Jarrad Davis a ‘cornerstone,’ not out of Lions’ plans for future, Matt Patricia says

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Just because the Lions declined to pick up the fifth-year option on linebacker Jarrad Davis’ contract last week, it doesn’t mean he’s no longer in the teams’ future plans.

“Yeah, I mean, I think J.D. is a cornerstone of what we’re trying to do and he’s in those big-picture plans in where we’re trying to go,” head coach Matt Patricia said Tuesday on a video conference call.

The 2017 first-round pick from general manager Bob Quinn’s second draft class in Detroit was projected to make nearly $10.1 million next season on the final year of his rookie deal. But the Lions decided not to pick up the option, something nearly half the teams in the league did with their 2017 first-rounders this offseason.

That fifth year becomes guaranteed for injury once a team exercises its option, and particularly with the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season — and the 2021 salary cap — due to the coronavirus pandemic, many teams are opting for flexibility instead. The Lions still can work out a contract extension with Davis before he becomes an unrestricted free agent next March.

“From where we are right now and kind of the times that we’re in right now, we made a decision that was best for the organization,” Patricia said. “It’s certainly something that we talked to J.D. about, and Bob did a great job of communicating all the stuff that was going on. Just trying to push forward with some uncertain times as we get into this season.”

Davis, 25, has been a mainstay in the middle of the Lions’ defense since his first season in Detroit, starting all 41 games he played his first three seasons. He’s also a conscientious player that Patricia on Tuesday called “a solid-rock leader, everything-you-want-in-a-program type of guy.”

But with the addition of rookie Jahlani Tavai to the mix in 2019, Davis, who has struggled in coverage as a linebacker, saw his role reduced somewhat in a season hampered by injury. Limited by a high-ankle sprain that ultimately landed him on injured reserve, Davis finished the season with 63 tackles, two sacks and three forced fumbles in 11 games.

In addition to Tavai, a 2019 second-round pick who played nearly 600 snaps last season, the Lions also return Christian Jones at the linebacker position. The team signed Jamie Collins to a three-year, $30 million deal in free agency to replace Devon Kennard — Patricia raved about that move Tuesday — and then added Reggie Ragland, who started seven games for the Kansas City Chiefs last season, on a one-year deal.

“I would say this, there’s no doubt that J.D. is one of our strongest leaders on defense,” Patricia said. “He’s a great player, someone we continue to build around. And from that aspect of it, he and I just talked more so about how this is a short-term conversation as far as whatever this contract situation is, and for me it’s about long-term.

“So we’re just gonna go out and try and do everything we can this year to have our best season possible and we’ll take it and go from there. So it was a really clean, easy conversation, from that standpoint.”


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