It took the Detroit Lions all the way until the final 4 p.m. ET deadline on Saturday, but they finally cut the team down to the required 53-man roster.
There were a lot of surprises on cut day, as there almost always are, so here are our quick thoughts on all of the moves.
Tion Green makes it
I had never even considered the Lions keeping a fifth running back on the roster, but Green made the Lions’ decision tough with his 150-yard performance in the preseason finale against the Buffalo Bills. This may have been the most important play of the Lions’ entire preseason:
But don’t be fooled, Green also has value as a special teamer, as he promised to do earlier in the offseason.
There’s still a pretty good chance Green is inactive on game days, but a big congratulations are in order for the undrafted rookie.
Antwione Williams out, Nick Bellore in??
It was shocking enough to see the Lions keep six linebackers on the roster, but the biggest surprise of the day came when the Lions parted ways with their 2016 fifth-round pick, Antwione Williams. Williams was a starter at the beginning of camp, but fell all the way behind rookie Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Paul Worrilow, Steve Longa... and Nick Bellore?
If you haven’t heard of Bellore, I don’t blame you. He was unceremoniously signed in April. The six-year veteran has hung around in the NFL as mostly a special teams contributor for the Jets and 49ers.
With both Green and Bellore making the final roster, it’s clear the Lions continue to value special teams quite a bit.
Bob Quinn got a sixth-round pick for someone he was going to cut
Cornerback Johnson Bademosi was signed to a big contract for his special teams value last year. But when the Lions added three new cornerbacks to the roster this offseason—many with the same special teams value—Bademosi became extremely replaceable.
I didn’t think he was going to make the final roster, so the fact that Quinn was able to get a sixth-round pick from the Patriots for him is a big cherry on top.
The move saved $1.3 million in cap space, too.
The Lions are not done at defensive end
Two defensive end undrafted rookies—Alex Barrett and Jeremiah Valoaga—made the Lions’ 53-man roster. While the two made good cases for themselves in the preseason, the Lions cannot go into the regular season relying on one, or both, of those guys to see any playing time. They just aren’t ready yet.
Jared Abbrederis over Jace Billingsley was the right decision
While I love Jace to death, Abbrederis has more value to the team right now. The fifth receiver on the roster will get little-to-no playing time on offense this year, so they need to provide some sort of value on special teams. Billingsley had two preseason games to prove his worth as a returner and couldn’t do it.
Abbrederis, on the other hand, is an excellent gunner and could, in a pinch, return kicks as well. He was also the more polished route-runner and probably a better receiving option if the Lions get into injury trouble.
Finally, Billingsley is also more likely to pass through waivers. After Abbrederis was cut by the Packers in the middle of the season last year, he received several offers from other teams and turned them all down. Billingsley made it through waivers one time, and he could do it again. Although, it remains to be seen whether the Lions will be interested in bringing him back.