The Detroit Lions declined the fifth-year option on linebacker Jarrad Davis' rookie contract, but head coach Matt Patricia said in a Zoom call with reporters Tuesday that despite not picking up that option, Davis is still very much part of Detroit's plans on defense.
"I would say from the contract standpoint of things I usually like to keep a lot of that private from where we are right now and kind of the times that we're in right now. We just made a decision that was best for the organization," Patricia said, when asked about Davis' declined option.
"It's certainly something we talked to JD about and Bob (GM Bob Quinn) did a great job communicating all of the stuff that was going on and just trying to push forward with certainly some uncertain times as we get into the season. Right now, just thought that was the best decision."
The option would have paid Davis around $10 million next year and been guaranteed for injury only. Davis, 24, is currently scheduled to become a free agent after playing out the fourth and final year of his rookie contract in 2020.
"I would say this, there is no doubt that JD is one of our strongest leaders on defense," Patricia said. "He's a great player, someone we continue to build around. He and I just talked moreso about, 'this is a short term conversation, as far as whatever this contract situation is, and for me it's about long term.' JD is a cornerstone of what we're trying to do and he's in those big-picture plans of where we're trying to go."
Davis was the No. 21 overall pick by the Lions in the 2017 draft with a high character grade and terrific athletic traits. He's become a leader on defense and team captain, but his play on the field has been mostly up and down over the last three years. Davis struggled early with missed tackles and had issues in coverage, though to his credit, he's certainly improved the latter over the last year.
Davis' best season came in 2018, when he was one of only two players in the league to record at least 100 tackles and six sacks. He's proven to be an effective blitzer, and the Lions used him in that role successfully a lot that season.
View photos of the Detroit Lions roster as of May 1, 2020.
Davis was expected to have a breakout season in 2019, but a severe ankle injury suffered the third week of the preseason derailed the start of his season, and he never really got on track. He finished the season on injured reserve after re-aggravating the ankle injury late in the year. In 11 games, he tallied 63 tackles, two sacks and three forced fumbles.
The Lions signed linebackers Jamie Collins Sr., Reggie Ragland and Elijah Lee in free agency, and will likely look to expand the role of Jahlani Tavai, Detroit's second-round pick a year ago.
Patricia said the team and Davis will see how this season goes, and then go from there.