Apparently, the Detroit Lions have decided to go down to Jacksonville, play a game, grab an opposing receiver from the Jaguars and then return home with that same receiver. When Mike Thomas was dealt to Detroit late Tuesday, it insured he'd have the weirdest week in the NFL.
As the saying goes, nothing ventured, nothing gained. In this case, however, the Lions didn't venture much. A mid-round pick in 2013 isn't a high price to pay for a guy who has more than looked the part of a solid NFL pass catcher and is versatile. With Nate Burleson lost for the year, Ryan Broyles still learning his way in the league and Titus Young inconsistent, the Lions turned to the trade winds to grab Thomas, a third year player from the Jacksonville Jaguars.
After an impressive 2010 campaign and a few steps back in 2011, Thomas fell out of favor with Jacksonville's new coaching staff. Perhaps most important, though, Thomas seemed to fall out of favor with the terrible environment in Jacksonville himself. The team's not winning, fans aren't showing up and frankly, there's no motivation to play hard other than for a weekly paycheck. For some, that's not motivation enough to sustain success. There's no expectations and no excitement. You try working in that environment and developing professionally.
So now, Thomas finds himself in Detroit with a 5,000 yard passer in Matthew Stafford, a supreme decoy in Calvin Johnson and an excellent opportunity to cast a second role on special teams and in the backfield. How's that for extra motivation? Jim Schwartz has said he isn't giving up on Stefan Logan, but one can only wonder if that was simple fodder for the media. Thomas has returned kickoffs and punts, and is also capable of playing the "slash" role in the backfield as a crossover running back that Logan has. With Thomas's 5 year, $19 million dollar contract now applying, someone's going to have to be the sacrificial lamb. Eventually, it's probably going to be Logan.
As Schwartz said this week, Martin Mayhew never balks at the opportunity to make his team better. There's been plenty of struggles offensively this season, especially from the wide receivers, running backs and even special teams. Taking a cheap flier on a guy who could continue his development and help each of these areas in multiple ways is good business. Middle round picks are hit or miss anyway, and Thomas has proven he's an NFL player.
In Detroit, Thomas will have plenty of tools to succeed. He's not being counted on to be "the man," but merely, play many useful roles in a winning environment. Sounds like a mighty fine place to evolve a career.
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