Terms were not announced, but a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the one-year deal is for $1.35 million, with $350,000 guaranteed, and has a max value of $2.3 million. He made $5 million last season in the final year of his contract with the New York Jets.
Kearse, who turned 29 in February, is coming off the most disappointing of his seven NFL seasons. He finished with only 37 receptions for 371 yards and a touchdown as the Jets struggled for most of the season under rookie quarterback Sam Darnold.
The Lions are in need of help at the position as their top two receivers, Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay, have not participated fully throughout the spring while working with the rehab group during practice.
Kearse played 63 percent of the offensive snaps last season, second among the Jets’ receivers, but was an afterthought in the passing offense. At the end of the season, Kearse expressed his frustration, saying he “got put on the back burner” by then-offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates.
Kearse’s down year came as a surprise because he set career highs for catches (65) and yards (810) in 2017 under a different coordinator, John Morton. Kearse made a seamless transition to the Jets after arriving in a big trade at the conclusion of the 2017 preseason.
The Jets acquired Kearse and a 2018 second-round pick from the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. The Jets later used that pick in a trade that eventually netted the team Darnold.
In Seattle, where Bevell was the offensive coordinator, Kearse was best known for his clutch performances in the postseason. In 12 games, he made 31 catches for 493 yards and six touchdowns. His best moment was an acrobatic 33-yard catch against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX, a play that was overshadowed by Malcolm Butler’s game-saving goal-line interception moments later.
Overall, Kearse has 255 career receptions for 3,290 yards and 17 touchdowns.
The Lions waived receiver Jordan Smallwood.
ESPN’s Michael Rothstein and Rich Cimini contributed to this report.