Former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Devin Funchess is coming back to the NFC North in a bid to make the Detroit Lions‘ active roster in 2022 — but he is no longer going to be competing with the wideouts.
The Lions announced on June 14, that they had signed Funchess to their 90-man offseason roster as a tight end, not a wide receiver, adding an interesting wrinkle for the onetime Packer as he looks to play his first regular-season snaps since 2019.
Funchess, 28, was a moderately productive receiver during his first four seasons with the Carolina Panthers, reaching his career-high marks in 2017, when he caught 63 passes for 840 yards and eight touchdowns.
A History at Tight End
His transition to tight end could be viewed as a return to his roots because he played the position in college during his first two seasons at the University of Michigan before switching to wideout in his final year. His best season in college came as a tight end, when he six touchdowns on 748 yards receiving as a sophomore.
The Lions have a clear starter at tight end in T.J. Hockenson and just drafted James Mitchell in the fifth round in April, but it is unclear how the rest of their personnel at the position will shake out between now and the start of the season. Currently, Funchess is listed fourth on the Lions’ depth chart, according to ESPN. At the very least, the change in position gives Funchess a new opportunity to compete — if his body holds up.
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Funchess Still Chasing NFL Comeback
Funchess — who last was listed at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds — has essentially been trying to find a new place in the NFL since leaving the Panthers after the 2018 season. He originally signed with the Indianapolis Colts as a free agent in 2019, but he broke his collarbone during the season opener and missed the rest of the year.
A free agent again in 2020, Funchess tried his luck with the Packers. He appeared to be a low-risk, high-reward investment who could help improve the receiving corps on a team that came one win away from the Super Bowl in the previous playoffs. Once the COVID-19 pandemic struck, though, Funchess decided to opt out of the 2020 season in the interest of his family’s health, delaying his debut with the Packers by a full year.
The Packers made Funchess take a pay cut to stick around for the 2021 season.
Initially signed to a $2.5 million contract that could have paid $3.75 million based on performance, Funchess agreed to cut $750,000 off of that base to have a chance to play with Green Bay in 2021.
He had an impressive preseason debut, catching six of his seven targets for 70 yards. However, during a joint practice with the New York Jets the following week, Funchess injured his hamstring, ending up on the injured reserve. He was waived before the end of training camp with an injury settlement.
Funchess was briefly signed to the San Francisco 49ers‘ practice squad in late November last season, but he was released two weeks later without playing a snap for the 49ers.