The Detroit Lions have released TE Jesse James, according to a tweet moments ago by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Lions released TE Jesse James, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2021
It’s not a surprising move though a bit overdue. The Lions have had a slow trickle of cap causalities and James is finally included in that list. He signed a four-year, $22.6 million deal with the team in the 2019 offseason. But the team went on to draft TE TJ Hockenson in the first round, putting James in a reserve role. He’s gone on to catch just 30 passes the next two seasons, finding the end zone only twice.
Pittsburgh has a massive hole at tight end behind starter Eric Ebron following Vance McDonald’s retirement. There’s Zach Gentry, who finished the season on IR with a knee injury, and Kevin Rader, a blocking specialist who saw his first NFL snaps last this year.
A reunion with James makes sense on a lot of levels. His market should be light given his quiet 2019 and 2020 seasons. He’s a Pittsburgh native, trusted, and dependable. A perfect #2 tight end in the Steelers’ offense. A 5th round pick of the Steelers in 2015, he caught 120 passes across four seasons with the team, including a career-high 43 in 2017.
Since James was released, he’s free to sign with teams at any point. He also wouldn’t count against the 2022 comp formula.