Detroit Lions re-sign tight end Shane Zylstra

After he missed all of last season, the Detroit Lions have re-signed tight end Shane Zylstra.
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Injuries aren't truly preventable in football, but the torn ACL tight end Shane Zylstra suffered early in 2023 training camp feels like it could have been prevented after cornerback Khalil Dorsey dove at his knees during a drill. Head coach Dan Campbell was not thrilled about it.

"Honestly, it shouldn’t have happened," Campbell said the day after the play happened. "No, we’re not OK with that, and it’s been addressed...That’s not what we do. And believe me, Khalil feels awful, too. We get that, but we got to take care of each other. We still have to be physical, we got to work each, we got to compete, but we still have to take care of each other. So that was, we talked about it, and we move on."

Zylstra was an exclusive rights free agent this offseason, so the Lions controlled his rights and didn't have to make any real announcement to keep him beyond tendering him a contract. But on Monday afternoon, the team announced he has been re-signed.

So in lieu of the tender, the Lions are bringing Zylstra back on what is sure to be a one-year deal for the league minimum or somewhere close. As Erik Schlitt of Pride of Detroit noted, it's possible Zylstra asked for the ERFA designation to be removed or the Lions are just giving him a differently structured contract with some signing bonus money, etc. on their own.

Detroit Lions bring back Shane Zylstra as a depth tight end

The Lions have obviously found a stud tight end in Sam LaPorta, who set all kinds of records as a rookie last season. But depth behind him is a bit of a thing, with James Mitchell, Brock Wright ( restricted free agent) and Anthony Firkser (an unrestricted free agent) occupying spots on the active roster last season. Zach Ertz was brought in on the practice squad ahead of the NFC Championship Game, but he did not suit up in that game and he is a street free agent.

In 2022, after T.J. Hockenson was traded, Zylstra became a factor in the tight end mix for the Lions with four touchdowns on 11 receptions, highlighted by a three-touchdown game against the Carolina Panthers in Week 16. He joined the Lions in 2021, splitting time between the active roster and the practice squad while seeing action in four games (three catches for 34 yards).

If he sticks all the way to Week 1, Zylstra should not be any more than the Lions' No. 2 or No. 3 tight end. But his being brought back is a sign he is fully healthy coming off the torn ACL.


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