Theo Riddick

Release Candidate: Lions RB Theo Riddick

Calling Theo Riddick a running back is a bit misleading, as he’s really more of a pass-catcher than a ball-carrier. In three of his six seasons with the Lions, the 28-year-old Riddick has garnered more pass targets than rush attempts. He’s been a valuable asset in Detroit’s receiving game, but is he a lock to remain on the club’s roster in 2019?

The Lions’ run game has been a disaster for most of Matthew Stafford‘s tenure under center. Detroit famously went without a single-game 100-yard rusher from 2013 until September of 2018, when rookie Kerryon Johnson accomplished the feat against the Patriots. Johnson is expected to handle the majority of the Lions’ carries next season, although Detroit management has refrained from labeling him a “bellcow.” The Auburn product posted 641 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 118 attempts last year, but missed most of the second half of the campaign with a knee injury.

Detroit set out to add at least one more option to its backfield this offseason, and general manager Bob Quinn & Co. zeroed in on a pair of Rams alums. First, the Lions inked Los Angeles restricted free agent Malcolm Brown to a two-year, $3.3MM offer sheet, but the Rams ultimately matched those terms and retained the 26-year-old. The Lions looked elsewhere on the market and found fellow ex-Ram C.J. Anderson, signing the veteran to a one-year pact worth $1.5MM.

Johnson and Anderson are locks for the Detroit roster, so assuming the Lions keep four running backs, Riddick will compete with Zach Zenner and sixth-round rookie Ty Johnson for a roster spot. If the Lions feel as though they need a dedicated pass-catching back, Riddick should be safe. If not, or if Detroit thinks Kerryon Johnson will handle enough receiving work on his own, the Lions could retain the special teams skills of Zenner and take a flier on a minimum salary player like Ty Johnson.

Riddick’s contract — not his talent — is his true barrier to making the Lions’ roster. The Notre Dame product agreed to a three-year, $11.5MM extension with Detroit in 2016, and he’s set to count for $4.625MM on the team’s 2019 salary cap. If the Lions release Riddick, they’ll clear all but ~$963K of that total.

There’s an argument to be made that if the Lions wanted to cut Riddick, they would have already done so. But it’s also possible that Detroit will wait until the regular season is closer to part ways with Riddick. He’d have little leverage at that point, and could probably be pressured into accepting a pay cut (or simply re-signing with Detroit at a cheaper rate after being released).

Riddick can still be a valuable player as a pass-catcher, but it’s hard to see the Lions being comfortable with his near $5MM cap charge, especially given the projected workload of Johnson and Anderson. Therefore, Riddick could find himself on the free agent market later this summer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Updates: Patriots, Colts, Lions, Redskins

The final injury reports for Week 7 came out earlier today, and there was a lot of news. Lots of key players will be missing their team’s games, while others will be returning after extended absence. One notable rule-out was the Patriots declaring that starting right tackle Marcus Cannon would miss their game against the Bears. It’s a big loss for New England, especially in a week where they have to go up against Khalil Mack. Mack will now be lining up across from a backup tackle, and could end up making life miserable for Tom Brady.

Here are more injury updates from around the league:

  • The Colts have been the most injured team in recent memory the past few weeks, but are finally getting some good news. Star receiver T.Y. Hilton has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury, but is ready to make his return this week. Unfortunately for Indianapolis, they’ll still be without tight end Jack Doyle and receiver Ryan Grant as well as several key contributors on defense like safety Clayton Geathers and defensive tackle Denico Autry.
  • The Lions will be without running back Theo Riddick, who went down during the team’s win over the Packers. Riddick has been operating as the Lions’ third down back, and rookie Kerryon Johnson should get more run with him out of the way. On the bright side, the team looks like it could be getting back pass-rusher Ezekiel Ansah, who hasn’t played since Detroit’s Week 1 loss. Ansah is listed as questionable but practiced all three days this week.
  • The Redskins will be thin on pass-catchers, as Jamison Crowder has been ruled out for the team’s game against the Cowboys while Paul Richardson is listed as doubtful. Washington promoted Jehu Chesson from the practice squad yesterday, signaling they weren’t expecting Richardson to play. Tight end Jordan Reed should see a ton of looks as the Redskins’ receiving corp is completely depleted.

For a rundown of every team’s injury situation, you can view all 32 injury reports over at ProFootballTalk.com.

Extra Points: Cowboys, Rams, Brockers, Lions, Dunlap

After much speculation, Cowboys defender Byron Jones confirmed on Monday that he will be switching from safety to cornerback in 2018, the Dallas Morning News’ Jon Machota writes.

Viewed as a versatile defender coming out of college, Jones played cornerback as a rookie in 2015 and a safety the past two seasons. New defensive backs coach Kris Richard preferred him at the former.

“I think it will be a good move for me and the team. I’m always open to making position changes, as long as I’m in the best position to succeed. If [Richard] believes my best position is corner, then I’m down.”

Richard knows a thing or two about getting the best from bigger cornerbacks. With the Seahawks, Richard oversaw Richard Sherman’s ascent to one of the premier corners in the league. What remains to be seen is if the team prefers him on the boundary or in the slot. In 2017, rookies Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis showed plenty of promise on the outside.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • In a press conference on Monday, Rams defensive lineman Michael Brockers told reporters he tore his MCL in the team’s playoff loss to the Falcons in January, ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez tweets. During that game, the sixth-year defender sat out the second half. The good news for Los Angeles is that Brockers took part in team activities on Monday, but they’re not in pads until training camp.
  • If any Lions players are moved in draft-day deals, some of the names that make sense include Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick and Jake Rudock, ESPN’s Michael Rothstein writes. Those names all come to mind after the team added veterans in LeGarrette Blount and Matt Cassel in the offseason.
  • The goal is for the Bengals to sign both Carlos Dunlap and get a new deal with Geno AtkinsBengals.com writer Geoff Hobson notes in a mailbag. Both Dunlap’s and Atkins’ deals run through the 2018 campaign.
  • NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to be deposed in the next two weeks in Colin Kaeperncik‘s collusion case against the league, USA Today’s A.J. Perez writes. Seahawks general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll are also on the docket to be deposed.

North Notes: Steelers, Lions, Riddick, Pack

Let’s take a quick spin around the NFL’s two North divisions:

  • Although the Steelers are proceeding as if veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will return in 2017, the club is still expected to search for a long-term successor in the draft, according to Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com. “I think we’ve been in that mindset for the last several years, that’s what this business tells us to be in,” said Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin. “We better start sharpening our sword in terms of evaluation of quarterbacks and what’s available to us or potentially available to us, that’s just due diligence. So yes, we have.” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert also indicated earlier this year that his team would start to look for a Roethlisberger replacement at some point, a course of action PFR suggested when assessing Pittsburgh’s top offseason needs.
  • Lions running back Theo Riddick had surgery on both wrists near the end of last season, reports Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, who adds those operations forced Riddick to be placed on injured reserve in December. Riddick, who still managed 53 receptions in an injury-shortened 2016 campaign, is expected to be available for the beginning of OTAs. Detroit is still expected to upgrade its backfield this offseason, meaning the club could target options either through free agency (where a number of backs are still unsigned) or the draft.
  • Christine Michael‘s new contract with the Packers is a one-year, minimum salary benefit deal that includes a $25K signing bonus, tweets Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Thanks to the MSB, Michael will earn $800K but only count for $640K against Green Bay’s cap. Michael, 26, is one of only three running backs currently on the Packers’ roster along with Ty Montgomery and Don Jackson.

Lions Place Theo Riddick On IR

The Lions already ruled Theo Riddick out of a potential elimination game on Sunday night, but if the team advances to the playoffs, it won’t have its top healthy running back’s services.

Detroit placed Riddick on IR to end his season, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets. He’s missed the past three games with a wrist injury and will now have a full offseason to recover from the malady. The Lions signed wide receiver Jace Billingsley off their practice squad, Michael Rothstein reports.

Should the Lions either beat the Packers or receive help with a Redskins loss, they will have to use their backup running backs in the playoffs. Zach Zenner, Dwayne Washington and the recently re-signed Joique Bell represent the Lions’ backfield contingent heading into their pivotal Week 17 contest.

The recently extended Riddick finished his fourth season with 728 yards from scrimmage. Following Ameer Abdullah‘s early-season injury, the former passing-down back became the Lions’ top ground option. Riddick’s career-high 357 rushing yards still lead the team despite the 25-year-old back playing in just 10 games.

Last month, a report pointing to a possible Abdullah return emerged. Nothing has transpired on that front since. Both Zenner and Washington have amassed 265 rushing yards this season for a Lions rushing attack that ranks 30th, but Zenner is averaging 3.9 yards per carry compared to the rookie’s 2.9.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions, RB Theo Riddick Agree To Extension

SATURDAY, 9:25am: The Lions have confirmed the extensions for both Riddick and Martin, with general manager Bob Quinn releasing a statement:

“We are excited to announce contract extensions for Sam Martin and Theo Riddick. Both players have earned these extensions through their hard work that dates back to 2013 when both joined the Lions. I would like to thank Sam, Theo, and their representatives for their hard work assisting us in our goal of completing these extensions prior to the start of the regular season. I’m very pleased that both players can join their teammates in fully concentrating on our opening game.”

FRIDAY, 11:10am: The Lions have agreed to a contract extension with running back Theo Riddick, according to a source who spoke with Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com (on Twitter). It’s a three-year deal worth $12.75MM, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Theo Riddick (vertical)

[RELATED: Lions, P Sam Martin Agree To Extension]

Last season, Riddick caught 80 passes (most of any running back in 2015) for 697 yards and three scores. This year, he is slated to get a good amount of work behind primary tailback Ameer Abdullah. Abdullah figures to get the bulk of the carries thanks to his speed and agility, but Riddick will be in on passing downs and should get a good number of targets from Matthew Stafford.

Riddick, who turned 25 this spring, was slated to hit the open market after the 2016 season. It seems like Riddick did pretty well on this deal, especially when considering that Giovani Bernard‘s new contract with the Bengals is only worth a little more at $15.5MM over a three year period. Riddick is roughly the same age as Bernard, but Bernard has shown to be a more well-balanced running back.

This has already been a busy day for the Lions as they extended punter Sam Martin minutes ago.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC North Notes: Tulloch, Lions, Vikings

Linebacker Stephen Tulloch still isn’t sure whether he’ll be a member of the Lions going forward. “My gut is we’ve got to wait and find out. Couple more days. We’ll see,” Tulloch said (Twitter link via Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press). The veteran was told in February he wouldn’t be part of the team, but he remains on the team’s roster today. The 31-year-old has spent the last five years with Detroit.

Here’s more from the NFC North:

  • Charles Johnson has to fight for his spot on the Vikings‘ roster, but he is not to be counted out yet, Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune writes. While there’s something of a logjam at wide receiver, Johnson did show a lot when he became Teddy Bridgewater’s go-to guy late in 2014. Many have noted that the pressure is being turned up on Cordarrelle Patterson after the team selected Laquon Treadwell and Moritz Boehringer in the draft, but Patterson is unlikely to go thanks to his return ability. If Johnson can shine in the coming weeks, Vensel believes that the Vikes will find room for him behind Stefon Diggs, Jarius Wright, Patterson, and the team’s rookies.
  • Giovani Bernard‘s new contract with the Bengals should bode well for Lions running back Theo Riddick, Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com writes. Bernard, who agreed to a three-year, $15.5MM extension, is a more balanced tailback than Riddick, but the Lions back may offer more in the way of pass-catching value. Last season, Riddick caught 80 passes for 697 yards and three scores. Riddick can’t run like Bernard, so he probably won’t match him in terms of money, but the deal does give his agents a decent comp to work off of. Age is also working in the Notre Dame product’s favor as he only just turned 25 in May.
  • On Wednesday, the Bears placed Manny Ramirez on the reserve/retired list.

Sunday Roundup: Okung, Lions, RGIII

Let’s take a look at some notes from around the league as the second wave of free agency starts to heat up:

  • After meeting with Russell Okung today, the Steelers are scheduled to meet with free agent tackles Ryan Harris and Chris Hairston later this week, per a tweet from ESPN’s Adam Schefter (we had already heard about the Harris meeting, but the Hairston visit is a new development). Pittsburgh has a void at left tackle that it is seeking to fill, as Kelvin Beachum, who missed most of the 2015 campaign with a torn ACL, looks ready to sign elsewhere.
  • The Lions have already had a visit with Okung, and while all reports seem to indicate that it was a positive meeting, Detroit remains in a holding pattern with the talented but oft-injured tackle. As Kyle Meinke of MLive.com writes, Detroit may have no other choice but to make a big-time offer for Okung, despite the risks, as the offensive line is in serious need of an upgrade and Okung is far and away the best talent still on the market.
  • Darius Slay and Sam Martin are two members of the Lions‘ terrific 2013 draft class that could sign extensions with the club in the coming months, and as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press writes, Theo Riddick is also open to an extension that would keep him in Detroit for the foreseeable future. No contract talks have taken place yet, but Riddick, who led all running backs with 80 receptions in 2015, could have a bigger role in the running game in 2016, and he could get a nice payday as a result.
  • Birkett writes in a separate piece that new Lions GM Bob Quinn has done a nice job of patching holes on his team’s roster while steering clear of overpaying for mediocre talent, a common pitfall for first-time GMs. But Birkett also observes that the Lions are no better right now than they were last year, and Quinn will have to prove that his eye for young talent in the draft matches matches his prudence in free agency.
  • Former NFL agent Joel Corry does not believe that the Jets have serious interest in Robert Griffin III, and he believes the team’s “pursuit” of RGIII is simply a leverage play staged for Ryan Fitzpatrick‘s benefit. If the team were to sign Griffin, Corry believes it would be a modest, one-year pact worth between $4MM-$5MM (Twitter link).
  • Free agent safety Rashad Johnson was set to meet with the Titans on Friday, but per ESPN’s Josina Anderson, that visit has been pushed back to tomorrow (Twitter link).
  • The Raiders appear to be trending upwards, and they have suddenly transformed from a last resort to a desired destination, as Jerry McDonald of InsideBayArea.com writes. Although the team lost out on Malik Jackson, who ultimately signed with the Jaguars, Oakland landed three major free agents–Kelechi Osemele, Bruce Irvin, and Sean Smith–just one year after being spurned by a number of its top free agent targets. As GM Reggie McKenzie said, “It’s good to see people call us and not always have to beg.” McDonald adds that McKenzie is not done spending–the team still has considerable cap space, after all–and the club’s free agent haul, combined with its talented young core, could propel the Raiders back to the playoffs in 2016.

NFC Mailbags: Newman, Norman, Bucs, Reed, Cowboys

Our own Sam Robinson took you through some of the AFC Mailbags earlier today. Now to give the NFC some love, here are a few of the mailbags from that other conference:

  • The Vikings have been going with youth across the roster, and the secondary has been no exception with Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes slated to start on the outside. However, the team also signed 37-year-old corner Terence Newman to bring a veteran presence in the secondary, according to Ben Goessling of ESPN.com. Newman should take a little pressure of Waynes to be effective from day one.
  • The Panthers will definitely put a lot of focus into extending Luke Kuechly, but David Newton of ESPN.com expects that to come next offseason. Josh Norman is entering the final year of his rookie deal, and after performing well for the team he should be a priority for an extension.
  • Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com is guessing starters in his latest Buccaneers mailbag. He picks George Johnson and Jacquies Smith, Danny Lansanah as their third linebacker, and D.J. Swearinger over Chris Conte at safety.
  • Kyle Van Noy and Theo Riddick are a pair of players that have uncertain roles for the Lions in 2015. Van Noy could earn a starting job at linebacker, but won’t see starter’s snaps due to the likely reliance on nickel and dime packages, according to Mike Rothstein of ESPN.com. Riddick will also likely be an afterthough at running back, but should have ample opportunities to catch passes out of the backfield and in the slot.
  • With Jordan Reed‘s injuries, Washington could have used help at tight end either in free agency or the draft, writes John Keim of ESPN.com. While it is surprising, it means the team has confidence in Niles Paul, and believes contributions from the receivers and running backs catching passes could help them survive without Reed for some time.
  • In our lone entry from a non-ESPN writer, Bob Sturm of the Dallas Morning News writes that with the versatility of Byron Jones and Corey White in the secondary, the Cowboys defense could give some very creative looks in 2015. Both players are nominally corners, but each has the ability to play safety as well, and that could let the team mix and match in the defensive backfield.

NFC Links: Greenway, Graham, Riddick

Vikings veteran linebacker Chad Greenway, coming off a disappointing 2013 season in which a wrist injury affected his play, is a player with “something to prove,” according to ESPN’s Ben Goessling: “Greenway took a paycut after a disappointing 2013 season with the Vikings, and he has just one year left on his contract after this season. The Vikings would have to count only a $1.7 million bonus proration against their 2015 cap if they cut Greenway after this season, and they’d save $7.1 million, meaning Greenway could be looking at another contract restructure or a release if he doesn’t pick things up at age 31 this season.”

Here’s some more NFC-related reading:

  • ESPN’s Mike Triplett did his best to clarify an arbitrator’s ruling that — for the purpose of the Saints’ franchise tag designation — Jimmy Graham was a tight end, in part, because of the so-called “4-yard benchmark.”
  • Late last month, Tim Twentyman wrote about Lions running back Theo Riddick turning heads with an impressive spring which caught the eye of head coach Jim Caldwell in particular. Now backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky is adding to the hype. Talking on Ross Tucker’s podcast, Orlovsky said, “I’m telling you, if [Riddick] doesn’t 50 catches this year, I’ll be surprised because he’s going to have opportunities and he’s very talented at it. I think he’s going to play that Sproles role, for sure.”
  • Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is rehabbing from back surgery for the second consecutive offseason, writes David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, but Romo says his conditioning is “miles ahead of last year.”
  • Barry Church will hold down one safety spot for the Cowboys, but his running mate is to be determined. Bryan Broaddus of DallasCowboys.com thinks it will come down to J.J. Wilcox or Jakar Hamilton. “Wilcox has lost weight and is playing with better movement along with a better understanding of what his responsibilities are,” says Broaddus. Matt Johnson, a 2012 fourth-rounder out of Eastern Washington, is the most talented of the bunch, according to Broaddus, but Johnson hasn’t been able to stay healthy.
  • The Redskins drafted Josh LeRibeus in the third round in 2012 anticipating he would develop into a starter. Two years later, he must prove himself a capable backup just to stick on the roster, writes Mike Jones in the Washington Post.
  • In a rundown of NFC South depth chart notes, Pro Football Focus’ Gordon McGuinness recognized the encouraging play of a pair of 2013 rookies: Saints offensive tackle Terron Armstead and Buccaneers running back Mike James, both of whom made the most of limited opportunity.