Marvin Jones Jr. walked into the media room at the Lions' headquarters Wednesday with Marvin Jones III in tow. The last time his dad had signed in Detroit, Marvin III was six years old. He's 14 now, about to be in high school.
"Crazy," said Jones.
Jones, for his part, was 26 when he signed a big-money deal with the Lions in 2016. He's 33 now and returning to a much different team than the one he left, for one year and $3 million. The Lions were broken when Jones departed as a free agent after the 2020 season, left in shards by Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn. Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes have spent the past two years picking up the pieces.
Now Jones is joining a team on the rise.
"It’s a new feel, for sure," he said. "The first thing everybody says is, 'Hey Marv, it’s different. You’re gonna love it. The culture’s different, the coaches, everything, it’s not the same.' That was definitely one of the reasons why it was appealing for me to come back here."
Jones didn't really need to be told. He could sense it himself last December when he and the Jaguars, who would eventually win the AFC South, were pummeled by the Lions at Ford Field. It was part of a stretch in which Detroit won eight of its final 10 games and announced itself as a threat in the NFC. Fueled by a high-powered offense, the Lions enter 2023 as favorites in the NFC North. They finished last in the final three seasons of Jones' first stint with the team.
"I followed this past season and I was like, yeah, I’m back, I’m about to go back, for sure," said Jones.
In Jones' return to Detroit, he also felt a sense of belonging. He was welcomed warmly at Ford Field, where he's had some of the best games of his career. And when the Lions reached out to him in free agency last month, he said that "it was evident they wanted me here" from the start. The only question facing Jones at that point was whether he was willing to leave his native California, where he and his wife have settled down with their five children.
"Coming back here and playing, that left an impression on me, just the love that everybody had," said Jones. "Seeing familiar faces and giving everybody daps and hugs it was just like, dang, this was my home for five years. I talked to my family and I was like, 'OK, if I’m not gonna play on the West Coast, the only team that I will go play for is Detroit."
He made his decision last week, while vacationing with his family in Belize. Jones was leaving home to come home.
"This team is better equipped than any other team I was considering," he said. "And it’s home for me, so it was really an easy choice."
In his first run in Detroit, Jones was often the Lions' best receiver. He had an 1,000-yard season in 2017 when he led the NFL in yards per reception, nearly another in 2020 and racked up 36 touchdowns over five years. He will be more of a complementary option this time around, a solid No. 3 to support Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jameson Williams. His ability to stretch the field and make plays in the red zone makes him a natural replacement for DJ Chark.
"In terms of my role in the offense, I’m going to compete and do the same things that I know how to do, and that’s go up and get the ball," said Jones, who caught 46 passes for 529 yards and three touchdowns last season. "We have great talent on this team, which I’m excited about, so I'm happy to come here and fill any role they need me to fill, as well as still being me and making those plays at Ford Field."