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2021 Detroit Lions free agent profile: Reggie Ragland is decent depth, but a tough fit in new regime

A mutual parting makes sense for the Detroit Lions and Reggie Ragland.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

There may not have been a single player on the 2020 Detroit Lions more amped to play for the team and head coach Matt Patricia than Reggie Ragland. From the minute he landed in Detroit, the former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker brought a ton of energy to the locker room, and part of that was simply being in a place he felt his skills were being valued properly.

“Being around coach Patricia is awesome,” Ragland told me prior to the season. “Who wouldn’t want to play for a guy who loves bigger linebackers that can move?”

But would Ragland still feel that level of excitement with the new coaching staff? And moreover, do the Lions have any interest in bringing the veteran free agent back? Let’s take a closer look.

Previous free agent profiles: Mohamed Sanu, Oday Aboushi, Danny Amendola, Matt Prater, Jamal Agnew, Everson Griffen, Duron Harmon, Kenny Golladay, Don Muhlbach, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Darryl Roberts, Marvin Jones Jr., Adrian Peterson, Miles Killebrew, Jarrad Davis

Reggie Ragland

Expectations heading into 2020

Ragland was regarded as a fit for Matt Patricia’s defense, seeing as he was of good size (6-foot-2, 252 pounds), above-average speed and a product of Nick Saban’s Alabama defensive system.

It wasn’t initially clear what his role would be in Detroit, though. In typical fashion, the Jarrad Davis offseason hype train was at its peak, seeing as how he physically transformed his body. Additionally, Christian Jones was just a few months removed from an extension, and many were hoping Jahlani Tavai would take a step in Year 2 after a somewhat promising finish to his rookie season. Oh, and the Lions also shelled out money for Jamie Collins Sr.

So, in other words, Ragland—a versatile piece capable of playing any linebacker spot—was expected to play a complementary role and potentially push for a starting job if any of Detroit’s top linebackers struggled to meet expectations. A pick-six in training camp from Ragland drew some excitement and gave some expectations that he could play a significant role on defense.

Actual role in 2020

16 games (6 starts): 52 tackles (35 solo), 1.0 sacks, 3 QB hits
PFF grade: 48.0 (74th among 99 qualifying LBs)

The Lions almost immediately shuffled their linebacking corps around after early struggles from Davis and Tavai. Throughout it all, Ragland was actually the most consistent contributor. He played in at least 18 snaps in all 16 games and finished the season playing exactly 50 percent of the team’s defensive snaps.

As for his performance on the field, he was a capable pass rusher, providing 21 pressures. And for the first half of the season, he was playing as Detroit’s best linebacker. In Week 11, he posted a 90.3 PFF grade and made their Team of the Week. But down the stretch, he struggled mightily. In the final six games, he didn’t grade out better than 53.6 in any single game. Teams really took advantage of Ragland—and every other Lions linebacker—in coverage.

Outlook for 2021

Contract status: Unrestricted free agent

A mutual parting seems to make the most sense for Ragland and the Lions, as the team’s preference for their linebacker corps will be to get smaller and faster.

That being said, there is a coaching connection that could draw Ragland back to Detroit. New inside linebackers coach Mark DeLeone coached Ragland back in 2017 and 2018 with the Kansas City Chiefs.

While Ragland would likely come with an affordable price tag this free agency, he should almost certainly be able to find a better fitting team willing to pay more elsewhere.