Veteran Lions TE Likely Fighting for His Job This Summer: Analyst

James Mitchell

Getty James Mitchell makes a catch in 2022 for Detroit on Thanksgiving.

The Detroit Lions made a significant upgrade to their tight end room last season when they used a high second-round draft pick on Sam LaPorta, who turned out to be a breakout star.

The addition of LaPorta — combined with a new contract for fellow tight end Brock Wright — could now leave James Mitchell on the outside of the roster bubble this summer, an analyst predicts.

“It’ll be a pivotal training camp for Mitchell, who has struggled with injury through two seasons with the Lions,” wrote Christian Booher of’s All Lions. “Detroit struck gold with last year’s choice of Sam LaPorta and elected to retain Brock Wright after he received an offer sheet from the 49ers.”

More Roster Competition for James Mitchell

Booher noted that the Lions made more additions to the tight end room this offseason, bringing in veterans Parker Hesse and Sean McKeon. He added that both players have experience on special teams, giving them more versatility.

Mitchell has not played a significant role on offense, making just 13 total receptions for 141 yards and one touchdown across his two seasons in Detroit. He did see some time on special teams, playing 38% of special teams snaps in 2022 and 35% last season.

Booher predicted that it could come down to a battle for the third and final tight end spot, with another returning player also in the mix.

“There’s also Shane Zylstra, who is back after a training camp injury cost him most of last season. LaPorta and Wright appear to be entrenched, but there should be a battle for the third tight end spot,” Booher wrote.

Vote of Confidence for Brock Wright

The Lions already made a solid commitment to two tight ends this offseason, using the right of first refusal RFA tag on Wright and signing Zylstra to a one-year deal. As Jeff Risdon of USA Today’s Lions Wire noted, Wright’s tender is a strong endorsement and puts him in line for a spot on the final roster for the coming season.

“It’s hard to see another team paying Wright $3 million for one season,” Risdon wrote. “The 25-year-old is coming off a broken arm that ended a season in which he caught 13 passes for 91 yards. In three seasons in Detroit since joining the Lions as an undrafted free agent from Notre Dame, Wright has caught 43 passes for 424 yards and seven touchdowns.”

The bulk of the team’s tight end targets are expected to go to LaPorta, who set franchise and league records for receptions by a rookie tight end. LaPorta finished the season with 86 receptions for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The rookie earned some big praise from legendary tight end Rob Gronkowski, who noted that he made an impact in both the passing and rushing game.

“Sam LaPorta is definitely changing the game a little bit for rookie tight ends,” Gronkowski told FOX Sports. “You have to be a smart player to contribute right away, especially at the tight end position, because you need to know the run game and you need to know the pass game as well. He went to the University of Iowa, they have a great system there.”

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