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Franchise tags remove Lions’ top defensive line options from free agent market

The Lions’ options at defensive line just got a lot more limited.

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Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

News from around the NFL came in a flurry on Monday afternoon as teams prepare for Tuesday’s NFL Combine. With free agency just over a week away, many teams took the necessary step to protect some of their best players from hitting free agency by slapping them with the franchise tag. The Detroit Lions were not among any teams to use the tag, but they were nonetheless affected by the moves around the NFL.

Arguably the Lions’ No. 1 need this offseason is a pass rusher. That could be a pass rusher from the defensive end, defensive tackle or even linebacker position. But after Monday’s transactiosn, the top tier pass rushers are no long on the board.

The Giants tagged Jason Pierre-Paul, the Cardinals tagged Chandler Jones, the Panthers tagged Kawann Short and the Chargers locked up Melvin Ingram. By placing the franchise tag on the players, those respective teams can now exclusively negotiate with their players when free agency hits. Teams can pretty much guarantee that player will return with, at least, a one-year deal next season. The only exception would be if a team decided to remove the tag, or if they used a non-exclusive franchise tag, which would allow other teams to offer a long-term deal. However, they would still get the opportunity to match that offer before losing their player to another team.

For the Lions, who were unlikely to get in a bidding war anyways, there are still some solid options out there. Though Pierre-Paul, Jones and Ingram were the top three edge rushers facing free agency according to Pro Football Focus, Detroit could still get starting talent in a guy like Nick Perry or Calais Campbell.

If the Lions aren’t happy with the remaining talent in the free agency pool, the good news is the NFL Draft is full of excellent defensive line prospects. Still, many Lions fans will be disappointed that they won’t even get a shot at some of the best that free agency never truly had to offer.

In other news, the Pittsburgh Steelers have franchised running back Le’Veon Bell, per Adam Schefter. That doesn’t come as much of a surprise considering how crucial he is to their offense. However, some dreamers thought there was a small chance he’d see the open market.

Additionally, the Chiefs are giving up a huge contract to their starting guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif:

That kind of deal could really set the market for Lions guard Larry Warford. That contract is way bigger than expected for the Chiefs offensive lineman, which means the market price for any other free agent guards is going to be outstanding. With several capable players on the bench, it seems unlikely the Lions are going to pursue Warford at a similar price.

Elsewhere, Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown became the highest-paid wide receiver in the league.

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