Golden Tate, Marvin Jones make WR lesser priority for Lions in free agency

With free agency approaching (March 14), we're analyzing the wide receiver position on the Detroit Lions.

2018 cap hits of top returnees:

Golden Tate: $9,351,250

Marvin Jones Jr.: $8,600,000

Kenny Golladay: $765,706

Bradley Marquez: $737,500

Pending free agents: TJ Jones (restricted)

Key stat: All four of Tate's seasons with the Lions have resulted in at least 90 catches and three of the four were 1,000-yard seasons. He also hasn't missed a game since 2012. He was joined in the 1,000-yard club by Marvin Jones last season after a 61-catch, 1,101 yard breakout season with nine touchdowns.

Money matters: Tate and Jones, for their production and value, are bargains for the Lions. Neither ranks in the Top 15 in cap hits for 2018, coming in at Nos. 18 and 20, respectively. Like Darius Slay in 2016 and Matthew Stafford last season, the contract extension to watch this offseason will be Tate, who has expressed a desire for an extension and has the production and durability to match. He turns 30 in August, which could be a concern for the Lions when it comes to giving him another long-term deal for big-money, but he's been durable and a leader for the Lions. Tate indicated last summer he wanted an extension and it's possible it happens, although general manager Bob Quinn hasn't indicated what the Lions want to do there yet. But it's one of the things to watch after the crush of free agency and the draft ends.

Big picture: Detroit is in good position here with a diverse group of receivers who have skill. Tate's contract is the most pressing issue of the top three as well as what to do with TJ Jones. It appears the Lions won't be tendering Jones, who is coming off a season-ending shoulder injury, but Detroit should want him back. He's the perfect reserve receiver -- he can play any spot, is reliable and can be a return man in a pinch. He's also a no-frills guy off the field who is not a problem. If the Lions don't re-sign Jones, it means one of the other receivers on the roster (Jace Billingsley? Andy Jones? Marquez? Dontez Ford?) could have a path to the team.

The game plan: This should not be a high-market spot for Detroit in free agency or the draft. Depending what happens with TJ Jones, the Lions might have to add someone, but think a receiver on a lower tier of free agency if that happens or perhaps Matthew Slater, the Patriots special teams whiz. He's not a big-time receiver but Quinn and Matt Patricia are familiar with Slater, who could hold the No. 5 spot.

If the Lions were trying to take a flier on a receiver with some upside, perhaps a player like Donte Moncrief could benefit from a change of scenery. The talent is there, but it never really materialized in Indianapolis other than a 733-yard season in 2015. Same with Arizona's John Brown, who had a rough 2017 but was a 1,000-yard receiver in 2015. If one of those two players could come in cheap, they would be intriguing options.

Otherwise, this could be a late draft area for Detroit. Remember, Marvin Jones was a fifth-round pick, TJ Jones was a sixth-round pick--– as was the best receiver in the NFL, the Steelers' Antonio Brown. So if a player like, say, Penn State's DaeSean Hamilton, Indiana's Simmie Cobbs Jr. or Iowa State's Allen Lazard are hanging around late enough on Day 3, it could be worth a pick.