An unrestricted free agent since his four-year rookie contract expired on March 18, Ragland earned a Super Bowl ring in his final game with the Kansas City Chiefs, who defeated the San Francisco 49ers 31-20 in the NFL championship game on Feb. 2.
Ragland is signing a one-year contract with Detroit, NFL Network reported.
Ragland played in 14 regular-season games with seven starts in 2019. He recorded 30 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks and returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown while playing 21 percent of the Chiefs’ defensive snaps.
In the postseason, Ragland played at least 41 percent of Kansas City’s defensive snaps in each of its three playoff games and had eight tackles, including one behind the line of scrimmage.
Ragland will be the second linebacker to sign with the Lions during the 2020 free-agency period even though Detroit ended the 2019 season with all its top linebackers under contract for the coming campaign.
The Lions had linebackers Devon Kennard, Jarrad Davis, Christian Jones, Jahlani Tavai and Jalen Reeves-Maybin returning, and each had more tackles for Detroit in 2019 than Ragland did for the Chiefs.
That didn’t prevent the Lions from adding linebacker Jamie Collins from the New England Patriots for a three-year, $30 million contract. After obtaining Collins, Detroit released Kennard, a team captain the past two seasons. Kennard then joined the Arizona Cardinals for a three-year contract.
At Bob Jones High School, Ragland earned All-State recognition three times (once as a tight end, twice as a linebacker), won the 6A Lineman of the Year Award in 2011 and received Under Armour All-American recognition. The Patriots did not lose a 6A Region 8 game in his final three seasons. He also helped Bob Jones win the AHSAA Class 6A boys’ basketball championship in 2010.
In four seasons at Alabama, Ragland played on two national championship teams and earned the SEC Defensive Player of the Year Award and unanimous All-American recognition in 2015.
After being selected in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Ragland suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament at the Buffalo Bills’ training camp as a rookie, and the knee injury caused him to miss the entire season.
During the 2017 preseason, the Bills traded Ragland to Kansas City. He was ready to play by the third game and started half of his 14 appearances.
In 2018, Ragland was a regular for the Chiefs. But for 2019, Kansas City changed its base defense from a three-man front to a four-man look, taking a linebacker off the field. And with the Chiefs often using five defensive backs, they typically had only two linebackers on the field at a time.
Ragland played less than half as many snaps in 2019 as he did in 2018, when he started 15 games and made 86 tackles.
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @AMarkG1.