Lions sign RB Stevan Ridley to add veteran presence to young backfield

Steven Ridley spent the first four seasons of his career with the Patriots before a one-year stint with the Jets in 2015. David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions have been searching for a veteran running back to replace Joique Bell, whom the team released in February. On Friday, the Lions found him, agreeing to a one-year deal with Stevan Ridley, according to a source.

Ridley spent last season with the New York Jets after being with the New England Patriots for the first four seasons of his career. Ridley was drafted in the third round by the Patriots out of LSU in 2011.

He’s played in 60 career games, carrying the ball 685 times for 2,907 yards and 22 touchdowns. Unlike Detroit’s other backs, he is more of a pure runner than running/receiving hybrid. He has only 27 career receptions.

Injuries have been an issue for Ridley the past two seasons. He tore his right ACL and MCL in Week 6 of the 2014 season -- his last in New England -- and missed the first half of the 2015 season with the Jets as well. He didn’t get a ton of work with New York last season, either, in part because of the combination of Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory, carrying the ball just 36 times for 88 yards. In his Instagram post announcing the move, he thanked the Jets for the opportunity and said, “I hate that I couldn’t do more for you this past year.”

New York I hate that I couldn't do more for you this past year, but the opportunity y'all gave me after my injury to do what I love the most.. I can never put a price on. The relationships I've gained with my brothers in New York, as well as developing a sense of true patience will take me much further beyond the game of football. Coach Bowles you truly are a leader of men. The Jets Organization is on the up and coming, and I wish you guys nothing but the best. John Mellody and the Jets training staff were an absolute blessing as well. A1 and arguably the best out there! To the Organization and city of NEW YORK I truly thank you for all the love. But now it's on to Detroit for me! I can't be happier for another shot to tote this pill and showcase the gifts I've been truly blessed with! Detroit, I've got a suprise for you this year, I promise. I'm ready to get to work with my new family, so April 18th can't come soon enough! Lets eat fellas, and this year we want the whole plate!! #longliveKiDRiD #onlyGOD

A photo posted by KiD-RiD (@stevanridley) on

Ridley is an intriguing player because when he was healthy he was a dynamic runner. He averaged over 4 yards per carry in each of his first three seasons in the league and ran for a career-best 1,263 yards in 2012. He’s a low-risk signing with a potentially high ceiling on a one-year prove-it deal. He’s also at an age where he could still have multiple strong seasons left. He turned 27 in January, so he’d have three years before the semi-mythical 30-year-old wall would hit.

He will be more of a between-the-tackles runner for Detroit than either of the Lions’ other top backfield options. Ameer Abdullah is an all-purpose type of back who can jump inside or outside along with catching passes out of the backfield. Theo Riddick is one of the premier pass-catching backs in the NFL.

Ridley will more than likely compete with Zach Zenner and George Winn for a role on the roster. If he proves he is healthy, though, he has a chance to be a big contributor.

Bringing in Ridley all but closes the door on any potential of Bell returning to the franchise at a lower price after being cut. Detroit could still add a running back through the draft or potentially undrafted free agency.

Ridley’s signing also gives another indication the Lions might be trying to build a Patriots-like stable in the backfield with one player as the power back, one as a do-it-all guy and another as a pass-catcher. As of now, those three roles would go to Ridley or Zenner, Abdullah and Riddick.

Ridley is the team’s fourth-straight signing from a New York franchise, joining Darrin Walls (Jets), Geoff Schwartz (Giants) and Jeremy Kerley (Jets).

Colleague Rich Cimini, who covers the Jets for NFL Nation, offered this scouting report on Ridley:

The Jets took a one-year flyer on Ridley for about $1 million, hoping he'd rebound from major knee surgery to recapture the form he showed in 2012. That year, he rushed for 1,263 yards with the Patriots. It didn’t happen with the Jets, and the feeling around the team was that his knee still wasn’t right.

He was on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list for half the season, probably a couple of games longer than he would’ve preferred. He wanted to get back sooner, but the team took a cautious approach. Ridley wound up playing in nine games, and it was clear he was tentative at times and lacked the necessary burst. Basically, he was a half-step slow. Because of injuries, he wound up starting the final game, playing in the base offense. The Bills swallowed him up, holding him to 29 yards on nine carries.

Now that he’s more than a year removed from surgery, Ridley should be closer to the 2012 version of himself. It could be a good depth signing for the Lions because, if healthy, he’s capable of contributing on first and second down. He rehabbed on the Jets’ dime, but maybe the Lions can reap the benefit.