The Lions righted an old draft mistake and bolstered their banged-up receiving corps two days before the trade deadline, acquiring receiver Mike Thomas from the Jaguars for a future draft pick.
Thomas caught 158 passes in his first three NFL seasons and signed a five-year, $19-million contract last fall, but has just 13 catches in a mostly reserve role this year.
The Lions were highly interested in Thomas coming out of Arizona in the 2009 draft, but took Derrick Williams with their third-round pick instead. They released Williams last year.
“I’m excited,” Thomas told the Free Press in a phone interview shortly after the deal’s completion Tuesday. “Anytime a team is interested in you and wants to utilize you or just use you, I think that’s a no brainer. That’s what you want as a player in the NFL, you just want to play and be utilized.”
Thomas said he had an inclination he might be dealt this week because of his reduced role and sizeable contract, but he was shocked he ended up with the Lions.
The Lions (3-4) travel to Jacksonville (1-6) on Sunday, and Thomas said, “I’m pretty sure my brain will get picked a little bit” by Lions coaches this week.
“It’s all crazy,” he said. “It’s a whirlwind, but you look at the NBA and how they get traded, it’s the same kind of concept.”
The Lions lost slot receiver Nate Burleson to a season-ending broken leg last week and have seen Calvin Johnson and Titus Young hobbled by knee injuries recently. Rookie Ryan Broyles is the team’s No. 3 receiver, but the 5-foot-8 Thomas can play in the slot, out of the backfield in a Jahvid Best-type role and return punts or kicks.
He said he talked briefly with Lions general manager Martin Mayhew about his role Tuesday.
“I’m pretty sure I’ll be out there running around doing something.” Thomas said. “That’s all I can ask for is just to get out there and have an opportunity to contribute and we’ll see what happens.”
The deal, which CBS Sports reported was for a fifth-round 2014 draft pick, won’t be official until Thomas passes his physical Wednesday, but the Lions released cornerback Justin Miller to make room for Thomas on the 53-man roster.
According to a CBS Sports report, the Lions also have been calling around about safety help for their banged-up secondary. Louis Delmas is day-to-day after re-injuring his left knee in Sunday’s win over the Seahawks and Amari Spievey is still recovering from his second concussion since January.
Mayhew has now made three deadline deals in five trade deadlines as Lions’ GM. He sent Roy Williams to the Cowboys a few weeks after taking over for Matt Millen in 2008, and swapped running back Jerome Harrison to the Eagles for Ronnie Brown last year. That deal was nullified when Harrison failed his physical after doctors found a tumor on his brain.