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Lions Roundtable: Should the Lions be buyers or sellers at trade deadline?

With a little less than a week until this season’s trade deadline, what side of the bargaining table should the Lions be sitting on?

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

First things first, if you’re unfamiliar with our roundtable or how it works, check out our archive and some of our most recent discussions from this season:

It’s been almost seven months since our last roundtable discussion, but right now—maybe more so than ever—it’s appropriate to conjure up those spirits. Time for the staff to pick sides on how this football team should position itself as the NFL season nears its self-imposed trade deadline.

Should the Lions be buyers or sellers at trade deadline?

Ryan Mathews: Alright, everyone. I called you here to pick a side and a side you shall pick. You can’t be on the fence. Should you choose to be indecisive, I’ll have your good username name muddied through the streets of Twitter dot com.

Jeremy Reisman: Uhhhh... I probably shouldn’t go first, then.

Ryan: “Fearless leader.”

Hamza Baccouche: I will! I think the Lions should sell—but not a Miami Dolphins sell, more so a Philadelphia Eagles sell. Howie Roseman built his contending roster—this season aside—by stockpiling draft picks, a practice that Bill Belichick and the Patriots are very familiar with.

Bob Quinn has been trending towards having more and more draft picks in recent years, and I think if the Lions keep playing close games like they have thus far in the season, MattPat & BQ will get another year’s leash even if they miss the playoffs. That means they need to stockpile picks to address glaring needs like linebacker, guard, and edge rusher in 2019, and with immediate impact players rather than long term projects.

So in short, sell. I’m really not sure who. But if the Lions have fat on the roster they can trim, I don’t see why not. This isn’t an all-in season, they can’t make transactions like it is.

Andrew Kato: Hamza has the main problem for the Lions pegged. There is not really much fat on the roster to trim to begin with. I want to be in the “non-Miami sell” camp, but at this point, anything being traded away is going to either be muscle itself or will drag a lot of muscle with it. The biggest contracts on the payroll are either newly-signed like Trey Flowers or the Snacks extension with guaranteed money, or are for established veteran players with a lot of bonus money that would be accelerated like Rick Wagner. All of the players with big cap numbers remaining on the Lions have considerable bonus (read: dead) money attached.

If we are not talking about the big cap figure players, then it is young talent. Does anyone really want to trade away Kenny Golladay or Kerryon Johnson? I don’t think so. How about Jarrad Davis? Certainly some team out there would be interested, but the Lions could not possibly expect to get much in return considering his lackluster play. Obviously Davis has done more on the field than Kyle Van Noy ever did in Detroit, but remember how little the team got for that former second-round pick?

Jeremy: In my opinion, the only tradable asset on this team that would be worth any sort of consideration is Darius Slay. His talent is undeniable, his future with the team is very much in the air, and his contract is a relative bargain for the next 1.5 seasons.

That all being said, can we talk about the emotional toll this would take on the team? Last year, the Lions traded Golden Tate and we saw what happened the rest of the year. This year, who’s ready to see the defensive fallout after trading away Darius Slay? What kind of message would you be sending to the locker room by trading off two of this franchise’s best players over the past decade?

Oh, and you know this upcoming offseason where pass rusher, linebacker, offensive tackle, offensive guard and wide receiver are all pressing needs? Well, good luck, because now cornerback jumps to the top of that list.

DON’T. SELL. This team is far from rebuilding mode.

Andrew: That is a good point. As Hamza mentioned above, the team is not all-in, but Jeremy is right that they are not in rebuilding mode; a lot of the contracts have been structured to really make a push in 2019. Think back to the Okwara two-year extension and the Jesse James contract signings with phantom years. Heck, even Flowers. A lot of those deals were made with very low up-front costs but have rapid escalation built into the later years.

Ryan: As evidenced by the trade the Patriots made earlier this morning for Mohamed Sanu, teams in contention are willing to move draft capital for skill position players. Philadelphia did it last year with Tate, A.J. Green is the subject of many trade rumors—even though the Bengals aren’t publicly making him available, no team in contention can ever have enough weapons. So I think another viable trade asset on the Lions roster, in addition to the aforementioned Slay, is Marvin Jones Jr. Coming off the heels of a four-touchdown performance, he literally couldn’t be sold at any higher value.

Andrew: Side note here. Marvin’s contract is structured in such a way that trading him gives the recipient team his services for the remainder of this season plus one more year at age 30 for $6.5 million. The Lions would eat the remaining restructure and bonus ($2.7 million in dead money), so he is indeed an attractive piece to offer.

Ryan: Exactly. Now, I’m not advocating for the team to be sellers, but I definitely want them to pick a side rather than stand pat at the deadline. I think this team is closer to being competitive than it is to being a fledgling. I was on board with the Lions going all-in and trading for Jalen Ramsey, but ultimately, I’m glad they dropped out of that race considering the cost.

Jeremy: Now all that being said, I’m not exactly TEAM BUY, either. I think the much speculated acquisition of Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake sounds reasonable for a fifth or sixth-round pick. Detroit has clearly futzed with their running back corps all season, and Drake brings some promise and short-term relief while Kerryon Johnson gets his knee sorted out. A small whimper at the trade deadline is fine with me. This team is not desperate in either direction. Fergodsakes, we were talking about how this team could compete with anyone like three days ago.

Andrew: I’mma just leave this here.

Jeremy: It’s a half-year rental. Low risk, potential medium reward.

Ryan: I’m in agreement with Jeremy on Drake. Kerryon’s injury could keep him out for multiple weeks according to Adam Schefter, and I don’t think a backfield of Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic inspires a ton of confidence. Then again, neither does rotating in Kenny Wiggins...

But let me throw out one more name for everyone to weigh-in on before we get out of here.

Jeremy: The suspense is killing me.

Andrew: Same. I keep refreshing the page but nothing happens.

*Twenty minutes later*

Ryan: Leonard Williams.

With the least efficient pass rush in the NFL and the New York Jets firmly entrenched in a rebuild, Williams could be a huge boost to the Lions defensive line—and he could be very available all the way until next Tuesday’s deadline. I know he’s not the best pass rusher, but we know the Lions can’t stop the run either. Williams would help on that front.

Andrew: For the curious, Williams is in the last year of his rookie deal, was actually the player named as a likely deadline target for the Lions by Bleacher Report, and is drawing interest from multiple teams. Per Adam Schefter:

Last year the Jacksonville Jaguars traded defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. to the Los Angeles Rams for third- and fifth-round picks.

The price for Williams, who is in the last year of his rookie contract, likely would be in a similar range or higher. It could get interesting if a team makes a strong push for Williams before the Oct. 29 deadline.

Jeremy: I’d really only be okay with that kind of spending if they had immediate plans to extend him. He’s basically what the Lions were hoping they were getting with Mike Daniels, but five years younger. He’d be a good long-term addition, but Da’Shawn Hand ideally fills that role at a cheaper price. I’d like the move, but I’m not exactly pounding the table for it.

Andrew: Since we are throwing out defensive buys, I’ll put a low-priced one out there. How about sending a sixth-round pick to Washington for outside linebacker Ryan Anderson? Anderson is a young, former second-round selection who lost his role on that defense to Montez Sweat. He can rush the passer and still has another rookie deal year in 2020.

Washington is getting mediocre value from him on the field (special teams and roughly 25 defensive snaps per game), so they might be willing to talk about trading him. Given how awful the stable of linebackers on Detroit’s roster looks and how little pass rush is being generated, why not take a chance here? It could be like how New England took a young Van Noy off our hands and found him a role.


Should the Lions be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline?

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