As free agency approaches, we will look back at the Detroit Lions roster, examining expectations coming into the season and evaluating players’ futures with the team.
Today we look at defensive end Eli Harold.
Eli Harold, DE
Expectations before 2018:
Looking to add some depth just before the season, the Lions traded a conditional 2020 seventh-round pick to San Francisco 49ers for Harold. Detroit’s front seven was an evident weak spot, especially after losing linebacker Steve Longa to a torn ACL in the preseason. They had just shown issues with stopping the run in a preseason loss to the New York Giants, so Detroit signed Harold, who tallied 57 tackles and five sacks in three years with the 49ers. Physically gifted with speed and agility, he was figured to play a similar role as Devon Kennard, and provide some rotational relief.
Actual role in 2018:
2018 stats: 13 games (0 starts): 10 tackles, 4.0 sacks, 1 pass defended
PFF grade: 58.6
Initially upset by the trade, Harold immersed himself in Patricia’s revamped defensive scheme. He made nearly an instant splash on the field and though used rotationally as evident by his zero starts, proved to be a solid backup for Kennard. He tallied a career-high four sacks -- two at the expense of the New England Patriots -- although he registered a career-low 10 tackles. But when it came defensive ends, the Lions heavily relied on Romeo Okwara, who played almost 73 percent of snaps, compared to Harold’s 19 percent.
Outlook for 2019:
Contract Status: Unrestricted free agent
Under Patricia’s complicated defensive scheme, Harold had his best year in the league. He has proven he can thrive under coach’s leadership, and has time to grow, at only 25 years old. But the Lions need an upgrade at pass rusher -- despite tallying up 43 total sacks, the Lions sat in the bottom five teams in quarterback hits. Now the question is whether Harold fits into plans for improvement in that area of weakness, or if the Lions need to move on.