One of the most common mantras for NFL free agency is that you cannot build a team through free agency, it must be the draft. The logic is somewhat sound. If you draft well, you can have great players at discount prices. While in free agency, you’re competing to be the highest bidder for players that were let go by their former teams. You tend to overpay, and the talent level may not be as good as young, high-potential rookies.
But there are plenty of counterexamples to this strategy. Just last year, the Jacksonville Jaguars went on a shopping spree in free agency and it helped the team jump from a pathetic 3-13 to a legitimate AFC Championship contender in just one year.
Based on more current results, teams can actually find some pretty good talent in free agency, and it has paid off for plenty of teams in the past.
The Detroit Lions are at a bit of a crossroads right now. Having fully decided that 9-7 is no longer acceptable with their current set of players, 2018 is a crucial year for their future. With free agency just a couple weeks away, general manager Bob Quinn has a big decision to make: Go all-in on free agency and make an aggressive move for an immediate deep playoff run or be fiscal with the Lions’ cash and make sure the Lions aren’t selling their future for an immediate, short-term bump.
So today’s Question of the Day is:
How aggressive should the Lions be in free agency?
My answer: Obviously, the Lions will try to strike some sort of balance between the two ends of the spectrum. They don’t want to shell out every penny for three to four guys, but at the same time, they’re not going to sign 10 backups with their $44 million in cap space.
I’d like to see them go out and get one or two “big names” and round out the rest with depth and rotational players. My ideal scenario is that the Lions pick up a starter on the offensive line and a starter on the defensive line in free agency, then fill out the rest of the roster with depth in free agency.
That would likely free up the Lions to be a little more flexible with their draft picks, rather than be pigeonholed with their first few picks, like they were with linebacker—and to a lesser extent, left tackle—in the past couple years.
There is a sense of urgency right now, so I get the pressure to be super aggressive in free agency, but Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia want to be in Detroit for the long-term, and it’s always important to keep your eyes on the future. I want the Lions to be good in 2018, but I want them to continue to be good in 2019 and 2020 and 2021. So the Lions need to be at least a little conservative in free agency.