Lions re-sign veteran tight end who missed 2023 season due to friendly fire

Lions re-sign veteran tight end who missed 2023 season due to friendly fire

The Detroit Lions only had two tight ends under contract for the 2024 season prior to March 4. But that has now changed a week prior to free agency. The Lions announced on their official X (formerly Twitter) account that the team re-signed veteran tight end Shane Zylstra.

Shane Zylstra

The 27-year-old was eligible to become a restrictive free agent. The financial terms of the agreement have not yet been disclosed.

Zylstra has been with the Lions since the start of the 2021 regular season. He missed the 2023 regular season because of a torn ACL he suffered during training camp.

In 17 career games during 2021 and 2022, Zylstra posted 14 catches for 94 yards. However, 4 of his 11 receptions during 2022 were touchdowns.

Lions TE Shane Zylstra Missed Entire 2023 Season

Zylstra spent training camp during 2021 with the Minnesota Vikings, but he didn’t make the team’s final roster cuts. So, the Lions signed him to their practice squad on September 1.

Zylstra made his NFL debut on October 10 in Week 5. Ironically, the Lions played the Vikings. He played 12 special teams snaps in his debut.

The tight end lined up for 40 snaps on offense in his next appearance during Week 14. He caught 2 passes for 18 yards. Zylstra also posted 1 reception for 16 yards the following week.

In 2022, Zylstra spent most of the regular season on Detroit’s active roster. By the end of the campaign, after the Lions traded fellow tight end T.J. Hockenson, Zylstra carved out a role as a red zone target.

He scored 4 touchdowns after November 1, including 3 during Week 16 against the Carolina Panthers.

Unfortunately, Zylstra didn’t receive the opportunity to build off his 2022 finish last season. He tore an ACL in training camp when Lions cornerback Khalil Dorsey “dove at his legs” during practice.

“Honestly, it shouldn’t have happened,” Lions head coach Dan Campbell said after the injury, via’s Kyle Meinke. “No, we’re not OK with that, and it’s been addressed. These things happen. The physicality of the game, the pads, but that was preventable. That’s not what we do.”

Detroit’s TE Depth Entering NFL Free Agency

With the Lions bringing back Zylstra, Detroit enters NFL free agency with some depth at tight end.

Before re-signing Zylstra, the Lions only had 2023 rookie Sam LaPorta and James Mitchell on the roster at tight end.

LaPorta will enter his second season already as one of the premiere pass-catching tight ends in the NFL. During his rookie campaign, he posted 86 catches for 889 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. He finished third in Offensive Rookie of the Year voting. He also made the Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro.

In 2024, LaPorta is likely to play as many offensive snaps as he can handle. Zylstra has appeared in as many regular season games, and Mitchell is only a year and a half older than LaPorta, but both will provide veteran blocking depth at tight end.

Mitchell appeared in 15 games for the Lions last season. He had 2 catches for 28 yards while playing 157 offensive snaps. He also lined up on 141 special teams snaps.

Detroit’s other tight ends from last season, Brock Wright and Anthony Firkser, could leave in free agency. Wright is a restricted free agent while Firsker will be an unrestricted free agent.

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