It seems like we’re always talking about the Detroit Lions’ need for a No. 2 cornerback. Whether it was upgrading the still-interception-less Nevin Lawson or just finding someone who can complement Darius Slay, the Lions have shuffled inadequate player after inadequate player at CB2 and then proceed to head into the following offseason in the hopes of another upgrade.
Unfortunately, 2019 appeared to be a re-run. The player was the different, but the results were mostly the same.
Let’s take a closer look at the impending free agency of cornerback Rashaan Melvin
Previously in this series: Miles Killebrew (click here)
Expectations before 2019
When the Lions signed Melvin to a one-year, $2.15 million deal, it was pretty clear he was on “prove-it” status. The No. 2 cornerback job was his to lose, but there was belief that Melvin could just as easily lose his job to “looking-better-than-ever” Teez Tabor or even fifth-round rookie Amani Oruwariye. However, an early injury to Tabor essentially handed Melvin the job.
Entering the season, many were conflicted on what to think of Melvin. He was coming off a terrible year in Oakland, but many—including Melvin himself—believed that was simply a product of coaches not playing him to his own strengths. There was promise in Melvin’s play from his time with the Colts, and his previous stint with the Patriots had some believing he’d slide right in and actually provide some consistent play.
Actual role in 2018
2019 Stats: 13 games (12 starts): 68 tackles, 11 passes defended
PFF Grade: 55.4 (67 of 83* qualifying cornerbacks)
*had to play at least 50% of snaps
Melvin got off to an extremely promising start, notching five passes defended in his first two games with Detroit. Unfortunately, his play would quickly drop off.
His big, physical nature made him a solid player in run defense and a good matchup against big-bodied No. 2 wide receivers, but the numbers pretty much tell the entire story. He allowed 52 receptions for 750 yards and four touchdowns and a passer rating of 110.6—the worst in his career as a starter. Yes, even worse than his year with the Raiders.
Toward the end of the season, it looked like fifth-round rookie Amani Oruwariye was going to take his job, but Melvin won it back after fighting through a nagging rib injury.
What should the Lions do with him?
Contract Status: Unrestricted free agent
The case for re-signing:
In terms of physical nature, Melvin is everything the Lions want in a No. 2 corner. He’s big, he long, and he’s got a good amount of speed to go with him.
As for the poor results on the field, Melvin was given a tough draw with Detroit’s lack of a pass rush. He was often asked to cover for longer than should be expected of a big, strong corner, so it’s no surprise he allowed so many catches.
Additionally, 11 passes broken up in just 13 games is actually a fairly significant upgrade from previous years. Nevin Lawson had nine passes broken up in the previous two seasons combined, despite starting 14 and 15 games respectively.
Also, Melvin should come fairly cheap. He didn’t do much to earn a pay raise and $2.15 million is a discount price to pay for a corner capable of starting. Bringing him back and throwing him into competition with a second-year Amani Oruwariye could net some positive results, especially if the Lions can help him out with some pass rush in 2020.
The case for letting him walk:
With Darius Slay’s future in the balance, the Lions need to get very serious about upgrading their cornerback position. No more half-measures. No more “he’s got big upside” signings. The Lions, who had one of the worst pass defenses in the league, need guys that are definitively good, and that means moving on from guys like Melvin.
We know by now that the Lions prioritize coverage over pass rush, and now it’s time to show it at cornerback. They need to make a splash move at the position, whether it’s through free agency, via a trade or using their top pick on a cornerback.
The Lions may already have someone better than Melvin in Oruwariye. Since he’s on a cheap rookie deal, it’s time for the Lions to go spending on a top-tier CB2.
I wouldn’t mind the Lions bringing back Melvin on an affordable deal for the team, but Detroit should not go into 2020 believing Melvin will be a starter. Let him compete for the job and give him a real chance in training camp, but the Lions absolutely need more talent at the position and can’t afford to go into next season with Slay, Oruwariye and Melvin as their top three outside corner options.
Overall, I think it’s probably best to simply move on. Keep Slay for another year if you can, continue to build confidence in Oruwariye, and either bring a Day 1 or 2 pick into the fold or sign a veteran free agent (Logan Ryan) to do work beside Slay while Oruwariye comes along.
What should the Lions do with Rashaan Melvin?
This poll is closed
Let him walk