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
The Lions secondary had issues all season and was especially exploited in late-season games against the Giants and Cowboys. Because of injuries and struggles at the position, the Lions signed Crezdon Butler before Week 17 to help shore up a hurting cornerback group. Butler played less than 25 snaps with Detroit in 2015, but made one of the most memorable plays of the season which sealed a win in Green Bay against the Packers. The Lions were hoping he could produce this type of value again in 2016.
Actual role in 2016
2016 stats: 1 game (0 starts) | 3 tackles, 0 passes defended, 0 interceptions
Though the Lions signed him during the most crucial part of the season, they did not seem too interested in using Butler with much frequency. There was some thought that he would take over duties as the nickel cornerback, but he would end up playing just 19 total snaps between Week 17 and the playoffs. He did play a little bit of special teams as well, but he was only on the field 21 percent of the time during these plays.
A Pro Football Focus grade of 47.0 made Butler the sixth-best graded Lions cornerback and tenth-best defensive back on the team. The team was not expecting much out of him, but it seems like he was unable to even meet the low expectations that came with his signing.
Outlook for 2017
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent
Butler signed a one-year deal with an average annual value of $760,000 last December; bringing him back would probably mean another contract in this range. However, with five cornerbacks still under contract on the roster, he is unlikely to return. The Lions need to improve their secondary, and more depth is definitely needed, but re-signing Butler would not be a step in the right direction.
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, Armonty Bryant, Clay Harbor