A Jesse James Rebound Season Would Be a Big Boost to Lions' Offense
When Lions general manager Bob Quinn signed tight end Jesse James last offseason to a four-year, $22.6 million contract, it's fair to say the organization had some relatively high expectations for James. And he didn't come close to meeting them.
Perhaps, it was one of the worst deals in the entire league a year ago.
The former Pittsburgh Steelers tight end only caught 16 passes for 142 yards in 2019 -- the third-most yards among Lions tight ends.
Even quarterback-turned-tight end Logan Thomas outpaced James in number of snaps after rookie T.J. Hockenson went down with a season-ending ankle injury.
In the blocking department -- which was supposedly a strength of James -- he graded out as only the 46th best run-blocking tight end in the league, per Pro Football Focus.
To make matters worse, his pass-blocking was 72nd out of 79 qualified tight ends.
To start the season, the Lions used plenty of two tight end sets.
But, it's no coincidence they moved away from the heavy formations as the year progressed.
The offense was more efficient with an extra receiver like Danny Amendola in the game.
So, essentially, the Lions handsomely paid for a player that had next-to-no production in the passing game and was a liability in blocking.
Not to pile on, but if James didn't cost more in dead cap space than he did to keep on the roster this year, he might have already been cut.
Long story short, James was a massive bust in year one of his contract.
There had to be a reason why the Lions felt comfortable giving James the money that they did, though, right?
Again using PFF as a reference, James' first season with the Lions was the worst-graded season of his career -- and in many categories.
In terms of production, in James' last three years in Pittsburgh, he averaged more than double the number of catches (37.3), more than double the amount of yards (377.6) and 2.6 more touchdowns than he recorded during his one season in Detroit.
Currently the 17th-highest paid tight end, James is going to have to show up in 2020.
As the second tight end in the Lions' specific scheme, it may be more difficult for him to produce than it was during his time with the Steelers.
However, James has a history of being at least semi-productive.
It's not out of the realm of possibility that James could find his old ways and be a huge boost to the offense.
If he doesn't bounce back, though, then this signing becomes a colossal failure for Quinn.