The Detroit Lions claimed former Kansas City Chiefs first round pick Jon Baldwin off waivers yesterday. It makes yet one more wide receiver in camp competing for a position with the team. There’s no risk in bringing Baldwin in camp but it is notable for two reasons.
The first reason is that it shows the Lions determination to build depth and quality at a position they so badly needed it last season. As Calvin Johnson went, so did the Lions last year. When Johnson became increasingly stifled by injuries the Lions offense could not move the ball. The former second option Nate Burleson also was stopped by injuries and backups Kris Durham, Kevin Ogletree and Jeremy Ross were not up to the task. Former second round pick Ryan Broyles also had his season ended by injury and Matthew Stafford’s options were very limited in the Lions pass oriented offense.
So, now the Lions have heavy competition for the third, fourth, fifth and possibly sixth spots on the depth chart. The Lions brought in free agent Golden Tate and he and Johnson will be the starting wide receivers. Ogletree seems to have taken command of the third spot thus far in training camp. Ross has shown improved route running skills and will make the team regardless because his kick returning skills. Anything Ross contributes on offense is a bonus.
That leaves Baldwin, Broyles, Durham, Corey Fuller, rookie T.J. Jones, Quintin Payton and Andrew Peacock all competing for one, maybe two spots. Baldwin will have a lot of catching up to do and would appear to be a long shot. Jones was drafted because he was expected to be able to excel at the slot position, but to this point hasn’t recovered from a shoulder injury suffered in college. Jones’s window of opportunity could be closing. Payton is likely heading for the practice squad. The most likely scenario is that Broyles and Durham make the team, but it’s hard to ignore first round talent like Baldwin becoming available and the Lions coaching staff will give him a long look.
This also shows one other thing though. The Lions would not be looking to add another player to the mix if they were happy with the way their current roster was developing. This may be a sign of the end for someone like Broyles who has worked so hard to return, but may be dead weight on the roster if the Lions don’t feel he’s dynamic enough returning from his third consecutive season ending injury. It would be a sad moment for Broyles who had so much potential, but injury prone is a label no one wants but is clearly stamped on his forehead.