Depth at the position without Johnson is fairly flimsy for the Lions beyond Golden Tate and the potential of TJ Jones entering his third season. Corey Fuller hasn’t shown much in his three years in the league. Lance Moore is a free agent and while he’d like to return to the Lions, Jones might end up taking his role.
The Lions have three futures players as well, but they haven’t shown much in the league yet either. So it leaves Detroit with a question of how to handle the position over the next couple of months as it tries to figure out the main pieces for its 2016 roster and beyond.
So how should the Lions handle the position – free agency, the draft or both?
Provided Alshon Jeffery doesn’t make it to the open market, and there’s no reason to think he will, there aren’t any sure-fire No. 1 receivers hitting free agency. But there are some potentially attractive options that might not crush Detroit’s free agent budget.
If Cincinnati doesn’t re-sign Marvin Jones, he would be an attractive candidate after a strong 2015 season where he showed he can play at least a 1A role, something that could work well in a pairing with Tate. Jermaine Kearse, a good friend of Tate’s from Seattle, could be another option. He had the best season of his career in 2015 (49 catches, 685 yards, five touchdowns) and as the Lions know, Seattle’s offense isn’t exactly pass-friendly.
The short option might be the best play if the Lions plan on addressing receiver early in the draft.
There aren’t a ton of potential game-breakers in the draft like there were the past two seasons, but some options exist in the first round and beyond. And no matter what happens in free agency, the Lions probably will take a receiver at some point in the draft.
If Laquon Treadwell dropped to No. 16, the Lions would almost have to consider him strongly. He has the size, hands and intelligence to be a really good NFL receiver. Tyler Boyd from Pittsburgh and Josh Doctson from TCU could be options beyond No. 16 as could Braxton Miller from Ohio State if he were still available in the second round.
Considering Bob Quinn’s love of versatility for players, Miller could be a more attractive option because he could serve as the emergency quarterback if necessary.
But receiver is going to be a position the Lions need to upgrade for 2016 no matter what ends up happening with Johnson. It is just a matter of how Detroit handles it.