It’s been no secret that the Detroit Lions’ front seven is the biggest weakness on the roster, and finally with just two weeks left until the regular season, general manager Bob Quinn is doing something about it.
The Lions are reportedly trading for San Francisco 49ers linebacker Eli Harold, per MLive’s Kyle Meinke. Harold is a 2015 third-round pick (interestingly picked directly before the Lions took cornerback Alex Carter) who has bounced between outside linebacker in a 3-4 system and SAM linebacker in a 4-3 look. Harold hasn’t missed a game since entering the league and has amassed 85 tackles and 5.0 sacks in 24 total starts.
That kind of versatility is exactly what head coach Matt Patricia is looking for at the linebacker position. While Harold isn’t exactly a dominant pass rusher, he’s a solid run defender, earning a run defense grade of 62.4 from Pro Football Focus (56.6 overall).
Having lost Steve Longa to a torn ACL injury, the Lions were in need of some solid linebacker depth. Harold may not be a starter right away, but he should compete with the likes of Christian Jones and Jonathan Freeny for some playing time this year. He will almost certainly see some work on the edge in the defensive rotation, similar to a role that Devon Kennard currently holds.
It’s worth noting that Harold did suffer a minor knee injury in the preseason opener, but it wasn’t considered serious, and he ended up playing in last week’s game against the Texans.
Harold is on the last year in his rookie deal, which will cost the Lions’ $1.9 million in cap space. If he works out in Detroit, the Lions could obviously extend him next offseason. If not, the Lions aren’t on the hook beyond 2018.
The Lions are reportedly sending a conditional 2020 seventh-round pick in return.
The Lions are trading for San Francisco OLB Eli Harold, per source. Giving up a conditional seventh-round pick in 2020 in return— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) August 23, 2018
Update: The Lions have now confirmed the trade and have announced that they have waived defensive tackle JoJo Wicker to make room on the roster.
Update #2: ESPN’s Adam Schefter has an update on the conditions that must be met for the trade:
Comp update: Lions traded a conditional 7th-round pick in 2020 to the 49ers for LB Eli Harold, per source. The condition is that Harold has to be on Lions' roster for four weeks.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 23, 2018