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6 top free agent, waiver wire targets for Detroit Lions

The Lions may have finished their 53-man roster cut but the team is not yet a finished product.

NFL: NFC Divisional Playoff-New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

While teams around the NFL have completed their final preseason cuts and set their initial 53-man rosters, the roster that teams plan on opening the season with are all but completed. Over 1,100 players just became available and while a majority of them do not have what it takes to contribute at the NFL level there are a few hidden gems in there. Detroit still has a few needs on it’s roster, and while none of the players available will be stars—otherwise they wouldn’t be available—there still is some talent out there the Lions could use.

Brian Robison (DE – Vikings)

The Vikings choosing to let go of defensive end Brian Robison on cut day was probably the most shocking move made league wide. While Robison doesn’t have the stand out talent that his former teammates Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen have, coming off of the edge he still has a lot to contribute. The 11-year veteran has spent his entire NFL career as a Viking. Rumors emerged early in summer that the 2018 season might be his last but Detroit would be smart to let him finish his career in the Motor City.

Robison had 4.0 sacks last season and was a member of the Vikings devastating pass rush rotation. He was on the field for majority of their passing downs and still has a lot in the tank. Their will be a market for his talents and Detroit will have some competition for his services. If the Lions can grab him, though, then he can bring some of the pass rushing help they desperately need.

Michael Johnson (DE – Bengals)

The Cincinnati Bengals are a team with a wealth of talent on the defensive line and unfortunately some of that talent had to go. Michael Johnson became the odd man out in Cincinnati and their loss may be a huge gain for Detroit. Johnson is a versatile defensive end that can also take a lot of snaps on the interior. He had 5.0 sacks and 35 total tackles last season as he started 15 games for the Bengals.

Johnson’s versatility would allow him to fill a similar role to the one that Robert Ayers would have filled for Detroit if he survived more than a day on the roster. He gives the Lions some needed pass penetration from the interior while also having the ability to rush from the edge. Johnson could easily start on this team and would possibly walk in the locker room as the team’s best defensive lineman.

Marquis Flowers (LB - Patriots)

New England made a surprise last minute cut at the 4 pm deadline by choosing to let go of linebacker Marquis Flowers. Flowers played in all 16 games for New England last season and totaled 3.5 sacks and 23 total tackles. He was acquired by the Patriots for a seventh round pick from the Cincinnati Bengals before the 2017 season. The former sixth round pick over performed his draft placement last season but New England ultimately decided to go in another direction. It is likely that Lions will take interest in him due to his familiarity playing under Matt Patricia.

Flowers is a decent coverage linebacker, a place where the Lions need a lot of help at the moment. It is possible that he would be able to compete with Christian Jones for the weakside linebacker role if he is brought into Detroit. If anything he will provide depth at a position the Lions are especially thin at.

Scooby Wright (LB – Cardinals)

The Arizona Cardinals choosing to waive linebacker Scooby Wright on Friday was a surprising move. He was arguably one of the best backup linebackers on the roster and had a great preseason. Wright was a sixth-round pick by the Cleveland Browns in the 2016 draft but was waived and put on the practice squad early into his rookie season. The Cardinals grabbed him off of their practice squad and bounced him between the active roster and practice squad all of the 2017 season.

Wright plays a majority of his snaps as a middle linebacker and will help solidify a position that the Lions are incredibly shallow at. He can back up Jarrad Davis and is a young talent that may be able to develop into a future role player.

Vincent Valentine (DT - Patriots)

Defensive tackle is the weakest position on the Lions roster at the moment and Vincent Valentine can provide some of the depth they desperately need. Valentine was drafted by the Patriots in the third round in 2016. He didn’t play much in his rookie season and ended up finishing the year with one sack and 11 total tackles. A knee injury he suffered in 2017 preseason cost him his sophomore year and the Patriots chose to waive him entering the season.

Valentine is still a player with a lot of potential and has experience playing with Patricia in the past. It is unsure whether or not the knee injury he suffered has any long-term concerns, but adding a pass penetrating defensive tackle, something the Lions lack at the moment, would be a huge boost to the team’s front seven.

Clive Walford (TE – Jets)

Tight end is easily the weakest position on the Detroit Lions offense at the moment. The status of probable starter Luke Willson is still in doubt after he suffered a knee injury in the preseason, and other than UDFA Hakeem Valles, no one else stood out at all over the past month. Clive Walford was just released by the Jets after signing with them early in the offseason. Walford is coming off of a down year in Oakland, only catching nine passes for 80 yards last season, but he has proven that he can contribute in the past. In his first two seasons in the NFL, he caught 51 passes for 688 yards and six touchdowns.

Walford won’t be a star at tight end but he will add some receiving talent into the rotation. None of the Lions current tight ends have proven themselves as effective receivers in the past either, and Walford could easily be the second best guy on the team. If Willson’s knee injury is serious, then the Lions will need to add a player of Walford’s caliber to help the offense.

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.