Thomas comes back to the Lions after spending two years with the Bills, who signed the former Virginia Tech quarterback off Detroit's practice squad in November 2016. He presumably will spend this offseason trying to push Michael Roberts for the No. 2 job at tight end behind Jesse James, though it's possible the Lions could add more competition via the upcoming draft that has a strong class at the position.
The Bills declined to tender Thomas a contract for 2019, making him an unrestricted free agent, Mike Rodak of ESPN.com reports.
Thomas split time between special teams and offense last season, notching 12 receptions for 77 yards without a touchdown across 12 games. He did most of his damage during a Week 9 loss to the Bears, posting seven catches for 40 yards in that contest. Now free to go wherever he pleases, Thomas will look to secure a depth role at tight end in advance of OTAs.
Thomas finished the 2018 season with 12 catches on 17 targets for 77 yards and no touchdowns across 12 games.
Top tight end Charles Clay had a disappointing, injury-plagued season, but even when given the chance for increased reps, Thomas didn't do much with the opportunity afforded to him. He caught seven balls for 40 yards in a Week 9 loss to the Bears, but managed only five catches combined over his other 11 games. Even when Clay was phased out late in the season, Jason Croom passed Thomas up in the pecking order. Thomas, a former quarterback at Virginia Tech, offers some versatility and appears to be liked by the coaching staff, but he'll be ticketed for a reserve role at best in 2019 as the Bills presumably look to revamp a position group that has largely disappointed in recent years.
Thomas was unable to haul in his lone target during Sunday's 24-12 loss to New England.
Thomas has caught just one of four targets since rookie Josh Allen returned to the starting job. The Virginia Tech product has been held to one or no catches in every game this season with the exception of Week 9's seven-catch explosion against Chicago in a game in which Nathan Peterman was under center. Though the season ends with a matchup against a bottom-10 Miami pass defense, odds are that there won't be enough opportunities for Thomas for him to make a difference.
Thomas (hamstring) was a full participant in Thursday's practice session.
Thomas has missed a couple games due to his hamstring injury but it appears he may have turned a corner after his full practice Thursday. He'll look to resume his role as a backup tight end for the Bills against the Patriots in Week 16.
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