Ellington might be the Lions' new slot receiver after they traded Golden Tate to the Philadelphia Eagles a week ago. The 27-year-old Ellington has played in 40 games for San Francisco and Houston, catching 56 passes for 637 yards and five touchdowns. He also could end up as the team's returner — a role held last week by rookie Brandon Powell and at times before that by Abdullah — because he has 47 career punt returns for 372 yards and 50 kick returns for 1,279 yards.
A fourth-round pick of San Francisco in 2014, Ellington spent two seasons with the 49ers and then 14 games over two seasons with Houston before being placed on injured reserve by the Texans on Sept. 25 with a hamstring injury and released last week.
Abdullah's role had diminished greatly this season after the signing of LeGarrette Blount and the draft selection of Kerryon Johnson in the second round. With Blount, Johnson and veteran Theo Riddick on the roster, Abdullah was active for only three games this season — two of which came when Riddick was recovering from a knee injury.
The 25-year-old had one carry for 1 yard this season and two receptions for 18 yards. He also had a critical fumble against Seattle in Week 8 on a kick return and lost that job to Powell against Minnesota last week.
Taken with the No. 54 pick in the 2015 draft, Abdullah appeared in 35 games with the Lions, rushing 327 times for 1,251 yards and six touchdowns along with catching 57 passes for 420 yards. His best overall season came as a rookie, when he had 168 touches for 780 total scrimmage yards and had a career-high 597 rushing yards.
Abdullah missed almost the entire 2016 season due to a foot injury — one that derailed what had started as a promising season in which he gained 101 yards on 18 carries, showing the promise he had with the Cornhuskers.
The Lions had another open roster spot after waiving receiver Andy Jones on Monday and filled that by signing running back Zach Zenner on Tuesday.
Zenner appeared in 28 games for the Lions the past three seasons, rushing for 420 yards and five touchdowns.
The Lions waived Zenner earlier this year with an injury settlement after putting him on injured reserve with a back injury at the roster cutdown deadline.
Now healthy, he's expected to primarily be a special teams player for Detroit whenever he is active.