Lions sign receiver/returner Jeremy Kerley

Lions find reliable slot receiver in Jeremy Kerley (1:39)

ESPN Lions reporter Michael Rothstein explains where veteran Jeremy Kerley will fit into Detroit's offense and how the team's new No. 3 wide receiver could help return punts on special teams. (1:39)

Since the retirement of Calvin Johnson, the Detroit Lions have known their wide receiver group will look a lot different next season.

First the team signed Marvin Jones. Then on Monday they brought in another wideout, Jeremy Kerley, according to ESPN Insider Adam Caplan. Caplan reports Kerley’s contract is a one-year deal for just over $1 million.

The 5-foot-9 Kerley was a fifth-round draft pick out of TCU by the New York Jets in 2011 and made a decent impact during his five years in New York.

Kerley caught 182 passes for 2,225 yards and nine touchdowns with the Jets. His production dipped every year after 2012, though, when he posted career highs of 56 catches and 827 receiving yards. He had only 16 catches for 152 yards last season.

He barely played for the final seven weeks of last season, never running more than five routes in a game.

In some ways the 27-year-old’s career path could use a jolt -- much like what happened last season with Lance Moore. Moore signed with Detroit after a season of almost no production in Pittsburgh and performed well enough when needed as the No. 3 receiver.

As of now it looks like Kerley will be taking Moore’s spot -- Moore is a free agent and unsigned at this point.

Kerley has a three percent drop rate in his career, so he has good hands. The Lions' coaching staff has considered that very important since their arrival in 2014.

Even with the signings of Jones and Kerley, expect Detroit to add at least one more receiver through the draft to compete for roster spots.

Where Kerley could add even more value is as a punt returner. He has 134 career returns for 1,250 yards and one touchdown, averaging 9.33 yards per return. He had his most punt return yardage last season (411 yards) and averaged 8.56 yards per return.

This is critical for Detroit since the Lions could pull receiver Golden Tate, who is going to be an even bigger part of the offense in 2016 after the retirement of Johnson, off punt returns. Johnson’s absence puts even more of a premium on Tate’s continued health.

The Kerley signing is also another upgrade to the special teams core under new general manager Bob Quinn. Almost all of his other signings (Johnson Bademosi, Rafael Bush, Tavon Wilson, Tahir Whitehead) have at least some special teams value, too.