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What the Detroit Lions are getting in Michael Brockers

With a weak DT free agency and draft class, the Lions traded for a starter

Los Angeles Rams v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions are reportedly trading for interior defensive lineman Michael Brockers, a nine-year starter (136 games) for the Los Angeles Rams. The Lions gave up only a 2023 seventh-round pick for Brockers in the deal—in a down year for acquiring defensive tackles, this is a brilliant move by general manager Brad Holmes.

The former first-round pick (14th overall) just turned 30 years old, has two years remaining on his contract, and—assuming it's a standard trade—should have a salary cap hit of $8 million in 2021, as well as a team option $9 million cap hit in 2022. Brockers 2021 contract becomes fully guaranteed five days into the league new year—which starts today at 4:00 p.m. EST—while his 2022 contract has no guaranteed money until this time next year (just $150,000 if he is still on the roster).

So what are the Lions getting for $8 million?

Coach Dan Campbell has previously mentioned the Lions were planning on adapting their defense in the image of the Rams defensive front, and Brockers will immediately lock down one of starting jobs on the defensive line—most likely the exact same role he had in that scheme last season.

Let’s expand on that role by examining the Rams’ front.

The Rams’ base front deploys three interior defensive linemen, a dedicated pass-rushing linebacker, a hybrid linebacker spot that will also pass rush, and a dedicated off-the-ball linebacker. The Rams will also deploy a seventh player in the box, varying from an extra linebacker or defensive back, but for now, let's focus on the base front-6.

Here is an example of what it would look like with the Lions projected starters based on the current roster:

In the above picture, Trey Flowers takes on a penetrating 3-technique role (the Aaron Donald role), John Penisini is at nose tackle, Brockers is represented by himself at the 4i-technique, Romeo Okwara is the pass-rushing linebacker (which I elaborated on here), Julian Okwara is the hybrid-WILL linebacker opposite him, and Jamie Collins is the MIKE.

Each of these spots are represented on nearly every play, save the nose tackle who will be on the field roughly 50-60 percent of the time and replaced by an off-the-ball player.

Last season with the Rams, Brockers played on 61 percent of snaps and was replaced by a reserve on the other 39 percent. Based on who is on the current roster, that will likely be Nick Williams, Da’Shawn Hand, Jashon Cornell, or Kevin Strong—likely in that order on the depth chart.

In Brockers’ nine seasons, he has never had a Pro Football Focus grade under 61.9 and his most recent five years saw grades of 63.9, 74.7, 63.9, 75.1, and 79.3 overall. His strength is his run defense and tackling prowess, but he has also earned positive grades for his pass-rushing. Last season he accounted for 30 pressures (including five sacks) which is the exact same amount of pressures by Williams, Hand, and Danny Shelton had combined in 2020—and that trio only had two sacks.

Brockers is also a very strong leader in the locker room and had been a captain for the Rams the previous three seasons. His knowledge of the lineman’s assignments and ability to motivate those around him will help shorten the learning curve for the defense this offseason.

At the end of the day, the Lions landed a veteran leader, who is an experienced starter with a proven track history of production in this scheme... for a seventh-round pick two years from now.

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