- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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Every day we’ll take a look at one of the Detroit Lions heading for free agency, what he has meant to the team before and a prognosis on whether or not he’ll be back with the club in 2014.
Here's a look at our series to date.
Free agent to be: Jeremy Ross
Position: Wide receiver (Exclusive Rights)
Years in the league: 2
What he made last season: $310,588 (cap number); $480,000 (base salary)
What he did last season: If Glover Quin was the team’s best offseason signing – and that is debatable with Reggie Bush as well – Ross was the team’s best maneuver during the season. The Lions picked him up and shipped him to the practice squad after Green Bay released him. By the end of the season, he was turning into a feared returner. His receiving stats were minimal – five catches for 59 yards and a touchdown – but he had a kick return and punt return for a touchdown. He was fourth in the league in punt return average (15.47) and offered some stability and explosiveness at the position after he replaced Micheal Spurlock. He also became one of the team’s top special-teams gunners.
His potential market value: If the Lions want him, he’ll be required to go back to Detroit with an exclusive rights deal. He shouldn’t reach the free-agency stage because he can be brought back at the three-year veteran minimum salary and will be part of the Lions for 2014. Considering his role with the team, he should be brought back.
Will he fit the Lions still: Yes. He was the team’s returner by the end of the season and a valuable special-teams player. Plus, he can play receiver if need be and at 6-foot, fits at least the minimum mold of height that Jim Caldwell has liked at receiver in the past. Plus, with Burleson’s age and Ryan Broyles’ injury history, he could end up with a fairly strong spot with the Lions. The biggest concerns for him would be if the team brings in a quality slot receiver as a free agent or if they draft a slot receiver somewhat high in the draft. The other concern for Ross would be if the team drafts a corner who has good returner skills – think Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert – or a receiver that fits his mold exactly. Barring that, he should remain with the Lions and have a chance to break out in 2014.
What happens: The Lions should offer him that exclusive-rights deal and he’ll be back in the locker room in 2014. As long as he can hang on to the returner role, he’ll be part of the 2014 squad and active for every game. As mentioned above, depending what happens with Burleson and Broyles, his role could increase significantly in 2014. He is an underrated player with value in multiple areas for the club.