Though the team hasn’t yet made it official, there are plenty of outlets now reporting that the Detroit Lions will be trading a conditional 2020 seventh-round pick for San Francisco 49ers edge defender Eli Harold.
We’ve already broke down what it means for the rest of the Lions’ roster, but what does that leave Detroit with? What does Harold bring and did the Lions get good value for him?
Well, let’s start with the second part first. The Lions only sent a conditional seventh-round pick to the 49ers, which is as close to free as you can get in a trade. But while the Lions didn’t have to pay San Francisco much to get him, they will have to pay Harold... and pay him around $1.9 million. Well, that is, if Harold makes the roster. The Lions could end up cutting Harold if things don’t work out and they’d get all of that cap space back.
So, the only real cost here is a roster spot, and the Lions have 90 of them right now. In other words, this is the least risky move you could make as a general manager and they got a guy who was scheduled to start for San Francisco. Value: A+
Devon Kennard is very clearly going to be the team’s starting edge defender on the left side of the defensive line. He’s been there all throughout camp, and the Lions have been giving him special attention nearly every day at practice.
What isn’t clear is who comes in when Kennard comes out? Kennard has only played over 55 percent of defensive snaps in a season once (74.6 in 2015), so this isn’t a guy you’d expect to keep on the field for all three downs throughout the game.
The Lions needed someone to be part of the rotation behind Kennard, and there was no clear leader in the clubhouse. Jeremiah Valoaga? Alex Barrett? Freddie Bishop? None of those names inspire a lot of confidence.
And while expectations should be severely tempered for a guy the 49ers unloaded for free, this was a clear position that needed an upgrade. I wouldn’t expect Harold to come in and immediately get a ton of playing time—remember, he has to learn Matt Patricia’s complicated defense first—but he’s clearly an athletically talented player that addresses a clear depth problem. Upgrade value: B
This is the ultimate question and one that probably won’t be answered until we see him on the field. As mentioned before, Harold is physically gifted:
Eli Harold is an elite athlete at DE, boasting amazing speed and agility. He was slightly undersized, and figures to play a similar role to Devon Kennard in this Lions defense. pic.twitter.com/X5FIZvYyoY— John Whiticar (@Wrath_of_John) August 23, 2018
But he has yet to turn those physical gifts into big NFL talent. His pass rush has been almost non-existent throughout his career, his coverage skills are horrible, and he’s graded out as just an average run defender.
If you’re expecting a guy that will be an above-average starter, your expectations are probably way too high. But the Lions got a depth guy that has versatility as both a hand-in-the-dirt edge rusher and a SAM linebacker, and professional experience doing both. He’s unlikely to drastically change the scope of the LIons’ defense, but he could certainly factor in this year. Talent: C-
Put it all together and the Lions got a high-upside guy with the versatility that Patricia craves in his defenders. The Lions essentially got him for free and don’t even have to keep him if they don’t like what they see. That kind of low-risk, high-reward move is just what this point in the offseason is all about. It’s hard not to see this as anything other than a pretty solid move. Overall grade: B+
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