Detroit Lions' NFL free-agent signings 2022: DJ Chark adds big target to Jared Goff's weapons

DJ Chark Jr. will try to help a Lions passing game that struggled in 2021. AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

NFL free agency is off and running, and we're keeping track of every major signing, trade and release of the 2022 offseason, with analysis from our NFL Nation reporters and grades from our experts. The new league year began March 16 at 4 p.m. ET, which means free-agent signings can be made official after that. The first round of the 2022 NFL draft begins April 28 on ESPN.

The Detroit Lions missed the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, but there's optimism in Detroit heading into the 2022 campaign.

Here's a breakdown of every 2022 NFL free-agent signing by the team, and how each will impact the upcoming season:

DJ Chark Jr., WR

The Lions and Chark agreed to terms on a one-year deal. The deal is worth up to $12 million, a source told ESPN.

What it means: Detroit addresses one of its biggest priorities of the offseason at wide receiver by landing a big-bodied, speedster on the outside to help fill out its receiving corps. At 6-foot-4, the former Jaguars player is coming off an injury-plagued 2021 season where he missed 13 games with an ankle injury, but the Lions want to pair him with their young star Amon-Ra St. Brown to give quarterback Jared Goff some stronger weapons entering his second season in Detroit. Chark made the Pro Bowl in 2019, and the new setting could get him back on the right track after spending his first four seasons in Jacksonville.

What's the risk: There’s a moderate risk with this move, but due to the length and structure of the deal, and a desperate need for a receiver, it’s a smart one. It’s no secret that the Lions need help, and several of the top free-agent wide receivers were already off the market. Yes, they’re taking a chance on a guy who missed most of last season with an injury, but Chark, 25, is also betting on himself with the one-year deal. At his age, Detroit is getting a young man who is hungry with a big opportunity at his fingertips. If he performs well, he could return to the table for a bigger long-term deal next year.

Charles Harris, LB

The Lions have agreed to re-sign Harris to a two-year, $14 million deal, according to an ESPN source.

What it means: General manager Brad Holmes will bring back the Lions' top edge rusher who is coming off a breakout season. Harris put up career-best numbers with 65 total tackles and 7.5 sacks in 2021 and was a high priority for the franchise to re-sign after a much-improved year in Detroit. Harris, a 2017 first-round pick by the Miami Dolphins, has revitalized his career after signing a one-year, "prove it" deal with Detroit in 2021.

What's the risk: Although Harris had a strong individual season, overall the Lions’ defense wasn’t very good in 2021. There’s a moderate risk that if the Lions aren’t able to acquire more game-changers to pair with guys like Harris and Tracy Walker on defense, there won’t be much growth in the upcoming year. But, overall this was a solid move by the Lions' regime to bring him back given his production last season.

Kalif Raymond, WR

The Lions reached an agreement with wide receiver Kalif Raymond on a two-year deal, according to the Detroit Free Press.

What it means: Detroit brings back another familiar face from last year’s group. Raymond posted a career-best 576 receiving yards off 48 catches and four touchdowns in 2021. This move adds depth to a receiving corps that struggled with injuries last year, and helps maintain chemistry with another key contributor back in the fold with quarterback Jared Goff.

What's the risk: The Lions lacked game-changing players, particularly at wide receiver. So, there’s a slight risk that bringing back so many guys like Raymond could put them in the same position as last year.

Tracy Walker, S

The Lions reached an agreement with safety Tracy Walker on a three-year, $25 million deal that includes $17 million guaranteed, per an ESPN source.

What it means: The Lions retain one of their key defensive players after a bounce-back 2021 season in which he set a career high in total tackles (105). Walker will get more time to work with secondary coach Aubrey Pleasant who told reporters during the Senior Bowl that he sees “vast room for improvement.” However, Walker is viewed as a foundational piece with the team in the midst of a rebuild.

What's the risk: There’s not much risk. Walker is one of the team’s defensive leaders and the Lions get him at a great value on his extension. He is one of the most productive players on the roster.

Josh Reynolds, WR

The Lions and Reynolds agreed to terms on a two-year contract, the team announced. The deal has a max value of $12 million, according to NFL Network.

What it means: Although Reynolds was a late addition to the Lions -- acquired via waivers from the Tennessee Titans in Week 10 -- he came on strong down the stretch. The receiving corps as a whole remains one of the team’s weak spots, but Reynolds started five of the seven games he appeared in, catching 19 passes for 306 yards and two touchdowns. He also has a strong connection with quarterback Jared Goff from their time together with the Los Angeles Rams which could help the team moving forward as they look to improve on a 3-13-1 finish in 2021.

What's the risk: There’s not much of a risk with re-signing Reynolds since the wide receiver position remains a glaring need for Detroit. Although there will be competition to stay on the field, Reynolds could have a starting role. The biggest question is if he can continue producing like he did in 2021.

Alex Anzalone, LB

The Lions announced Monday they have re-signed Anzalone to a one-year deal worth up to $4 million, according to the Detroit Free Press.

What it means: When he was healthy, Anzalone was productive -- starting 14 games in 2021. The Lions defense wasn’t great statistically throughout the full season, but he did total 78 tackles with a sack and an interception with seven passes defended during his first year with the team. He has fully embraced the tough-nosed culture in Detroit under head coach Dan Campbell and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, and should be a huge part of the defense moving forward.

What's the risk: Outside of health, there’s not much of a risk with this signing. He’s proven to be a good teammate and was voted one of the five team captains on the 2021 team. The Lions did lose Anzalone with a shoulder injury for the last three games of the regular season, so the recovery process will be something to look out for. He has dealt with right shoulder injuries since his college years at Florida, even undergoing shoulder surgery as a member of the New Orleans Saints in 2019, so they will have to keep an eye on that.

Tim Boyle, QB

The Lions and Boyle agreed to terms on a one-year contract. The deal is worth $2 million with $1.75 million guaranteed, according to NFL Network.

What it means: This move means Goff is pretty much a lock to remain the starting quarterback next season. Boyle will continue his backup role. It’s still unclear if the Lions will go after another young quarterback in the upcoming draft, but this year is considered to be a down year for the position as a whole which is probably why they re-signed Boyle. However, the Lions coaching staff did get a good look at the top quarterback prospects while coaching this year’s Senior Bowl and still has time to make another move.

What's the risk: If Goff goes down with another injury, could Boyle carry the load? There’s certainly a big risk of not having enough depth at the quarterback spot to win games. Last year, Boyle started three games in Goff’s absence and went 0-3 with a 64.9 percent completion rate with six interceptions to three touchdowns. His quarterback rating was 26.4.

Evan Brown, C

The Lions and Brown agreed to terms on a one-year contract on Monday.

What it means: The Lions are able to keep the offensive line -- which is one of their key strengths -- together for another season. Brown stepped up for the Lions after the season-ending toe injury to Pro Bowler Frank Ragnow with 12 starts while allowing only one sack. He ranked No. 9 in pass block win rate (95%) in 2021 among all NFL centers, according to ESPN. The Lions’ offensive line is projected to be among the best in the league this upcoming season and this move adds depth.

What's the risk: There’s very little risk with this move. Brown adds value in his backup center role and will only strengthen the offensive line.

Jalen Elliott, S

What it means: The Lions need help in the secondary and Elliott knows the system having started in a game for Detroit in 2021. He registered eight total tackles last season and carries a chip on his shoulder after joining the team in 2020 as an undrafted rookie free agent. He fits the mold of the culture being built in Detroit.

What's the risk: There's not much risk with this move, but there also doesn't seem to be a big reward either, outside of providing depth at the position. The Lions are still in dire need of a safety who can come in and make an impact immediately.

Shaun Dion Hamilton, LB

What it means: At 26 years old, the Alabama product has shown flashes of being able to fit into the Lions’ scheme but Detroit is taking a gamble based on his health history and his first three seasons in Washington. The Lions need linebackers but he has to come into camp in good shape and ready to produce as he looks to rebrand himself.

What's the risk: There certainly is a risk to bringing back a player who spent the entire 2021 season on injured reserve after being claimed off waivers from Washington. Detroit needs somebody to help on defense and there’s still many questions about how he will fit. But, his potential was on display during training camp before he had to miss the year with an undisclosed injury.

C.J. Moore, S

The Lions are re-signing C.J. Moore to a one-year contract worth up to $2.4M with $800,000 guaranteed, according to NFL Network.

What it means: Again, another underdog guy who fits the culture in Detroit as an undrafted free agent out of Ole Miss in 2019. Moore appeared in all 17 games during the 2021 season, primarily as a core special teams player. However, he did start one game at safety. Detroit wanted to lock up one of their top restricted free agents.

What's the risk: There’s very little risk here as Moore is viewed as a valuable special teams guy and they’re only re-signing him for one year. Moore ended the 2021 season with a career-best 14 tackles and his first-career interception during the regular season finale win versus Green Bay on Jan. 9.

Garrett Griffin, TE

What it means: This move is certainly not going to blow anyone’s doors off, but it’s another cultural fit with what the new regime is trying to build. Griffin hung around New Orleans, including on the practice squad, since 2016. Although he has zero career touchdowns in the regular season, he caught his first-career touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams in the 2019 NFC championship game.

What's the risk: There’s not much risk behind this. Head coach Dan Campbell knows him well from their years together with the Saints, so Griffin shouldn’t have a hard time adjusting to Detroit’s style.

Chris Board, LB

Contract terms were not disclosed.

What it means: Board has a ton of experience on special teams but is looking for a bigger opportunity to help on defense. Board developed invaluable experience with the Baltimore Ravens and wants to bring some of those traits he learned in Baltimore to help Detroit.

What's the risk: There’s no risk at all behind this move. The North Dakota State product wants to expand his role after being used primarily on a lot of third-down snaps, but mostly special teams, in Baltimore.

Mike Hughes, CB

Hughes agreed to a one-year deal worth $3.5 million, according to ProFootballFocus.

What it means: This addition adds versatility to the secondary. The Lions need all the help they can get on defense after finishing the 2021 season ranked 31st in opponents’ points per game. Hughes is a veteran who started in five of 17 games for the Kansas City Chiefs and was a former first-round pick for the Minnesota Vikings in 2018.

What's the risk: There is a slight risk with signing Hughes after being plagued with knee and neck injuries throughout his first three seasons in Minnesota, but he was healthy in 2021. Hughes is coming off his best NFL season, with 45 total tackles in addition to an interception and six passes defended. He has experience outside and in the slot role.

David Blough, QB

The Lions and Blough agreed to terms on a one-year contract. The deal is worth $1.35 million, according to NFL Network.

What it means: The Lions are running it back with the exact same quarterback room from as last year by adding Boyle again with Blough. He was popular among his teammates last season, notably while cheering on his wife, Colombian 400-meter hurdler Melissa Gonzalez, during the Tokyo Olympics.

What's the risk: There’s certainly a risk behind this move because, again, if anything happens to Jared Goff or backup Tim Boyle, Blough has yet to prove that he’s capable of being productive in a starting role. He started five games as an undrafted rookie in 2019 but went 0-5 in that role when former Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford went down with an injury.

Jarrad Davis, LB

Contract terms were not disclosed.

What it means: Detroit is reuniting with its former 2017 first round pick. Davis returns to the Lions with a new mindset and ready to give the situation a fresh start. He fits the culture of what the Lions are trying to build and gives them help at linebacker.

What's the risk: There’s a mild risk that history repeats itself. Davis didn’t live up to the high expectations during his first stint with the team, but he has been durable for most of his career, totaling 324 tackles while starting in 50 of his 64 career games. He also shares a connection with Lions linebacker Alex Anzalone from their days together at Florida where they combined for 280 tackles and 8.5 sacks.