The Detroit Lions haven’t lost many in-house free agents during the 2023 offseason, but they had another tough goodbye on Friday, March 24.
Wide receiver DJ Chark remained unsigned on the market, and the longer he lingered, the more the thought was that he could potentially return to the team. That didn’t happen, and Chark finally found a home.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Chark reached an agreement with the Carolina Panthers on a one-year deal.
“The Panthers aren’t done adding on offense, agreeing to terms with WR DJ Chark on a 1-year deal, sources say. A complete remake of the Carolina offense is underway, and Chark will be a big part. As will their new rookie QB,” Rapoport tweeted.
After news of the signing leaked on the internet, Chark didn’t waste his time addressing the situation with a classy message for the Lions and their fans. As he said, he appreciated the whole experience with the Lions in 2022.
“The past year has been incredible for me. Signing with Detroit and meeting the great people of that organization is huge for me. Playing with my brothers and going from 1-6 to 9-8 was amazing. I believe transparency and honesty is everything. With that being said this chance in Carolina is second to none! Can’t wait to see what this journey holds for me!,” Chark wrote in the tweet.
Chark posted 502 yards and two touchdowns for the Lions during the 2022 season, and was a key part of the team’s offense late in the season as a big-bodied target for the offense. He signed a one-year deal with the Lions in the 2022 offseason, and had an up-and-down season with the team after sustaining some early injuries.
Upon his departure, clearly, Chark has no ill-will toward the Lions, Detroit or the fanbase. That’s a classy way for the wide receiver to leave the team for another NFC foe.
Lions Must Look for DJ Chark Replacements
With Chark out of the picture, the Lions are going to have to do their diligence on the market to see if they might find a veteran that can help replace some of his snaps.
Thus far in 2023, the wideout market has been up and down. Some big deals have been done at the top with Jakobi Meyers signing for three years and $33 million in Las Vegas and JuJu Smith-Schuester singing for three years and $25 million in New England. The Lions would be likely to look at a middle-tier player on an short contract like Chark just received.
In terms of what players are available in free agency, a few options do exist that could make sense for Detroit. A player like their former wideout Marvin Jones from Jacksonville or Jarvis Landry of New Orleans could be intriguing additions for the Lions at this stage of their careers on shorter deals.
Jones posted 36 touchdowns in his career with the Lions, and could offer the team some ability down field. Landry has been a five-time Pro Bowl player in the NFL, posting 7,870 yards and 38 touchdowns in his career.
If the Lions avoid free agency, they could look to the draft for another target, such as Quentin Johnston of TCU or Jayden Reed of Michigan State, a pair of players who could be had with some of Detroit’s earlier selections in the first few days.
DJ Chark Was Open to Anything in Free Agency
In terms of Chark, it seemed there was early interest from his side about a return to Detroit. Speaking with Amon-Ra St. Brown and Equanimeous St. Brown on The 33rd Team before free agency, Chark discussed his feelings heading into the period. As he said, a return to the Lions would ‘be great’ all things considered.
“Going into this year man, I’m trying not to even worry about what’s gonna happen. I feel like, you know, I’m gonna be where I’m supposed to be. If that’s Detroit, that’d be great because I got some real good friendships and I like it there and it’s really good. But, it’s a business. You never know, so we’ll see how that goes, but it’ll be smooth regardless,” Chark said on the show.
The Lions had to decide on their end whether or not to bring back Chark for 2023 as much as Chark had to decide whether to return to the team or not. In the end, football remains a business.
Seeing Chark exit Detroit in a classy way this offseason helps prove that in a big way when all is said and done.