Every day we’ll take a look at one of the Detroit Lions heading for free agency, what he has meant to the team before and a prognosis on whether or not he’ll be back with the club in 2014.
To see the whole series so far, check out this link.
Free agent to be: Kris Durham (Exclusive rights free agent** Durham is not a restricted free agent, as was initially reported. See update below.)
Position: Wide receiver
Years in the league: 3
What he made last season: $555,000 (cap number and base salary)
What he did last season: Potentially considered unlikely to make the final roster in the preseason, Durham made the 53-man roster and after an injury to Nate Burleson, ended up having somewhat of a breakout season. He caught 38 passes for 490 yards and two touchdowns. He had a stretch through the middle of the season where he was Detroit’s most reliable non-Calvin Johnson receiver and has a rapport with Matthew Stafford. He did drop six passes this season and had a reception percentage of 45.2, third-worst in the NFL among qualifying pass catchers, ahead of Cleveland’s Greg Little and St. Louis’ Chris Givens. He was targeted on 16.2 percent of his routes and caught passes on 7.4 percent of his routes.
His potential market value: Durham is not going to be in the top tier of free agents, but he could end up in the second tier if he makes it to true free agency. He won’t wow you with any of his skills, but he is a reliable, high-character player who can provide good depth as a third, fourth or fifth receiver. Plus, he can play special teams.
Will he fit the Lions still: Potentially. The Lions need to upgrade the receiver position beyond Calvin Johnson and it would be very, very surprising to see Durham on the Lions in the same role he had throughout most of last season. If he were to return to the club, it would probably be more in the role he would have initially had before Patrick Edwards became a non-starter as a starter and Burleson got injured -- a receiver who can block, will play hard and can catch a pass or two a game in 20-25 snaps. If he can handle that role, then the Lions should bring him back for another season as he should be able to improve and, again, has a comfort level with Stafford.
What happens: I anticipate Detroit offering Durham an original round tender -- that number was $1.323 million last season -- and if anyone matches, the team would then have a tough decision to make. There has been some question as to whether or not Durham was an exclusive rights free agent or a restricted free agent, but a league source said he was a restricted free agent when I asked for clarification. If it turns out he is an exclusive rights free agent, then he would almost certainly be brought back to at least be in camp. Either way, Durham should at least be in camp for Detroit in 2014, but depending what the Lions do with the receiver position in free agency and the draft, could have to fight his way onto the team again this season.
UPDATE: After some initial confusion about his status, the agency that represents Durham confirmed he is an exclusive rights free agent, not a restricted free agent. This is bad for Durham's wallet, as the original-round tender is no longer in play. It's good for the Lions and for his chances of returning to the team, since he now comes back at a cheaper price. This almost assures Durham will be back with the Lions in 2014, at least in the offseason and in camp.