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November 26, 2015: Detroit Lions running back Theo Riddick (25) catches this pass for a touchdown in the first quarter during to the game on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday afternoon, Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire)
Detroit Lions

Riddick signing is key for Lions as they move on from Johnson

Steven King/Icon Sportswire
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The regular season might be underway, but that didn’t stop the Detroit Lions from inking one of their key players to a contract extension.

Running back Theo Riddick has agreed to a three-year, $12.75 million extension with the Lions, according to the NFL Network. The deal will pay Riddick an average of $4.25 million beginning in 2017 and keep him under contract through the 2019 season when he will be just 28 years old and could be in line for another extension or free agent deal at that point.

Riddick, a fourth-year running back out of Notre Dame, will make $675,000 in 2016, which would have been the last year of his rookie contract. In addition to Riddick, the Lions also signed punter Sam Martin to a contract extension.

“We are excited to announce contract extensions for Sam Martin and Theo Riddick,” executive vice president and general manager Bob Quinn said. “Both players have earned these extensions through their hard work that dates back to 2013 when both joined the Lions. I would like to thank Sam, Theo, and their representatives for their hard work assisting us in our goal of completing these extensions prior to the start of the regular season. I’m very pleased that both players can join their teammates in fully concentrating on our opening game.”

It’s pretty unusual to sign contract extensions like these just days before the team’s season begins, but it’s a positive that the sides were able to get these deals done so late in the offseason and should allow both players to be focused and feeling good heading into Sunday’s season-opener in Indianapolis against the Colts.

Riddick is especially important to what the Lions are trying to do offensively, as his versatile skillset allowed the team to construct its roster in the way it did. The Lions were expected to use the numbers game to make up for the loss of star receiver Calvin Johnson to retirement, but then they went and only kept four receivers on their 53-man roster coming out of camp – Golden Tate, Anquan Boldin, Andre Roberts and Marvin Jones.

Riddick’s presence allows them to go thin in that area, as his value as a wide receiver far surpasses his value as a running back. In fact, he ranked third on the team in both receptions (80) and targets (99) last season, both of them easily career-highs. He converted those receptions into 697 yards and three touchdowns. Compare that to his yardage on the ground (133 yards on 43 carries) and you see that his main strength in the offense was as an outlet for quarterback Matt Stafford.

The Lions view Ameer Abdullah as their workhorse running back of the future in spite of the fact that he struggled so badly as a rookie. But Riddick is a key component to the offense, not only as a receiver but also as a change-of-pace presence in the backfield, as well as being a versatile veteran option.

That will be crucial as the Lions attempt to revamp their offense in the post-Calvin Johnson era.

Riddick signing is key for Lions as they move on from Johnson

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