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From a fantasy football perspective, this isn't hard to figure out. Johnson is irreplaceable. But a combination of Golden Tate and Jones gives the team a wide receiver 1B and 1C. It will also put some degree of pressure on Matthew Stafford to prove he can play at a high level on a consistent basis without Megatron on board.
Jones is coming off the best season of his career, however, and set career highs for both catches and receiving yards with the Bengals in 2015. He will immediately move into the starting lineup opposite Tate.
At 6-2 and close to 200 pounds, Jones brings a solid combination of size, downfield speed, route running and run-after-the-catch ability. After missing all of 2014 due to injury, Jones caught 65 passes for 816 yards and four touchdowns in 2015.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that the deal is expected to be in the neighborhood of $8 million per year. That will make Jones the highest-paid receiver on the Lions roster, coming in above the $6.2 million average Tate earns. Jones' contract would sit in the Torrey Smith/DeSean Jackson range.
Tate becomes the de facto No. 1 receiver. The 27-year-old wideout was a great free agent signing in 2014, compiling 2,144 yards in two seasons. Much of Tate's best work comes after the catch. Tate was still productive when Johnson missed games the past two seasons, but there will be questions about whether he can be consistent over 16 games without Johnson on the field to command extra defenders.
The Lions current roster offers little help behind Tate. Despite trying to fill the No. 3 receiver role for years, Detroit's depth chart consists of Corey Fuller and T.J. Jones.
Of greater interest will be Theo Riddick and Eric Ebron. The running back and tight end will clearly need to pick up the pace.
Should fantasy owners, already intrigued by the receiving skills Riddick displayed last season, have reason to believe he can pick up the pace this season?
Marshall Faulk thinks so. "Theo is phenomenal," the Hall of Fame running back said recently. "Man, I love how he plays the game."
Riddick led the NFL's running backs in catches last season. He was second in receiving yards. He set Detroit Lions franchise records in both categories. This despite the fact that recently-released veteran Joique Bell got the start, second-round pick Ameer Abdullah was first off the bench, and even undrafted rookie Zach Zenner got a couple carries before Riddick ever saw the field against San Diego.
A few weeks into the season, he was still mostly working as Detroit's third tailback, behind Bell and Abdullah. But by the end of the year, Riddick had piled up 80 catches for 697 yards and three touchdowns, affirming his place as one of the league's biggest breakout players.
"Theo's just caught in a bad situation behind Ameer and Joique," Faulk said. You're not going to get much playing time."
Faulk added: "I think he could play slot receiver and catch the same 80 balls. He has those abilities." Bell, who was slated to earn $2.5 million in base salary next season, was released on Tuesday. Riddick was likely to be handed a bigger role next season regardless of what happened, but Bell's recent release virtually guarantees that.
Abdullah would be the primary rushing threat, and Zenner would become the top candidate to replace Bell as the short-yardage power guy.
And fantasy owners in PPR leagues would continue to benefit from Riddick's rise.