The Detroit Lions’ first week of free agency is in the books, and if there’s one thing to take from the NFL’s furious first few days of the new league year, it’s that the Lions are going to look very different than they did last year. They may not be better. They may not be worse. But they are definitely going to be different.
Many players’ roles will change or evaporate completely in Detroit. Some appear to have benefitted from Detroit’s moves, while others may be in trouble.
So here are four winners and two losers from the first week of Lions free agency.
Winner: Kenny Golladay
Despite a deflated wide receiver market, Kenny Golladay got paid. Despite many laughing and rolling their eyes when a report surfaced that Golladay wanted $18.5 million a year, he nearly accomplished that. Despite missing 11 games last year and some mild clashing with the Lions’ previous coaching staff, Golladay passed the New York Giants’ rigorous interviews.
In the end, Kenny Golladay proved the doubters wrong and got himself a fat contract in likely his last chance before hitting 30. Good for him.
Winner: Logan Stenberg
The Lions' release of Joe Dahl was mildly surprising. Combined with letting Oday Aboushi sign with the Chargers, the Lions will now be missing their starter and their primary backup at right guard.
While it’s likely Detroit will add some offensive line depth in the near future, right now the path is cleared for Stenberg—a 2020 fourth-round pick—to step into the lineup and potentially start. Though Stenberg didn’t play a single offensive snap last year, his style of play could very well match the hard-nosed kind of football that head coach Dan Campbell is seeking.
Loser: Jared Goff
Take away the fact that Goff was sent away from a successful Los Angeles Rams team and lands with one in a complete rebuild (whether he wants to admit it or not). Even with that out of the equation, it wasn’t a great week for Goff.
First, the Lions failed to come out and commit to Goff as their long-term quarterback, simply saying he’s expected to be the starter in 2021, but admitting if the right value is there, quarterback is still on the table with their first-round pick.
And if this is a one or two-year audition for Goff, the Lions haven’t exactly set him up to succeed. While he’s got a decent offensive line and the running back crew looks good, Detroit let Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr., and Jamal Agnew walk. They only added Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman, neither of whom project to be a No. 1 receiver and both come with significant risks. Of course, the Lions likely aren’t done adding wide receivers this offseason, but for now, Goff isn’t exactly looking at an arsenal of weapons.
That being said, Goff did have one huge win over the weekend:
Winner: Nick Williams
Many—myself included—saw Nick Williams as one of the more easy decisions for the Lions. With a bloated $5.7 million cap hit in 2021 and only $1 million in potential dead cap, cutting Williams, who provided little pass rush last year, seemed like a no-brainer.
But the Lions opted, instead, to cut Danny Shelton, and while it’s never a wise decision to read too much into vague social media posts, it does appear the Lions may have given Williams some assurance that he will stay with the team this year:
Let’s see how these kneecaps taste this year— Nicholas Williams (@NickWilliams_98) March 16, 2021
The Lions may value his pass rushing skills and believe they can draw more out of him than the previous coaching staff.
Winner: The Okwaras
Romeo Okwara probably wasn’t ever going anywhere else in Detroit, but he did extremely well for himself in the three-year, $39 million he signed with the Lions just before free agency truly opened up. With the way the contract is set up, he essentially guaranteed he’ll be on the roster for the next two years—likely for all three of his extension.
But the real benefit here is not monetary. Romeo made it extremely clear how important it was to stay in Detroit with his newly-drafted brother Julian. Being able to play—and live—with your brother is an invaluable experience, and it’s one that will likely be mutually beneficial. Anyone who has had a sibling knows how much they can motivate, plus a young player like Julian will undoubtedly benefit from the mentorship of someone like Romeo.
Loser: Kerryon Johnson
A few weeks ago, I made the case that Kerryon Johnson could potentially push for the RB2 role after proving himself to be a great pass blocker last year. When Duce Staley told us just how impressed he was of Johnson as a complete back, it appeared Detroit may be headed in that direction.
However, with the signing of Jamaal Williams, it’s clear Johnson will, again, take a backseat to the backup. I don’t blame the Lions for the move, as Johnson’s injury history and significant knee issue make him difficult to trust in a significant role. However, for Johnson, it could mean another rough season of few touches and a lot of blocking assignments. Surely, this isn’t what he was anticipating when he was drafted in the second round three years ago.