We continue our series of reviewing every player from the 2017 season with yet another restricted free agent: Linebacker Brandon Copeland.
Expectations before 2017
After a standout year on special teams in 2016, Brandon Copeland was poised to get more play on defense last season. Copeland was especially valuable to the Lions because of his versatility. He could play both defensive end and linebacker, which just happened to be two the Lions’ weakest positions.
Copeland wasn’t expected to be a starter in 2017, but after playing just 135 defensive snaps the year before, many believed he was due for a much bigger role.
Actual role in 2017
2017 stats: 0 games — Placed on IR in preseason (torn pectoral)
PFF Grade: N/A
Sadly, Copeland tore his pectoral in the Lions’ preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts. He was in the midst of being groomed to play defensive end, because Ezekiel Ansah was still on the PUP list, Cornelius Washington was struggling with an injury and Armonty Bryant was facing a four-game suspension.
Copeland’s injury left the Lions even more shorthanded at defensive end and linebacker. The Lions continued to struggle with depth at those positions throughout the entire year.
Copeland had surgery on his torn pectoral and was immediately placed on injured reserve, ending his season.
Outlook for 2017
Contract status: Restricted free agent
It has been six months since Copeland has torn his pectoral, meaning he should be more than ready to go by the time OTAs come around in April. But will the Lions keep him around for another year?
Copeland originally joined the Lions in 2015—before general manager Bob Quinn joined the team. But the team decided to re-sign him twice, both in 2016 and 2017.
We all know Quinn’s affinity for players that can contribute on special teams, and Copeland fits that bill. But he could also be a valuable tool for new head coach Matt Patricia. His familiarity with both the linebacker and defensive end positions could come in handy for Patricia, who has toyed with moving back and forth between 3-4 and 4-3 fronts in the past.
Copeland recently spoke with the Detroit Free Press and expressed interest in working with Patricia. “I love looking at the Patriots defense and seeing how guys are put in a position to succeed and that put you in position,” Copeland said. “They like Swiss army knives like myself.”
For that reason, it is more than reasonable for the Lions to keep Copeland around for one more year and let him compete for a roster spot again.
What should the Lions do with Brandon Copeland?
This poll is closed
Offer 1st-round tender
Offer 2nd-round tender
Offer original-round tender (undrafted)
Let him go
Previously: RB Zach Zenner