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2019 Detroit Lions free agents: List of players with expiring contracts

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A full list of Lions players whose contracts are expiring in 2019.

Chicago Bears v Detroit Lions Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images

Once the Detroit Lions finish topping off their coaching staff for the 2019 season, they will have to move quickly on some roster decisions. Free agency is a mere two months away, and the Lions front office will have plenty of other events—East/West Shrine Game, Senior Bowl, NFL Combine, etc— that will keep them busy before then.

So before we start delving into the 2019 free agent class from other teams, let’s look inwards at the Lions players that could be hitting free agency should the Lions decide not to re-sign them before March 13, when the new league year begins.

Here’s a list of the Lions pending free agents, listed by the type of free agent.

Unrestricted free agents (16)

Unrestricted free agents are players that have four or more accrued seasons in the NFL and have a contract expiring. The Lions are able to re-sign any of these players at any time, but once March 13 comes, they are free to sign with any team.

Offense

QB Matt Cassel
RB LeGarrette Blount
FB Nick Bellore
RB Zach Zenner
TE Luke Willson
TE Levine Toilolo
WR TJ Jones
WR Bruce Ellington
OT Andrew Donnal

Defense

DE Ezekiel Ansah
DT Ricky Jean Francois
DE Eli Harold
LB Kelvin Sheppard
CB Marcus Cooper
CB DeShawn Shead

Special Teams:

LS Don Muhlbach

As you can see, a lot of these players were signed to one-year prove-it deals last offseason. Players like Luke Willson, DeShawn Shead and LeGarrette Blount failed to make a positive impact, and don’t seem likely to return. On the other hand, Levine Toilolo, Ricky Jean Francois and Eli Harold (traded for) may stick around on a new deal.

Elsewhere, Zach Zenner proved enough down the stretch to likely earn another shot in Detroit, while guys like Ezekiel Ansah and TJ Jones seem like their time with the Lions is finally over.

Restricted free agents (2)

Restricted free agents are players with expiring contracts that have exactly three accrued seasons. The Lions have the option to place four different kinds of tenders on these players: first round, second round, original round or right to refusal tender. (If you want to learn more about these tenders, our own Andrew Kato explains them here.)

The basic gist here is that the Lions could offer any of the following players a tender, which gives them a chance to match any offer they get in free agency from another team. The Lions could also not give these players a tender at all, in which case they would become an unrestricted free agent on March 13.

DE Romeo Okwara
DE Kerry Hyder

Exclusive rights free agent (3)

An exclusive rights free agent (ERFA) is a player that has two or fewer accrued seasons and can be kept around for an extremely affordable deal. The Lions have the option of giving these players really cheap ERFA offers (think in the $500,00-700,000 range). If offered, those players must either accept the deal or sit the 2019 season out—hence “exclusive rights.”

DE Mitchell Loewen*
LB Steve Longa
S Charles Washington

*Note: It’s unclear whether Loewen is an RFA or ERFA. I believe he only has two accrued seasons after spending all of 2016 on the NFI list, but it’s possible he has three, which would make him an RFA. Unfortunately, the NFL doesn’t provide strict data on this.