The Detroit Lions have already answered some big questions in free agency, but one of the bigger issues that has gone unanswered is what happens at wide receiver.
Across the league, the market has been slow to develop, and that has created a situation where the Lions could be set to bring back one of their own key players to the roster in order to boost their offense.
Wideout DJ Chark remains unsigned on the free agency market, and hasn’t received a ton of looks thus far. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press dropped the scoop on Friday, March 17 that this scenario could lead to a reunion with Detroit eventually.
“Nothing official by any means yet, but with the slow-developing WR market, it does sound like DJ Chark and the Lions could be a thing again in 2023,” Birkett tweeted.
Chark had a recent visit with Carolina, but nothing has been revealed about the team’s intentions as it relates to actually getting a deal done. Other than that, the market at the position has slowed to a crawl ever since Jakobi Meyers, Allan Lazard and JuJu Smith-Schuster all signed their contracts.
It’s likely Chark was looking for a longer-term deal, but without motivated teams to shell such a contract out, he might elect to come back to Detroit on another team-friendly contract for next year rather than gambling by leaving.
As the week begun, it seemed like Chark would be on the way out, and in the end, he might still depart. Now, though, it sure seems as if there is at least a ray of hope for the Lions to retain him.
Why Lions Could Consider DJ Chark Return
In spite of some reservations, the Lions could consider sticking with Chark. The biggest question Brad Holmes will have to answer regarding the wideout revolves around who the real player might be outside of the statistics.
Is Chark the injury-prone player who started the season dropping a few passes, then getting dinged up and having to be shelved? Or is he the guy who surged down the stretch and looked like a major piece within Detroit’s offense?
There’s something for comfort, and Chark seems to fit in well with the Lions roster as well as Jared Goff. It’s more than possible the injury problems to start the year were simply a fluke, and bad luck for a Detroit team that’s had more than its fair share with injuries the last two years.
When he is on, Chark seems like an easy 80-100 yard pass catcher most weeks. That’s big production for a Detroit offense that needs some of the deep ball jolts he has been able to provide.
Since Chark’s return on Thanksgiving Day, there was a noticeable uptick in the number of big plays Detroit’s offense generates down the field.
Chark may not be the biggest name on the market this year, but he already fits Detroit and knows the scheme. If he comes back, it could prove to be a big bonus for the Lions.
DJ Chark’s 2022 Stats for Lions
In terms of Chark’s 2022 season in Detroit, injuries prevented it from taking off as well as it could have in a bigger way.
While Chark missed time early with an ankle injury, this past season, he did manage to put up a total of 502 yards and three touchdowns on 30 catches. His highlight reel from the season is pretty impressive though the stats are a bit limited:
More importantly, though, Chark seemed to come on down the stretch over the last few critical weeks of the season with major plays. Against Green Bay in Week 18, Chark made a pair of clutch catches on fourth-down amid Detroit’s 20-16 upset win, culminating in an eight-yard catch on fourth-and-one to put the game away.
The Lions didn’t see a huge production from Chark, but he made enough plays where he could be expected to deliver if he comes back, and could be a trusted target of Jared Goff.
Should he return, that would be yet another positive for the Lions in what’s been a very good start to free agency already.