of his tenure. The Bengals did not tag Bates for a second time, passing on a $15.5MM price. With the team planning to let Bates test the market, it looks like the sixth-year defender will leave Cincinnati.

The Bengals and Bates went through two offseasons of negotiations, ending in the 2022 tag. The Bengals have some big payments to make at higher-profile positions. Safety does not qualify as such, but Bates has been a cornerstone in Lou Anarumo’s defense and will be handsomely rewarded. Bates finished as Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 overall safety in 2020 and, after a shakier 2021 in which he admitted his contract situation affected his play, Bates came through with impact plays in the postseason. He graded as a top-25 safety, via PFF, in 2022.

Safety is one of this year’s deeper positions in free agency. Of the top 10 safety contracts, however, only one went to a free agent (Marcus Williams in 2022). Bates should be expected to join the Ravens defender, who signed for $14MM per year. It will be interesting if he can climb into the top five at the position; Justin Simmons’ $15.25MM-AAV accord sits fifth. Bates should be expected to approach or eclipse that, though moving to the Derwin JamesMinkah Fitzpatrick tier will be more difficult. Still, after the Bengals offered Bates less than $17MM guaranteed last summer, he should depart for more guaranteed money.

The Browns are interested in Bates, who will cost more than John Johnson cost Cleveland two years ago (three years, $33.75MM). Clear of the record-setting Matt Ryan dead-money hit, the Falcons have cash to spend and a Terry FontenotArthur Smith regime entering Year 3. The Falcons need to make progress, and they do not have much in the way of talent or costs at safety. The team has not featured much here since the Keanu NealRicardo Allen tandem splintered. Bates would be a way to remedy that.

Team fits: Falcons, Browns, Raiders

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OC Ben Johnson To Stay With Lions

JANUARY 19: As could be expected, the Lions will reward Johnson for staying. The second-year Detroit OC will receive a large pay raise, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). While the Byron Leftwich development shows the risk of coordinators bypassing potential opportunities, Johnson will be attached a higher salary ahead of a potential 2024 HC bid.

JANUARY 17: Part of multiple teams’ HC searches during this year’s cycle, Ben Johnson is bowing out. The young offensive coordinator is opting to stay with the Lions, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets.

Despite entering this season having not called plays before, Johnson became a hot name. The Colts, Panthers and Texans requested interviews with him. Carolina’s meeting was to take place Wednesday, but that will no longer come to pass.

Johnson, 36, had already interviewed virtually with the Colts and Texans. But he was viewed as a frontrunner for the Panthers job. Assistants’ stocks can change quickly, making Johnson’s decision somewhat risky, but the Detroit play-caller views the Detroit situation as promising enough to pass on this year’s lot of available jobs.

Dan Campbell promoted Johnson to OC last year, after the team moved on from Anthony Lynn after one season. The Lions’ offense led the way to the team becoming one of the season’s biggest surprises. Jared Goff delivered a bounce-back showing, ranking fifth in QBR and going from bridge starter to a player the Lions believe they can use as a long-term option. Jamaal Williams also led the NFL in rushing touchdowns. The former Packers draftee finished the season with 17, breaking Barry Sanders‘ record during the Lions’ upset win in Green Bay that prevented a Pack playoff appearance.

The Lions also have Amon-Ra St. Brown signed through 2024 and Jameson Williams inked through 2025. Williams stands to be available for all of 2023, after his January ACL tear shelved him for much of this season. The team wants to bring back DJ Chark, and the former Jaguars second-round pick said recently (via the Detroit News’ Justin Rogers) he wants to stay in Detroit. D’Andre Swift battled injuries this season, and Williams’ rise impeded the 2020 second-rounder’s role. But he remains under contract. Although Williams is a free agent, his Hard Knocks performance and season-wrapping NBC interview certainly point to an interest in sticking around. The Lions also have four starting offensive linemen from this season under contract for 2023.

This would set up Johnson to draw interest again in 2024, though he is passing on parlaying his first Detroit OC season — which produced top-five rankings in scoring, yardage and DVOA — into a gig this year. But Johnson has been with the Lions since 2019, moving from the quality control level to tight ends coach to OC. While Matt Patricia hired Johnson, he had worked with Campbell in Miami. Johnson will bet on his value remaining high at this time next year.

Lions Interested In Re-Signing WR DJ Chark, DL John Cominsky

The Lions have interest in retaining free agents on both sides of the ball. When asked about the impending free agencies of wide receiver DJ Chark and defensive lineman John Cominsky, Lions GM Brad Holmes made it clear that he’d like to re-sign the two players.

“Those guys had good years and, look, as long as their fits for our culture and what we’re trying to build and where we’re going, yeah, absolutely [we’d like to re-sign them],” Holmes said (via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press).

After starting his career with the Jaguars, Chark inked a one-year, $10MM deal with the Lions last offseason. The wideout ended up starting 10 of his 11 games, hauling in 30 receptions for 502 yards and three touchdowns. Chark suffered an ankle injury in Week 3 that kept him off the field until the middle of November.

Following three forgettable seasons in Atlanta to start his career, Cominsky was claimed by the Lions in May. He ended up starting eight of his 14 games in 2022, ranking second on the team in QB pressures and hits. For his efforts, Pro Football Focus ranked Cominsky 47th among 119 qualifying edge defenders, including one of the best grades at the position for coverage. The defensive end seems to share his GM’s sentiment, telling Kyle Meinke of MLive that he’d like to stick around Detroit.

“I do want to be here,” Cominksy said. “I’ve told all the coaches. I’ve told players. I want to be here. I want to be with these guys. We have a young room (and) I would love to be that veteran in that room. (Josh) Paschal, Demetrius Taylor, Aidan Hutchinson and James Houston. I love all those guys. To be here and to be a leader and mentor for them, I would love that.”

Lions Activate WR DJ Chark From IR

After suffering an early-season injury for the second straight year, DJ Chark will be have a chance to re-establish some value down the stretch. The Lions used one of their injury activations on the veteran wide receiver Saturday.

Chark ran into more ankle trouble this season. After suffering a broken ankle four games into the 2021 slate, the former second-round pick injured the same ankle in Week 3. The Lions waited a bit to place Chark on IR but ended up doing so. Chark, 26, has missed the past six games.

The Lions gave Chark a one-year, $10MM deal (fully guaranteed) to sign in March, adding him to a receiver group now centered around Amon-Ra St. Brown. The Lions have not had the chance to use their optimal receiving corps — one featuring St. Brown, Chark and Jameson Williams — due to their No. 12 overall pick still recovering from an ACL tear sustained in the national championship game. Detroit is aiming for Williams to begin practicing after Thanksgiving, but it is not certain at this point if the Alabama product will play this season.

Chark is the only Jaguars receiver to surpass 1,000 yards in the past six seasons, totaling 1,008 yards alongside Gardner Minshew in 2019. He posted 706 yards for a worse Jags squad in 2020 and did not see much action during the franchise’s Urban Meyer season due to the injury. This season, the LSU product has seven catches for 98 yards and a touchdown.

This upcoming stretch will be pivotal for Chark’s post-2022 value. The ankle fracture he suffered last year led to a reduced free agency market. The 6-foot-4 pass catcher will need to show he can stay healthy in order to create a decent market for himself next year. The 2023 free agent receiver class is not especially strong; Chark could be a key factor on next year’s market if he can fare well in the second half of his Lions campaign.

Lions Designate Romeo Okwara, DJ Chark For Return, Aiming For Late-Season Jameson Williams Look

Coming off their second straight win, the Lions made some notable transactions Wednesday. They designated Romeo Okwara and DJ Chark for return.

In his third season with Detroit, Okwara has been on the team’s reserve/PUP list all season. He has been recovering from a torn Achilles for more than 13 months. Chark has been out since Week 3. The free agency pickup his now missed 19 games over the past two seasons.

While Chark returning stands to bolster a Lions attack that has seen its top skill-position players either miss time (Amon-Ra St. Brown, D’Andre Swift) or be traded (T.J. Hockenson), the Lions’ plans with Jameson Williams take big-picture precedence. Still sidelined from the ACL tear he suffered in last season’s national championship game, Williams remains in the picture for this season’s Lions. The team is hoping for Williams to return to practice after Thanksgiving, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press tweets.

It would be a nice bonus for the rebuilding Lions to have Williams see game action this season, but that may not be a guarantee. The team has been cautious with the first-round pick. Previous reports indicated a midseason return to practice was in play, but the franchise has pushed back the timetable. Considering the current team’s status and Williams’ long-term importance to the organization, it is unsurprising his rehab run is approaching the 11-month mark.

The Lions having a St. Brown-Chark-Williams trio together for this season’s final games would represent a nice evaluation window for the future. St. Brown and Williams will almost certainly be 2023 Lions starters. It is unclear if Chark will be in the team’s post-2022 plans. The former Jaguars second-rounder, who signed a one-year deal worth $10MM in March, missed almost all of last season with a broken ankle. An injury to that same ankle has shelved Chark this year. After initially leaving him on their 53-man roster, the Lions moved Chark to IR. He has seven catches for 98 yards and a touchdown in his Detroit debut.

Okwara, 27, remains attached to the three-year, $37MM deal he signed in 2021. The Lions have rostered the elder Okwara since 2018, when they claimed him off waivers from the Giants. He has 10- and 7.5-sack seasons on his Detroit resume, with the 10-sack campaign in 2020 prompting the Lions to re-sign him. The seventh-year edge rusher has not yet seen extended run with younger brother Julian, whom the Lions drafted in the 2020 third round.

Both Chark and Romeo Okwara can be moved onto the Lions’ 53-man roster at any point over the next three weeks. Residing on Detroit’s reserve/NFI list, Williams would have the same timeline once he returns to practice. The Lions are in fairly good shape, activation-wise, holding five going into Week 11.

Lions Place WR DJ Chark On IR

DJ Chark has not seen the field since Week 3, and is not close to a return. The Lions announced on Saturday that the veteran wideout has been placed on IR.

The move guarantees that Chark will not be able to return for another month, and adds to the disappointment of his debut season in Detroit. The 26-year-old signed a one-year deal in March, as the team made a number of moves aimed at upgrading its aerial attack. Even with first-round rookie Jameson Williams yet to be activated, that improvement has taken place so far, as the Lions rank eighth in the NFL in passing yards per game (272).

Chark, however, has played a small role in that early success. The former Pro Bowler scored a touchdown in Week 1, but was held without a catch the following week. Overall, he has totaled 98 yards on seven receptions in 2022, a year in which he looked to put availability troubles behind him after an ankle injury limited him to four contests last season.

“I’m not really too comfortable speaking too deep into the detail of [the injury], just because I’m trying to figure out everything myself,” Chark said when speaking to the media, during which time he was seen in a walking boot. “But I definitely will be back this year for sure.”

Without their top free agent signing, the Lions will move forward with Josh Reynolds and Amon-Ra St. Brown as their top wideouts, along with tight end T.J. Hockenson as a focal point of their pass-catching corps. Chark is joined by cornerback Bobby Price on IR.

In more positive news, the team also confirmed that rookie defensive Josh Paschal and second-round corner Jerry Jacobs have been activated from the PUP list. Coming off of their bye week, the Lions will look to earn their second win of the year on Sunday against the Cowboys.

Lions To Sign DJ Chark

Another free agent wide receiver is set to be on the move. DJ Chark is signing a one-year deal with the Lions, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). 

In a follow-up tweet, he adds that the deal has a maximum value of $12MM. Meanwhile, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network adds that Chark will receive $10MM in guaranteed money (Twitter link). The news comes not long after it had been reported new Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson wanted to keep the 25-year-old.

On the other hand, it comes one day after Jacksonville was the busiest team in terms of reaching agreements with some of the biggest names on the open market, especially on the offensive side of the ball. That included two contracts for new wideouts, most notably a sizeable deal for Christian Kirk. The money committed to the former Cardinal, along with Evan Engram and Zay Jones, left Chark on the lookout for a new home.

A second round pick of Jacksonville in 2018, Chark’s best season came in 2019. That year, he totalled 73 catches for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns en route to a Pro Bowl appearance. Injuries have become a concern since then, as he has played 17 total games in the last two seasons. Still, he will provide a boost to the Lions’ WR room, which retained Josh Reynolds earlier this month. Between those two, along with Amon-Ra St. Brown and tight end T.J. Hockenson, Detroit figures to have an improved pass-catching corps in 2022.

Jaguars’ Pederson Wants DJ Chark Back

The Jaguars figure to be big players in free agency, with lots of cap space to work with and plenty of room for improvement on offense. One piece of the unit that new head coach Doug Pederson would like to keep in Jacksonville, however, is receiver DJ Chark

In an appearance on 1010 XL, Pederson noted that injuries played a large role in the team’s struggles last year. With a rookie quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, along with a lost season for fellow first-rounder Travis Etienne, the Jags certainly could’ve used a productive campaign from Chark. Instead, he suffered a fractured ankle in Week 4, an injury that ended his season. The 25-year-old posted 154 receiving yards, and the Jaguars finished last in the league in scoring.

You think about James Robinson, you think about Travis Etienne, you think about even, you know, hopefully we get DJ Chark back” Pederson said. “I mean, you think about some of these younger receivers that we do have and there is some skill and ability there that we are excited as a staff to get going with”.

While Pederson added that the offense “is not there yet”, and that new pieces will be brought in, his remarks demonstrate a willingness to bring the former second round pick back. Chark’s best season came in 2019, where he made 73 catches for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns en route to the Pro Bowl. That helped lead to momentum regarding a potential extension early in the 2021 campaign, but the ankle injury – one of several in his career – surely complicates the matter.

Without a new deal in the next few weeks, Chark will hit the open market. If he does land elsewhere, Jacksonville will still have Marvin Jones, Laviska Shenault and Jamal Agnew under contract through next year.