The Detroit Lions have signed five new players already during this free agency—though the team has only confirmed four of them. Additionally, the Lions have re-signed a few player and made one, surprising cut. As a result, the team’s depth chart already looks fairly different.
Let’s take a look at where the team stands after the first two days of free agency and what that means for the team looking forward:
QB: Matthew Stafford | Jake Rudock
RB: Ameer Abdullah | Theo Riddick | Zach Zenner | Dwayne Washington | Mike James
FB: Michael Burton
WR: Golden Tate | Jace Billingsley | TJ Jones | Keshawn Martin
WR: Marvin Jones Jr. | Ryan Spadola | Jared Abbrederis | Andrew Turzilli
TE: Eric Ebron | Darren Fells | Cole Wick | Kennard Backman | Khari Lee
LT: Taylor Decker | Corey Robinson
LG: Graham Glasgow | Joe Dahl | Brandon Thomas
C: Travis Swanson
RG: T.J. Lang | Laken Tomlinson | Matt Rotherham
RT: Rick Wagner | Pierce Burton | Cornelius Lucas
DE: Ezekiel Ansah | Brandon Copeland
DT: Haloti Ngata | Khyri Thornton
DT: A’Shawn Robinson | Akeem Spence
DE: Kerry Hyder | Cornelius Washington | Anthony Zettel
OLB: Paul Worrilow | Antwione Williams | Thurston Armbrister | Brandon Chubb
MLB: Tahir Whitehead | Steve Longa
CB: Darius Slay | Alex Carter | Johnson Bademosi |
CB: Nevin Lawson | Ian Wells
CB: D.J. Hayden | Quandre Diggs | Adairius Barnes
SS: Tavon Wilson | Miles Killebrew | Rolan Milligan
FS: Glover Quin | Don Carey | Charles Washington
Top five remaining needs (in order of need)
1. Linebacker: With the release of DeAndre Levy, the Lions made a team weakness even weaker. The signing of Paul Worrilow works as a depth addition, but the Falcons learned over the past three years that he is best used as a special teams player. Many were looking to have Tahir Whitehead replaced as a starter this year, but that seems unlikely now. Instead, Detroit’s highest priority should be finding a guy to play alongside him.
2. Defensive end: Like last year, the Lions find themselves in desperate need of an edge rusher opposite Ezekiel Ansah. In 2016, Detroit didn’t find their guy. This year, they’ll have to look to the draft, where many see an impressive draft class waiting. Cornelius Washington is a nice addition to the group with a high upside and still plenty of years ahead of him, but he just isn’t a starter.
3. Tight end: Detroit has a clear need at tight end behind Eric Ebron. In 2016, 39.3 percent of snaps had a tight end not named Eric Ebron on the field and they were all pretty bad. Right now the depth chart looks even worse.
Thankfully, the Lions appear to know this and have been chasing a few free agent tight ends already. The Lions are aggressively chasing Jared Cook, who is also considering joining the Seahawks. Additionally, Detroit is eyeing a more blocking-focused tight end in Darren Fells, who reportedly visited the team on Friday. UPDATE: The Lions have signed Fells to a one-year deal.
4. Defensive tackle: The Lions don’t have a pass-rushing defensive tackle on their roster. That’s not A’Shawn Robinson’s game, that’s not Haloti Ngata’s game and that’s not newly-acquired Akeem Spence’s game. Detroit also brought back restricted free agent Khyri Thornton on a two-year deal, but Detroit needs both a starting level talent and depth here. I expect both another small scale free agent signing and a high draft pick being used on this position.
5. Wide receiver: Detroit really has two needs here: a slot receiver to replace Anquan Boldin, and a special teams option to replace free agent Andre Roberts. The Lions could be filling the latter role with Corey Brown, who the Lions are bringing in for a visit. UPDATE: The Lions signed Keshawn Martin, who has return experience.
The Lions could wait on Boldin and hold off on making a decision regarding the slot position, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be back.