In the 2012 NFL season, Calvin Johnson was the most dominant wide receiver. Other than Johnson, the Detroit Lions struggled at finding consistency in their receivers. The Lions might have found their answer to that problem today.
On Thursday, the team announced the signing of Devin Thomas to a futures contract. Thomas was the 34th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins. Thomas played for the Redskins, Carolina Panthers and New York Giants, and won a Super Bowl with the Giants. After a stellar career at Michigan State, Thomas was the second wide receiver selected in 2008. Wide receiver Donnie Avery was selected one pick ahead of Thomas, as the first taken in the draft. Both receivers beat out Jordy Nelson and DeSean Jackson, who were both taken later in the second round.
Thomas brings NFL experience as both a wide receiver and kick returner to the Lions. In 2012, Calvin had 1964 yards and set an NFL record for a single season. The stats after Johnson drop off dramatically. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew finished second with 567 yards, and tight end Tony Scheffler finished with 504 yards. Running back Joique Bell finished fourth with 485. You have to go all the way to the fifth-most receiving yards to find the second wide receiver in Titus Young.
Titus had 383 yards in his sophomore season, but was more of a problem than a solution to the Lions receiving problems. Young was eventually placed on the bench by the Lions and head coach Jim Schwartz. In one game, Titus lined up wrong during a couple of plays on purpose. Young was also involved in fights with teammates and became almost uncoachable.
It’s clearly time to part with Young, who doesn’t want to be a member of the Lions team. Thomas has caught 43 passes for 482 yards, but was never really given a chance to shine. His most productive year was 2009, when he caught 25 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns. Thomas is coming out of a brief retirement from the NFL, so I’m guessing he has more heart than Titus. The team should give him a chance at the number two or three receiver spot, depending on the health of Ryan Broyles and Nate Burleson.
Aside from receiving, Thomas returned 60 kickoffs for several NFL teams. In the 2011 season, Thomas served as a return man for the Giants. The Lions struggled on special teams, and Stefan Logan looked like one of the worst return specialists in the game. The Lions replaced Logan in their last game of the season, and could have signed Thomas today with the intention of a full time replacement job.