DJ Chark and the Detroit Lions may renew their free agency vows this offseason, but is there a chance the price gets too rich for the team?
It’s safe to say the 2022 season, his first with the Detroit Lions, didn’t go quite as hoped for DJ Chark. He struggled to connect with quarterback Jared Goff early, then he missed six games as he aggravated the ankle injury that cost him most of the 2021 season with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
But Chark eventually found his way, with more than 90 receiving yards in three of four games from Week 13-16. A marriage of downfield targets and big play production followed, as Chark finished highly among all qualifying wide receivers in percentage of receptions converting first downs, yards per catch, deep target rate and big play rate.
Chark has now twice said he’d like to re-sign with the Lions, most recently this past week on teammate Amon-Ra St. Brown’s podcast. Not that he would say anything else to Lions’ reporters or during a podcast with a teammate, which has to be noted.
DJ Chark contract projection: Will the Lions pony up if that’s what it takes?
The class of free agent wide receivers is not great this year, so supply and demand may drive up cost for those who are out there.
Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus released a fresh top-100 2023 NFL free agent rankings this past week. Chark landed at No. 55 on the list,.
"Chark signed a one-year, $10 million flier last offseason and unfortunately missed Weeks 4-11 due to injury, but he finished the year quite strong as the Lions turned their season around down the stretch.From Week 12 through the end of the season, Chark earned a 72.5 receiving grade with three outings of 90-plus receiving yards over six games, 11 explosive receptions (tied for 13th) and an average of 17.6 yards per reception (11th). That’s Chark’s game, a field-stretcher with a 6-foot-4 frame and a 4.34 40-yard dash. He will always be near the top of the league in average depth of target and yards per reception, and there is always a market for those services."
Down to the brass tacks, Spielberger projects a three-year, $35 million deal for Chark–$11.66 million per year–with $23.5 million in total guarantees. Spotrac also has Chark’s calculated market value at a three-year deal, but at $9.58 million per year ($28.75 million total).
More than a two-year deal, or at least with much or any guaranteed money beyond two years, feels a little aggressive for Chark. In terms of money, $11.6 million per year feels high and $9.5 million might be the low-end of what he can get.
So let’s say this…
A two-year deal at $10-$10.5 million per year and around $15 million guaranteed should be where the Lions start in negotiations with Chark’s agent. That’s a little more than he made this year, with added security of a second year, and the Lions shouldn’t move too far away off that initial offer. Maybe go to a third year and closer toward $11 million per year, but a hard line should be drawn there.
Chark is a good receiver. But if someone is willing to really pony up to get him, and the opportunity is there for a larger target share, he may not be a Lion next season.