Adams, Merrill sign as free agents

Wide receiver Jonathan Adams Jr. pulls in a pass during Pro Day activities at Arkansas State in March. Adams has agreed to a free agent contract with the Detroit Lions.

JONESBORO — A pair of former Arkansas State football standouts in wide receiver Jonathan Adams Jr. and defensive lineman Forrest Merrill have signed NFL free agent contracts with the Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Chargers, respectively.

Adams completed his senior season in 2020 with 79 receptions for 1,111 yards and 12 touchdowns, earning a place on six different All-America teams. He was tabbed the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year and a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist.

The Jonesboro native finished his four-year career with the Red Wolves with 21 receiving touchdowns, which stand as the second most in school history and as the fifth most by a Sun Belt Conference player. He also racked up 166 career receptions for 2,306 yards, ranking as the third and fifth most in program history, respectively.

Merrill was a two-time All-Sun Belt selection at Arkansas State, earning recognition as a senior in 2020 and sophomore in 2018. He started all 11 games as a senior, posting 42 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

Merrill ended his three-year career at ASU with 121 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. The Willard, Mo., native was listed as member of the Senior Bowl "Top 250" entering the 2020 campaign.

Former Arkansas State defensive lineman William Bradley-King was drafted by Washington in the seventh round Saturday. Bradley-King spent three seasons with the Red Wolves before transferring to Baylor last year for his last season of eligibility.

Former ASU cornerback Jerry Jacobs joined Adams in signing with the Lions as a free agent, as did former Arkansas running back Rakeem Boyd. Jacobs spent two seasons at ASU before transferring to Arkansas, where he opted out during the 2020 season.

Four Sun Belt players were selected in the draft Saturday.

Appalachian State defensive back Shemar Jean-Charles was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the fifth round with the 178th overall pick. Jean-Charles became the first FBS First Team All-American in Mountaineer program history in 2020 and led the team to five bowl wins and four Sun Belt Conference championships in five years in Boone, N.C.

Coastal Carolina defensive end Tarron Jackson was taken by the Philadelphia Eagles in the sixth round with the 191st overall pick. Jackson was a consensus All-American and the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year in 2020. In five years in Conway, S.C, he was a three-time All-Sun Belt Conference honoree.

Louisiana-Lafayette running back Elijah Mitchell was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the sixth round with the 194th overall pick. Mitchell capped his collegiate career with a program record 127 rushing yards in the 2020 First Responder Bowl—the most by a Ragin’ Cajun in a bowl game — and was a three-time All-Sun Belt Conference selection in four years in Lafayette, La.

South Alabama wide receiver Kawaan Baker was taken by the New Orleans Saints in the seventh round with the 255th overall pick. Baker was a Second Team All-Sun Belt Conference pick in 2020, following back-to-back Honorable Mention All-Sun Belt Conference selections in 2018 and 2019. In five years in Mobile, Ala., he was a three-time All-Sun Belt Conference honoree.