Lions Floated as Potential Destination for RB Alternative to Dalvin Cook

Dan Campbell

Getty Head coach Dan Campbell and the Detroit Lions could be a destination for a former star rookie running back.

There’s little question about who is the best available running back in NFL free agency this summer. That would be Dalvin Cook, who was a thorn in side of the Detroit Lions for six seasons while with the Minnesota Vikings.

With the Lions signing David Montgomery and drafting Jahmyr Gibbs this offseason, there’s very, very little chance of Detroit being interested in Cook. But the Lions targeting a free agent running back alternative to Cook isn’t out of the question.

Bleacher Report’s Brad Gagnon called James Robinson one of two alternatives to Cook.

“Injuries may be a concern after he failed to stick with the New England Patriots this offseason, but you’d have to imagine Robinson would come cheap as a result,” wrote Gagnon.

“He’s only a year removed from back-to-back strong seasons to start his career, including over 1,000 yards as a rookie with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and he’s still just 24 years old.”

Gagnon labeled Robinson an alternative to Cook about a week after Sports Illustrated’s Christian Booher mentioned the former rookie star running back as an option for the Lions.

Robinson rushed for 1,070 yards and 7 touchdowns while averaging 4.5 yards per carry during his rookie 2020 season. In 2021, he had 767 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns.

Last season, Robinson played seven games for the Jacksonville Jaguars and four contests for the New York Jets. Jacksonville traded him to the Jets on October 25.

In 11 total games last season, Robinson ran for 425 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Lions Connected to RB James Robinson

Gagnon didn’t link Robinson to the Lions or any other team while naming him a free agent alternative to Cook. But on June 15, Booher called Robinson one of six free agents the Lions could target before the season.

“After bursting onto the scene as an undrafted free agent, Robinson has struggled to find his footing the last two seasons,” Booher wrote. “He rushed for 1,070 yards as a rookie but has been limited by injury in each of the previous two campaigns.

“Most recently, he was released by the New England Patriots.”

If healthy, Robinson would be a nice addition to most NFL backfields. The question, though, is whether he is healthy.’s Albert Breer reported the New England Patriots included three injury waivers in their two-year contract with Robinson. ESPN’s Mike Reiss tweeted that although “it might be a coincidence”, the Patriots released Robinson “at a time when players are undergoing physicals at mandatory minicamp.”

But as Gagnon wrote, the health concerns could lower Robinson’s price. That may help make him an appealing addition to a team such as the Lions.

How Robinson Could Fit With the Lions

It wouldn’t be wise for a team to count on Robinson for a lot of production. In Detroit’s case, though, the team has its top two running backs spots set with Montgomery and Gibbs.

On paper, veteran Craig Reynolds is a solid choice for RB3 in Detroit. But The Athletic’s Colton Pouncy wrote on May 22 that undrafted free agent Mohamed Ibrahim could push Reynolds for the job.

Bringing in Robinson to compete for that spot too wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Obviously, Cook wouldn’t fit that role. Neither would most of the other top free agent options at running back — Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette and Kareem Hunt.

Robinson, though, could be a player who agrees to join a team to compete for a No. 3 job.

“He could bounce back from recent struggles by coming to Detroit and winning the (No. 3) job, or provide competition for the others on roster at the very least,” wrote Booher.

Spotrac projected Robinson’s market value to be roughly $15.4 million on a four-year contract.

But Robinson seems to be an unlikely candidate to earn that long of a contract because of his injury concerns. Spotrac’s prediction of Robinson being worth an average annual salary of about $3.8 million may be a little high too.

Before his release, New England signed Robinson to a two-year, $4 million contract this offseason.

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