Let’s take a look at the Detroit Lions Free Agency Summary and remaining needs. GM Bob Quinn made several big moves in his second year as the Lions GM.
Needs Pre Free Agency:
Right Tackle, Right Guard, Left End, Pass rushing Defensive Tackle, CB depth, Slot WR, KR/PR
The Lions addressed right tackle, right guard, defensive line depth, CB depth, LB depth and possible KR/PR in free agency. Let’s take a look at the deals.
Rick Wagner: Right Tackle from the Ravens (5 years 47.5 million with 20.5 guaranteed)
Wagner played four years for the Ravens with 47 starts at right tackle for Baltimore. Wagner signed a 5 year 47.5 million dollar deal to be the Lions right tackle of the future. He will earn cap hits of 5.9 million in 2017, 5.9 million in 2018 and 11.9 million each season in 2019 through 2021.
Wagner was the 9th ranked RT in 2016 and the 18th ranked tackle overall. Wagner had a great 2014 season as well but struggled in 2015 with the Ravens (as did most Ravens).
Wagner is a big upgrade from Riley Reiff’s 2016 average performance. Reiff got an amazing 11.75 per season to play left tackle for the Vikings. Detroit made a great cheaper deal and Detroit now has book end tackles for years with Taylor Decker and Wagner.
TJ Lang: Right Guard from Packers (3 years 28.5 million with 19 guaranteed)
Lang upgrades the Lions at right guard and hurts the Packers by leaving them high and dry at guard. Lang will be 30 in September but is a top 10 right guard consistently every year. Larry Warford was a good player but he left for the Saints at 8.5 per. Lang should be ready training camp and was cleared after a hip surgery.
The Lions upgrade with Lang at 9.5 per season and get a top 10 guard that is a great pass blocker and solid run blocker. Detroit’s right side of the line is exceptionally strong and they will be able to run the ball and protect Stafford in 2016. Lang chose the Lions, despite a big offer from Seattle. Green Bay only offered 7 per season because Ted Thompson doesn’t value good guards apparently.
Lang will have cap hits of 5.8 million, 10.9 million in 2018 and 11.6 million in 2018. The dead money becomes low in 2019 at only 2.6 million. It is essentially a two year deal with a team option for year 3.
Akeem Spence: DT from Buccaneers (3 years 9 million with 3.5 million guaranteed).
The Lions failed at defensive tackle rotation with Stefan Charles, Khryi Thornton and Tyrunn Walker in 2016. Akeem Spence will get a chance in the Lions attacking scheme in 2017 and beyond. Spence is a 4th round pick with Tampa that has a few solid years but a down year in 2016.
The Lions hope a change of scenery benefits Spence who was more of a run stuffer with Tampa. He will be in a rotation with Ngata, Robinson and Thornton. Detroit could still add a starting 3-tech in the draft. Spence adds nicely to the Lions rotation. Spence will have cap hits of 2.25 million, 3.5 million and 3.25 million in 2017-2019.
Cornelius Washington: DE from Bears (2 years 6 million with 2 million in incentives)
Washington is versatile and athletic 6th round pick by the Bears in 2013. He hasn’t produced much for the Bears and missed most of the 2015 season due to injury. Washington is only 27 though and could develop as a left end in Detroit’s scheme or play 3 technique on passing downs. Detroit needs backup DEs and Washington fits the bill perfectly as an athletic closed end with DT ability.
DJ Hayden: CB from Raiders (1 year 3.75 million with 2 million in incentives)
DJ Hayden was a first round pick in 2013 by Oakland. He is talented with enough size and speed. Hayden fit in the slot nicely in 2016 with Oakland but can play outside too.
Hayden has a big injury history and missed 19 games in four seasons though. Hayden also commits too many penalties. Detroit needed CB depth though and the Lions coaches could get the most out of Hayden’s untapped first round talent. It’s a low risk contract and high reward for Detroit on a one year deal as a backup CB that can compete at the nickel spot with third year player Quandre Diggs.
Paul Worrilow: Mike or Weak side LB from Falcons (1 year 3 million)
Worrilow has staring experience for the Falcons from 2013-2015 but got benched in 2016 for younger LBs by the Falcons. Worrilow has a high motor and could start for Detroit now that they cut DeAndre Levy. Worrilow is also a good special team player as well.
Detroit needs to add young LBs in the draft or free agency still to compete with Worrilow and Antwione Williams. Tahir Whitehead should remain the starting Middle LB unless they draft one and move Whitehead to SAM.
Daniel Fells: Blocking tight end from Cardinals (1 year 1.5 million)
The Lions had the worst blocking tight ends in the league. Fells was one of the best in 2016 for the Cardinals. Fells is not much of a receiver but has some ability there unlike Matthew Mulligan from 2016 for Detroit. Fells should find a nice niche to aide in protection and the run game.
KeShawn Martin: WR from 49ers
Martin was drafted by the Texans and played two seasons with them. Martin played in 2015 with New England and Quinn knows him well from the Patriots time. Martin played 2016 for the 49ers.
Keshawn has kick return and punt return ability and provides some depth as a fifth WR. Martin could compete with TJ Jones (re-signed 1 year 690k) and Jace Billingsley for the 3rd and 4th WR roles. Detroit should still look to upgrade at the third WR spot this offseason. Anquan Boldin will play in 2017 and we shall see if Detroit opts to bring him back on another one year deal.
Jordan Hill: DT from Seattle/Jacksonville
Hill was a 3rd round pick by Seattle in 2013. He was off injured and missed most of the 2013 and 2016 seasons. Hill played over 300 snaps in 2014 and 2015. Hill had a solid grade in 2015 and 5.5 sacks in 2014. He is a penetrating DT that can fill some gaps. Hill should play in the rotation with Spence, Ngata and Robinson. If he stays healthy, he could be a productive addition for the Lions.
Don Mulbach(LS), Kerry Hyder (DE), TJ Jones (WR), Armonty Bryant (DE) all signed cheap one year deals to remain in Detroit. Bryant showed some flashes before his suspension and injury.
Kyhri Thornton inked a two year deal 3.3 million dollar deal with a 325K signing bonus. Thornton really struggled in 2016 and I’m surprised he was brought back. It is a cheap deal and Thornton provides experience in the DT rotation at least. Ngata, Robinson and Spence should see way more playing time hopefully. Detroit should still need to add a pass rushing DT in the draft.
Free Agency Losses
Riley Reiff moves to the Vikings for 11.75 million per year. Larry Warford signed with the Saints for 8.5 million per season. The Lions did well to not only replace them but upgrade in these spots.
Deandre Levy was cut surprisingly even though he missed 26 of the last 33 games. The Lions made him a June 1st cap hit to save money in 2017 but have a cap hit in 2018. Levy will save 5.8 million in cap space on June 1st for Detroit. The knee and hip injuries were just too much for the Lions to keep him on his big extension prior to the injuries.
Dan Orlovsky will not be brought back as the backup QB. Jake Rudock will get a shot in his second year to backup Matt Stafford. Andre Roberts signed a one year deal with Atlanta to be their returner and 5th WR.
The Lions have 8.8 million in cap space as of March 16, 2017. Detroit will get an additional 5.8 million in space on June 1st due to cutting DeAndre Levy. Detroit will have 14.6 million for carryover, the draft (around 2 million additional space needed), IR players, the top 53 (1.2 million) and practice squad.
Detroit could add to its 2017 cap space by extending Matt Stafford and changing his 2017 cap number from 22 million to a lower number (and adds to other years). Ziggy Ansah could also be extended and lower his 12 million fifth year option cap hit. Detroit has ample space to make some second tier moves if they want and sign veterans like Anquan Boldin in late free agency. GM Bob Quinn has said he wants to extend Matt Stafford this summer. Detroit has about 80 million in cap space in 2018 if you take into account 8 million for the 2017 draft class plus any carryover and cap increases. Detroit can pay Stafford and Ansah big money easily.
Devin Taylor, Anquan Boldin, Rafael Bush and Josh Bynes are free agents and former Lions that Detroit could bring back on cheap deals. They could get Stephen Tulloch too if they really wanted him at ILB again.
Jonathan Hankins (DT), Jamaal Charles (RB), LeGarette Blount (RB) are impactful players Detroit could still add along with Boldin and Bynes.
Lions Draft Needs
The Lions need a pass rushing DT, left closed end, reliable slot WR and one starting weak side LB currently.
Detroit could get by with Kerry Hyder, Ziggy Ansah, Cornelius Washington, Brandon Copeland and Anthony Zettel at DE but would like to add more. They could also get by with Ngata, Robinson, Akeem Spence and Khyri Thornton but it would be nice to bolster the defensive line with young impactful pass rushers. Taco Charlton and Derek Barnett would be great defensive end picks for Detroit at 21.
GM Bob Quinn could upgrade at power running back over Zach Zenner and Dwayne Washington and add a backup tight end that can block and catch but those aren’t pressing needs.
Slot WR could be solved in-house with TJ Jones, Jared Aberderris or Jace Billingsley. GM Bob Quinn could think to the future at free safety (Glover Quin’s contract expires next offseason) on day 2 of the draft in a deep safety draft.
Detroit has eight picks in the draft: Pick 21, 53, 85, 127, 165, 205, 215, and 230 currently. Detroit has an extra 6th and New England’s 7th and all normal picks in Rounds 1-5.