The Detroit Lions are the first NFC North team to act in the shadow of the NFL's trading deadline, which has been extended to Thursday afternoon because of Hurricane Sandy. Their acquisition of Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Mike Thomas restores their depth, at least, in the wake of Nate Burleson's season-ending leg injury.
My AFC South colleague Paul Kuharsky confirmed the news, which was initially reported by Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. As it turns out, Thomas' first game for the Lions could come Sunday against his former team at EverBank Field. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the Lions will send the Jaguars a mid-round draft pick in return. The Lions released cornerback Justin Miller, presumably to create a roster spot for Thomas, but have not announced the trade.
Burleson's injury left the Lions with only three receivers they felt comfortable playing. Against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, they used Calvin Johnson on 69 of 74 snaps, while Titus Young played on 68 snaps. Rookie Ryan Broyles played 35 snaps, with tight end Tony Scheffler serving in essence as the third receiver in certain formations. Broyles wasn't playing much before Burleson's injury, so unless the Lions change their approach, someone will lose snaps if Thomas gets onto the field right away.
Thomas could provide an option to Broyles in the slot; he caught 158 passes in three seasons for the Jaguars but had managed just 10 receptions for 80 yards the Jaguars' new offense. He has also been a kickoff and punt returner at times in his career, and it's worth wondering at least if the Lions will give him a look there in place of incumbent Stefan Logan, who has been inconsistent this season.
The Jaguars signed Thomas to a five year, $19-million contract in October 2011 but have already paid off most of the heavy charges. If his contract remained intact during the trade, the Lions will owe him a pro-rated portion of his $1.45 million base salary. He is also due a $1.45 million salary in 2013, of which $1 million is guaranteed.