Now that we’re in full offseason mode, we’re going to review every single Detroit Lions player that finished the 2016 season under contract. We’ll look at their expectations coming into the season, whether they met those expectations and what to expect of them going forward. We will begin with the upcoming free agents, as they are the most intriguing and time sensitive.
Expectations before 2016
Rafael Bush was signed to a one-year deal in March, just days after the Lions added another safety in Tavon Wilson. All throughout the summer the two battled for the starting spot at strong safety, and fans were left wondering who would get the nod up until the very end. Ultimately, head coach Jim Caldwell went with Wilson opposite free safety Glover Quin, relegating Bush to three-safety looks and some special teams work.
Actual role in 2016
2016 stats: 16 games (4 starts), 53 tackles (34 solo), 1 sack, 3 PBU, 2 interceptions, 1 TD
For just the second time in his career, Bush played in all 16 games, although he only started four of them. Still, he played almost 50 percent of the Lions defensive snaps, thanks to their frequent defensive rotations and three-safety formations. After missing almost all of 2015 on injured reserve with New Orleans, having Bush available was a huge plus.
In addition to his work in the secondary, Bush also saw some time on special teams. Overall, his 53 tackles were the fifth-most on the team, and he was one of four Lions with multiple interceptions. His biggest plays included a pick-six against the Jaguars, which put Detroit in the lead, and a timely interception against the Rams which sealed the win for the Lions.
Bush ranked just 67th among 91 qualified safeties per Pro Football Focus. He was graded significantly worse than both Quin and Wilson, who was correctly given the starting nod by Caldwell. In the times that Bush did get the start, he failed to move the needle significantly in his favor.
Outlook for 2017
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent
Bush did not have the best 2016, but the Lions are lacking depth across the secondary. For not being a starter, he still saw the field quite often, although his stats were far from elite. While he proved his health this season, it is hard to see Bush getting too much more than the one-year, $1 million deal he received last offseason. Losing Bush would not cripple the team, but with Quin, Wilson and Don Carey all set to become free agents after next season, the Lions need to plan ahead, whether it is through the draft or through free agency.