The NFL free agency period is all about building a better team for next season. However, as the likes of Albert Haynesworth and Brock Osweiler have shown us, a bad free agency can put your team behind by years.
With the Detroit Lions having multiple holes across the entire roster, it doesn’t seem like there are too many bad moves they could make. Realistically, the biggest issue would come with overpaying a player, but with the state of the 2019 season, the Lions might have to overpay to snag a star. However, there are still some moves that would not benefit the Lions.
Today’s Question of the Day is:
Which free agent should the Lions avoid?
My answer: I think the Lions should avoid Melvin Gordon. Signing a quarterback like Ryan Tannehill would obviously be a worse move, but Melvin Gordon seems like a realistic option, and one I would not approve of under most conditions.
Gordon held out for the start of the 2019 season, and the Chargers hardly noticed. Austin Ekeler put up 490 total yards in the four games that Gordon held out. Gordon, upon his return, managed 908 total yards over the final 14 games of the season. He hit 100 rushing yards just once, although he reached 99 yards as well. Ekeler was one of the most efficient backs in the league, and the Chargers rewarded the undrafted free agent with a four-year, $24.5 million contract. Gordon, meanwhile, will likely be looking elsewhere.
Running backs are a dangerous position to acquire in free agency. Despite having a shorter career than most other positions, running backs still tend to command significant salaries in free agency. The highest paid backs in the league are Todd Gurley, Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott, and Devonta Freeman. Of those players, how many have lived up to their contracts? Gurley’s performance plummeted in 2019, Bell struggled with the Jets in his first season, and Johnson and Freeman could be cap casualties.
Gordon, unlike the previously mentioned backs, is not entering free agency on a high note. His 2018 campaign was a success, but he failed to turn it into a sizable contract, and he played second fiddle to Ekeler in 2019. He wanted a lot money, and he likely still wants a lot of money, and I do not believe the Lions should be the ones to pay him. Gordon has failed to average 4.0 yards per carry or higher in four of his five seasons. Bo Scarbrough, signed off the streets, averaged 4.2 yards per carry last season in Detroit. Kerryon Johnson averaged 5.2 yards per carry in his rookie season.
While Johnson and Scarbrough have significant injury concerns, paying Gordon is not the solution. In general, paying running backs is not worth it. I would rather see the Lions draft a running back, and even that would not be ideal in my books. The Lions have some critical decisions to make in the offseason, and signing Gordon to a hefty contract could hamper their ability to improve elsewhere. A running back’s success is largely dependent on blocking, and the Lions should invest in that instead.
In a vacuum, would Gordon help the team? Probably. But given his cost, I would steer clear.