Lions Should Take Risk and Sign Running Back Jay Ajayi

Jay Ajayi

Getty Jay Ajayi celebrates in the Super Bowl.

The Detroit Lions ground game isn’t getting any better, and as another season threatens to slip away, it’s time for the team to make a move to shore that up by signing free agent running back Jay Ajayi.

After striking out on multiple potential additions at the trade deadline, the Lions regrouped and looked set to roll with what they had at the position. Quickly, they lost Tra Carson to injury last week, brought up Paul Perkins and were content to roll with Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic at the position as well.

The problem? None of that group looked to be obvious difference makers against the Oakland Raiders this week. McKissic and Matthew Stafford combined for an early fumble which shifted momentum early in the game. After that, the trio only managed to rush for 90 total yards on the day, with McKissic doing his best work as usual through the air and Johnson showing signs but displaying nothing consistent.

Regardless of if Ajayi is completely healthy, it feels like the right time to try something new at the position and attempt to catch lightning in a bottle. With the season now approaching “nothing to lose” territory, the Lions should be the team to give Ajayi his first look since the Philadelphia Eagles released him.

What Jay Ajayi Would Bring Lions

Like Kenyan Drake who the team also reportedly targeted, Matt Patricia would know plenty about Ajayi given he ran with the Miami Dolphins from 2015 to 2017. He has been a solid player at running back in terms of production, given 2,516 yards from scrimmage and 13 rushing touchdowns in his career.

After he was dealt from Miami, Ajayi helped power Philadelphia’s run to a Super Bowl over Patricia’s defense, and if not for knee the injury, has been a solid player in the league. The injury issue is the big one to remember for Ajayi, and that’s the gamble for Detroit given they have had trouble keeping Kerryon Johnson healthy.

At 26, Ajayi is still young and still a name in NFL circles, but he has plenty of milage on his tires given the injury problem. If the Lions are to sign him, they will be signing off that he is completely healthy and ready to go in their eyes.

Why Lions Should Sign Jay Ajayi

Regardless of what Ajayi has gone through lately, what the running back might need most is another chance to prove himself. In Detroit, the Lions could give him that chance. The team could still feature McKissic and Johnson primarily as they worked Ajayi into the mix, but as far as opportunity, there could be none better. Kerryon Johnson will remain entrenched as the starter when he returns off injury, and the Lions could have a good mix between him, Ajayi and the others in the future.

Detroit’s ground game has been a national joke for a long time, and only recently have they started to shift the narrative. With the injury to Johnson, things have been trending in a poor direction once again. Ajayi could get a chance to show he’s got something left while changing the narrative about the Lions in 2019 and helping Stafford out.

Maybe Ajayi comes in and injects some life into a listless ground game. Maybe he doesn’t and shows he’s got nothing left. Maybe he gets hurt again. Regardless, the Lions aren’t in any position to be picky at running back as it currently stands. The team couldn’t execute a big trade last week, didn’t orchestrate an impactful signing in the offseason and didn’t prioritize drafting a runner before the sixth round of last year’s draft. Now, they are paying the price.

Ajayi won’t fix everything in a season that is slipping away of course, but he could give the Lions some juice at a spot where they currently appear to have none. Right now, they might have no other choice but to take the chance.

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