August 14, 2022

Detroit Lions v Philadelphia Eagles
Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

The former first-round pick of the Lions back in 2017 has returned to Detroit—how ‘bout them apples?

On Friday, Jeremy jumped in our Slack room to nudge us about a transaction the Detroit Lions were waiting to announce. This isn’t typical behavior from Reisman, but knowing him, he already had the article pre-written and was just waiting for the Lions to make the announcement. A bit itchy, I went to scratch my curiosity in our article dashboard.

To say I was caught off guard by the name in the headline is an understatement.

Much to my surprise—and I think the surprise of just about everyone—the Detroit Lions have brought back Jarrad Davis, the Lions’ former first-round pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. The terms of the deal weren’t announced at signing, but knowing how Brad Holmes has approached this year’s period of free agency, it’s likely a short-term, highly incentivized deal for Davis.

Let’s get into today’s Question of the Day…

Do you approve of Detroit signing Jarrad Davis?

Let’s start at the beginning because context, as always, is very important.

The 2017 draft class marked a strange intersection for the franchise. Jim Caldwell was still the team’s head coach, but that felt like it was only for the time being. Bob Quinn was entering his second season as the team’s general manager, but even after reaching the playoffs in the previous year, the team as a whole felt just as far away from playoff success as ever.

It might feel like Groundhog Day, but the Lions were desperately in need of help at linebacker, so they made Davis the pick at 21st overall. Davis’ rookie season wasn’t what many had hoped for considering where the linebacker was drafted. His effort was never in question, Davis played like a dog chasing cars, but his processing and execution left a lot to be desired. Then, Quinn finally made the coaching change many were anticipating, and, of course, Lions fans would talk themselves into Matt Patricia—the team’s new head coach—being the magic elixir for Davis’ missteps as a rookie.

Woof.

Instead, Davis’ time under Patricia in Detroit nearly led him to step away from the game of football entirely. Injuries and criticism can take a toll, and Davis talked about that in his press conference yesterday with the media. But he also spoke about how the opportunity to return to Detroit just felt like the right move at this time. It’s hard to imagine things would feel so right for Davis if it wasn’t for the new coaching staff in the building—and one that spoke highly of him just over a year ago.

“Jarrad Davis, there’s something about that guy, man,” Campbell told The Detroit News last February. “Things I hear about the way he was coached, and just knowing the ability and aggressiveness, he intrigues me. He pops off the tape and you feel like, man, can we help this guy? Can we make this guy a better player?”

In fact, that’s perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects of Davis’ return to Detroit: it serves as tangible evidence of how Holmes and Campbell have helped repair this organization’s culture problem that existed when Davis was here under Patricia. If Detroit had the money in their budget to bring back Davis last offseason, I think Holmes would have kept him around. Instead, a one-year deal to the Jets for $5.5 million guaranteed was a bit rich for a team feeling the salary cap crunch.

Detroit is extremely thin on talent at linebacker, and Davis has plenty to prove in his return to a Lions team just as desperate for contributors as they were when they drafted him five years ago. As I mentioned earlier, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this signing be a one-year deal with little guaranteed money, and for that, I’m fine with the Lions bringing in another reclamation project. Like many of their moves this offseason, bringing in Davis doesn’t change their approach to the draft by any means, but it does fit with Holmes’ approach to free agency.

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