Free Agency is this week and it’s time to match some team needs with specific free agent targets. Let’s start the series with the best team in the NFC North in the Detroit Lions.
The needs of the team are broken down into three parts. High priority starter needs is the most important category so you don’t git fukt. The “Upgrade City” category isn’t crucial as the team could get by with the current starters but the team could get better by replacing someone, providing competition or adding depth at a position group. Finally the “back to the future” looks at expiring contracts in 2018 and notes were you could get a future player at the position.
Don’t Git Fukt/High Priority Starters
Right Tackle, Right Guard, Pass Rushing DT, Left End, Slot WR
Power Running Back, Athletic young LB, nickel CB, CB depth for Slay
Back to the Future
Free Safety, Cornerback 2
Don’t Git Fukt
The Lions have five starter needs in the 2017 offseason. Right tackle and right guard could be resolved if the Lions re-sign Riley Reiff and Larry Warford. Bob Quinn said in his press conference Wednesday he doesn’t want to get too young on the offensive line. Look for Detroit to add a veteran or two in free agency. Quinn also said he may look at a few top tier free agents again like in 2016.
Larry Warford back would make a lot of sense but it depends on the price point. The going rate for guards is 8 million per season based on the latest contracts. Warford has been a good player with a few injuries mixed and a down 2015 season. Warford may be worth 9 per since the cap rose. We’ll see if Detroit agrees with Warford’s value or goes after other guards.
Kevin Zeitler is the best guard on the market. He was the 7th ranked guard in the league and has been a consistently good performer for the Bengals in the last four seasons. Zeitler will get the most money this offseason and Detroit would upgrade if they chose Zeitler over Warford.
Chance Warmack or Ron Leary would also be interesting players for Detroit. Warmack is a former top 10 pick for the Titans but did not have a good season in 2016. He may just need a change of scenery or scheme. Ron Leary graded well in 2016 and similar to Warford. The Cowboys obtained La’el Collins and Leary is expendable for them. Leary would be a good choice for Detroit as well.
TJ Lang is a top 10 guard for the Packers. Lang said he is willing to test the market but will let the Packers match any offer. The Lions would have to overpay for the 30 year old guard but he is a good player. May be worth it to solve guard for 3 years and hurt the Packers talent pool. Jahri Evans and Luke Joeckel are other options.
Reiff had an average year at right tackle after several solid years at left tackle for Detroit. The question is will be how much is Reiff worth since he can play left tackle too? The Lions have Taylor Decker for the long term and Decker played well as a rookie left tackle first round pick. The top right tackles make 6.6 per year except for Lane Johnson, who makes 11.2 million per year somehow. Reiff will probably cost somewhere in between Bulaga and Lane Johnson since Reiff can play left tackle. We’ll see if the Lions want to keep their former 2012 1st round pick.
The market is flooded with veteran left tackles and a few right tackles. The Lions could sign a veteran like Kelvin Beachum, Ryan Clady or Russell Okung and play them at right tackle. However, they may want too much money for that. Sebastian Vollmer is coming off an injury but is a former solid right tackle for the Patriots. 31 year old Breno Giacommini, Ricky Wagner and Mike Remmers are starter quality. Wagner is the best of the bunch and was the 18th rated tackle out of 78 tackles. Menelik Watson showed some improvement in Oakland and may need a change of scenery as well. Matt Kalil and Andre Smith are both former Vikings and coming off injury. Detroit could take a chance on either one if they miss on their other marks.
Pass Rushing DT
Tyrunn Walker and Stefan Charles failed for Detroit in 2016 and are both free agents. Kawann Short was franchised which really hurt the market. There are a lot of nose tackles available but not many pass rushing defensive tackles. Nick Fairley is a former Lion and is probably the best pass rushing DT available. It would be interesting if he re-united with Detroit. Karl Klug, Jordan Hiill and Jonathan Hankins are younger options with starter experience. The options are slim and Detroit may need to draft a pass rushing DT.
Dontarie Poe, Bennie Logan, Brandon Williams are big name nose tackles available. Could Detroit cut Ngata for cap room and add a young stud nose tackle to pair with second round pick from 2016 A’Shawn Robinson? It’s unlikely but possible.
Anquan Boldin had a nice year in 2016 but is contemplating retirement. The Lions need more speed in the slot. Desean Jackson and Terrelle Pryor will be too costly. Kendall Wright, Victor Cruz, Andrew Hawkins and Kenny Stills would be very interesting pickups. All four players fit the slot well and have good past production for a third WR. Brandon Lafell and Pierre Garcon would be interesting outside WR options. Detroit could move Tate to the slot if the Lions added an outside WR.
JPP, Melvin Ingram, Chandler Jones were all franchised. Calais Campbell is a great player but has only played in a 3-4 and is over 30. Mario Williams has all the talent in the world but work ethic and age issues.
Charles Johnson is a solid option from the Panthers. Jared Odrick could fill in at left end after being cut by Jacksonville and not living up to his big contract. Chris Long is another veteran match at left end for Detroit with a lot of talent but age concerns. The Lions showed interest in long last offseason. The Lions could re-sign Devin Taylor on a cheap deal but he played terrible in 2016. If Taylor returned to 2014/2015 form, it may be worth the cheap signing to provide starter depth along with Hyder and Zettel.
Mario Addison got 7 million per season which sets the bar for the current market.
Upgrade City/Back to the Future
The Lions could upgrade at nickel CB. Logan Ryan is a perfect fit the slot CB job and would start over Quandre Diggs. Ryan is a former Patriot so there is a connection to Bob Quinn. Ryan has outside CB experience and could fill in for Lawson if he got hurt. Captain Munnerlyn would be another nice slot CB addition over Diggs.
Da’nte Hightower is another big time free agent LB. He turned 10 million per year with the Patriots. He would be a huge boost at ILB and move Whitehead to SAM LB. Whitehead is in the last year of his two year deal and struggled in 2016. Levy has been injured 26 of the past 33 games. Detroit could use Hightower to help the LB group but it isn’t a necessity. Detroit could also draft a cheap young LB in Rounds 2-4 of the draft.
The Lions should draft a young power back and avoid all costly veteran free agent running backs. Abdullah and Riddick should be healthy and will have a lot of playing time. Abdullah can get 150-200 carries but the Lions need a better work horse back and short yardage back. Running back addition isn’t a necessity if Abdullah is healthy though. Zenner showed some nice flashes late in year two. Washington was a rookie. Detroit could add to the group if they wanted though.
The Lions could add a potential number 1 CB. Stephon Gilmore or AJ Bouye would be pricey but they would be an upgrade over Nevin Lawson. Lawson could move to nickel CB on the last year of his rookie deal. Slay and Bouye/Gilmore long term would be a great tandem. Either player could step in for Slay if he were injured, unlike Lawson.
Finally, free safety Glover Quin is in the last year of his deal. Detroit should look to the draft for his eventual replacement. The Lions should try to extend Quin a few more years though.
Big Time Re-Signs
Matt Stafford and Ziggy Ansah are in the last years of their deals. Quinn said he wants to try and extend Stafford after the draft. Ansah is another crucial pass rusher on the 5th year option that will give big time money despite a down/injured year in 2016. Detroit must decide to give Eric Ebron the fifth year option as well or this will be his last season on his rookie deal. All three players should be re-signed by Detroit.
The Lions have big needs at RG, RT, slot WR, Left End and Pass Rushing DT. Detroit has ample cap room with 34 million and 8 draft picks (two 6ths). Detroit can fill their holes and add to their depth and future during this offseason. Bob Quinn had a very productive free agent and rookie class from last season. Let’s see if Quinn can continue to build this playoff team into a Super Bowl caliber team.