In 2015 Kamar Aiken stepped out of the shadows in the wake of a devastating rash of injuries. He was a 6’1″, 215-pound player from a small school who had shown surprising athleticism at his Pro Day. Finally in his fourth season he was getting his shot, and he responded with 75 catches for 944 yards. The Ravens improved their depth to the point that Aiken was the fourth option. Aiken dropped significantly in production, his numbers fell to 29 catches for 328 yards last season.
What Does Kamar Aiken Bring to the Table?
Aiken has a solid mix of speed and size. His primary contribution to the league before 2015 was in kick coverage, and having a third wide receiver that also contributes on special teams fits the profile of Bob Quinn‘s free agent signings. Aiken is a fluid athlete who runs tight routes. He is also strong enough that defenders in press coverage often find themselves struggling to recover and chasing Aiken down the field. Press coverage was a problem for the Lions’ receivers all year. On passes like the Lions threw to Anquan Boldin, Aiken makes the catch. He excels in traffic, on short passes thrown into tight windows, and does not shy away from hits. For some receivers, adjusting to the velocity with which Matthew Stafford throws the ball is a problem. Aiken however comes from the Ravens whose quarterback Joe Flacco has no shortage of arm strength.
Why Might Kamar Aiken be Available?
The Ravens got their projected starters from 2015 back and signed Mike Williams as a free agent in 2016. The Ravens are high on Breshaud Perriman for some reason, leaving Aiken on the outside looking in. They view him as a slot receiver despite his success carrying the load in 2015 outside the hash marks. Aiken is a free agent for the first time, and unlikely to sign with a team that doesn’t believe in him as much as he believes in himself. He will test free agency and hope that there is at least one team that believes he can regain his 2015 form.
The Bottom Line for Kamar Aiken
Kamar Aiken is an ideal free agent target for the Detroit Lions. He is likely to be a perfect combination of capable and cheap. Aiken can play in the slot, and move outside in the event of an injury to Marvin Jones or Golden Tate. He can also cover kicks and punts; Aiken is a jack of all trades. Free agents and draft picks squeezed him out, but he is a very good player. He fills the niche that would be left in the Lions’ offense by Anquan Boldin’s departure, but with a much higher level of athleticism. The price of a player that had a single year of high production is usually not high unless it happened the year he hit free agency. At 27 years of age, a multi-year deal at a low price could make sense for the Lions.
Bob Quinn needs bargains in free agency if he wants to improve the team and Aiken can provide one. While their salary cap situation is not terrible, they have a lot of key contributors to re-sign or replace in free agency and the draft. It wouldn’t take a train wreck of an off-season for the Lions to take a step back in 2017. Aiken’s contract would likely be low enough to allow the Lions flexibility in upgrading other positions on the roster.