The Detroit Lions’ first wave of free agency came with some significant signings. They found themselves a new starting right tackle in Halapoulivaati Vaitai, a huge upgrade at the linebacker position in veteran Jamie Collins Sr., and Nick Williams, a defensive tackle that will be part of what is expected to be a new-and-improved rotation.
But their work is far from over. They still have plenty of cap room, and they have a ton of needs to still address. And seeing as there are still plenty of talented players out there in free agency, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Lions have another active day on Tuesday.
Here’s a look at the top remaining free agents that would look nice in a Detroit Lions uniform with a focus on Detroit’s biggest needs.
The Lions don’t have a huge pressing need at running back, but it seems quite likely they’ll bring in a veteran to help build competition and perhaps even push for a big role.
In the past few years, they’ve failed to get a talented free agent thumper, whiffing on both C.J. Anderson and LeGarrette Blount. They have plenty of options this year for the same role and could go with either Carlos Hyde or even NFL-CAREER-DEATH-DEFYING Frank Gore. Devonta Freeman and Melvin Gordon are younger options that likely come with a bigger price tag. And, yes, I just threw Dion Lewis in there because he’s a former Patriot. He hasn’t been good the past two seasons in Tennessee.
Greg Van Roten
With Graham Glasgow now headed to Denver, the Lions’ situation at both guard positions is unclear. Detroit could do a guard swap with Denver’s Connor McGovern, who provides the same type of versatility that Glasgow brought, splitting his time over the past three years at center and right guard. Not yet 27, he’ll likely be a bit expensive for Detroit, and it’s clear they don’t want to spend too much on the position.
Therefore, they may go the cheaper, veteran route of Ronald Leary (30), Mike Iupati (33) or Greg Van Roten (30).
UPDATE: Dave Birkett says the Lions are “strongly in the mix” for Van Roten.
Although they already signed Williams, Adam Caplan indicated that the Lions aren’t done with their defensive line. Given the mass exodus of Damon Harrison Sr. and potentially A’Shawn Robinson and Mike Daniels, it only makes sense the Lions will double dip at defensive tackle this free agency.
Luckily for the Lions, plenty of talent remains in the free agency pool. Reader is the big name that will command the most money—and I think he’s worth it—but the Lions could get a similar skill set in a guy like Marcell Dareus, who will come far cheaper.
Danny Shelton is the all-too-obvious Patriots connection, but a legitimate option as the team’s new, young nose tackle. While Michael Pierce is likely moving on from the Ravens after they shelled out to get Michael Brockers.
Chris Harris Jr.
There’s a lot of veteran talent still left in the cornerback market after Byron Jones landed his $16.5 million per year deal with the Dolphins. At this point, it may simply be down to fit and price. Obviously Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills—the latter of which has already been linked to Detroit—are the two names to keep an eye on, as new defensive coordinator Cory Undlin has strong ties to both.
Chris Harris Jr. was reportedly a target at the trade deadline, but it’s unclear his fit in Detroit, as he’s more highly regarded in the slot, and the Lions just spent a lot to get Justin Coleman last year. Logan Ryan is your former Patriot du jour and Trae Waynes is still plenty young (27), but probably won’t come cheap.
The Lions have a young crew of safeties in Tracy Walker and Will Harris, but there’s not much depth behind those players with real experience. The easiest solution is to probably just bring back Tavon Wilson, but it appears the Lions are at least allowing him to test the market.
Rodney McLeod isn’t the greatest fit for what they need—he’s more of a free safety—but his connection to Undlin is important. He, like many of the Eagles’ 2019 secondary, is coming off a serious injury, too. Vonn Bell is a versatile piece that can play in the box, or even cover as a slot corner. At age 25, though, he wouldn’t exactly bring a veteran presence to the position. Finally, Clayton Geathers plays a little bit of everything, but specializes in run defense—something that is sure to catch Matt Patricia’s eye.