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Roster Review: Could CB DeShawn Shead step up in 2019?

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Though equipped with defensive versatility, Shead struggled to compete for a starting cornerback spot opposite Slay.

Detroit Lions v Miami Dolphins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

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 cornerback DeShawn Shead.

DeShawn Shead, CB
Expectations before 2018:

Detroit first signed Shead to a one-year deal worth $3.35 million in March 2018. Having spent six seasons in Seattle, the Lions hoped to add some experienced depth to their thin secondary. Shead was expected to compete against Teez Tabor and Nevin Lawson for a starting cornerback spot opposite Darius Slay. His versatility likely made him appealing to Matt Patricia, having played all five positions in the Seahawks’ secondary. He did miss a chunk of the 2017 season with a torn ACL, but that didn’t seem to deter the Lions.

Shead practiced across from Slay during the first few weeks of training camp but failed to shine. Another injury didn’t help things much -- strained quadriceps kept him off the field for two preseason games. He saw a solid share playing time in the preseason finale against the Cleveland Browns, as Patricia evaluated his talent in various defensive roles. But come the deadline less than 48 hours later, Shead was a roster cut. However, Slay suffered a concussion a few weeks later and Shead was re-signed.

Actual role in 2018:
2018 Stats: 12 games (1 start): 18 tackles, one forced fumble
PFF Grade: 60.6

Shead played a reserve role on defense, starting just once in Week 10 while Slay was out with a knee injury. Throughout the season, the Lions heavily relied on their top two cornerbacks who were able to stay healthy most of the time -- Lawson playing 89 percent of snaps and Slay playing 88.8 percent. From there, there was a major drop off in snap share as the Lions struggled to find the next guy to rely on, with Mike Ford at 32.1 percent, Teez Tabor at 28 percent and Shead at 25.2 percent. In Week 16, Shead left the Vikings game with a knee injury and was ruled out against the Packers. In late December, he was officially placed on injured reserve, while the Lions bumped cornerback Andre Chachere from the practice squad to the active roster.

Outlook:
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent

It’s clear Detroit needs an upgrade at cornerback. Signing Shead made sense -- add a veteran talent to complement Slay that’s skilled enough to integrate himself in the defensive scheme quickly -- but it didn’t pan out the way they’d hoped. They’ll be looking to the draft for defensive playmakers in talented defensive class. Couple inconsistent play with fairly consistent injuries and it’s hard to imagine the Lions make too much of a move to keep Shead around.