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
Bryant was a player the Lions added during Week 5 in preparation for a matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles. After getting off to a rocky start, going 1-3 to open up the 2016 campaign, one of the most pressing needs for Detroit was edge pressure. Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah was still on the mend from a high ankle sprain and the Lions needed someone to log snaps to spell Devin Taylor and/or Kerry Hyder.
After serving a four-game suspension to begin the season, the hope was that Bryant could return to his 2015 form, a season in which he recorded 5.5 sacks and showed some promise.
Actual role in 2016
2016 stats: 5 games | 4 tackles, 1 assist, 3.0 sacks
The expectations for Bryant’s impact were admittedly limited considering the time of his arrival, but in his first bit of action in 2016, Bryant immediately made his presence felt. On Philadelphia’s first drive, Bryant got to rookie Carson Wentz on third-and-5 to force a punt on fourth-and-7. And while Bryant only received 19 snaps in that first game, the fact that he added something to a front four that was lacking in the push department was meaningful.
His snap count remained relatively consistent for the next three weeks, tallying two more sacks in that time, but on November 1, Bryant was once again suspended by the NFL for violating its substance abuse policy. After being suspended, the Lions released a statement backing Bryant:
"When we signed Armonty, we knew additional discipline from the NFL was a possibility due to an incident that occurred in 2015. Since joining our team, Armonty has met our expectations on and off the field."
Armonty would return to the field for Week 13 against New Orleans, playing a season-high 27 snaps on defense. The day after, on December 5, Bryant was placed on season-ending IR with a knee injury.
Outlook for 2017
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent
Although Bryant will be free to negotiate with any team once free agency starts, it would seem as though Detroit should have the inside track on retaining the defensive end. The Lions acquired Bryant after serving a suspension, knew there was a possibility he could be suspended again and stuck with him when that possibility became a reality.
Not every need can be addressed in a single offseason, as evidenced by Detroit’s 2016 offseason. Quinn made strides in shoring up the offensive line, adding players to bolster the depth along that unit, but the team struggled to find an answer to its problem at linebacker. The checklist for this offseason is pretty extensive on the defensive side of the ball, and at multiple positions no less.
He’s had his share of problems off the field, but after Bryant’s second suspension, the team did nothing but compliment his ability to meet their expectations both on and off the field. Bryant is a player that could come back to the team next season, much cheaper than Devin Taylor—who could command somewhere in the neighborhood of $6M per year on the open market—and serve a similar role at a fraction of the cost. He’s shown an ability to be an effective pass rusher in limited snaps, and that’s what the Lions could be in need of after the dust has settled this offseason.
Previously profiled Lions: Riley Reiff, Anquan Boldin, Dan Orlovsky, Devin Taylor, Rafael Bush, Don Muhlbach, Larry Warford, Andre Roberts, TJ Jones, Kerry Hyder, Jon Bostic, Marvin Jones, Alex Carter, Tim Wright