Detroit would know what it would be getting with Jones, too, if it were to bring him in. The Lions – at least some of their staff – have familiarity with Jones. He played under Jim Caldwell when Caldwell was the offensive coordinator in Baltimore. He also was the punt returner for Houston during some of new special teams coordinator Joe Marciano’s time with the Texans.
And in the NFL, if a player is good enough, familiarity breeds interest because the player you know is sometimes better than the player you don’t.
Before you say Jones is definitively better than Ross, consider: Ross was rated better by Pro Football Focus last season as a returner. That’s just one metric, though. Jones had a better kick return average than Ross (Jones 30.56; Ross 25.39) and a better punt return average (Jones 9.17; Ross 8.88).
Neither was a particularly good receivers last season, although Ross was a better option. Jones had nine receptions for 131 yards and no touchdowns on 19 targets from Joe Flacco. He dropped four of those targets for a a 21.1 percent drop rate. Ross had 24 receptions on 35 targets for 314 yards and a touchdown. He had two drops for a drop rate of 5.7 percent.
Ross is also younger and theoretically entering the prime of his career, turning 27 next month. Jones turns 31 in July, likely placing him on the other side of his prime.
So it could come down to both interest and money for the Lions pursuing Jones. He probably isn’t worth anything more than a veteran minimum contract – or slightly above it -- to Detroit, but if he is willing to take that, he could be worth bringing into camp to compete with Ross for the return slot and a backup receiver role.