NFL free agency has officially gone quiet and after last week’s monumental trade, it seems all focus has officially shifted to the 2021 NFL Draft just a month away.
But the Detroit Lions have plenty of work to do before then. They have starting positions on the team that are currently vacant. They’ve got positions with little-to-no depth. And now that they’ve cleared out $15 million in cap space by restructuring Jared Goff’s contract, they have some money they can actually spend.
While I don’t expect the Lions to shell out any big money for bloated contracts, I do expect them to sign several more players to reasonable deals. So here is a list of 10 players I believe are the best fits for Detroit, in terms of skills, positional need, and affordability.
G Trai Turner
Likely the most expensive of the bunch, Trai Turner comes with a built-in rapport with Lions offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn. Turner is a five-time Pro Bowler at right guard, with his most recent nod in 2019. At 27 years old, he’ll likely command a large contract after being released by the Chargers in a cost-cutting move, but he’d clear up the Lions’ offensive line issues on the right side in a hurry. His biggest concern is injuries. He hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2016 and missed seven games last year with a groin injury.
G Forrest Lamp
Another former Charger with Lynn connections. Lamp is a 2017 second-round pick that has not lived up to expectations. After tearing his ACL in training camp of his rookie season, he’s struggled to find a starting role. 2020 was his first year as a full-time starter and managed just a 49.4 PFF grade.
If the Lions are working on a budget—and they are—they can cross their fingers and hope they can reclaim the talented prospect out of Western Kentucky. He only has limited experience at right guard, however.
G Larry Warford
It would be a neat story to bring Larry Warford back to Detroit after the Lions drafted him back in 2013. Since the two parted ways in 2017, Warford made three straight Pro Bowls with the New Orleans Saints.
Warford was released by the Saints last year, and he decided to opt out of the 2020 season. It’s unclear the kind of market he’ll pull in if he decides to play this year, but because he has familiarity with both Detroit and some of the Lions’ new coaching staff from his Saints days, this could be an intriguing pairing.
OT Mitchell Schwartz
If the Lions want to tackle their offensive line on the edges instead of the interior, you won’t find a better right tackle on the market than Schwartz. Lions senior personnel executive John Dorsey was responsible for bringing Schwartz to the Chiefs in 2016, and he’s since been named to the All Pro team four out of five seasons.
While normally a talented player like Schwartz would cost a pretty penny, he’ll be 32 by the time the 2021 season starts and he underwent back surgery last month. It’s hard to see why Schwartz would be interested in coming here, but if Campbell can pull off his recruiting superpowers, it would be a nice stopgap addition.
EDGE Melvin Ingram
Okay, one more player that could break the bank. It’s never cheap to scoop up a free agent pass rusher, let alone three-time Pro Bowler. And the Lions may be perfectly fine with a Romeo Okwara/Trey Flowers duo on the edges. But they’d also undoubtedly have a formidable defensive front if Ingram, a former first-round pick, was added to the crew.
At age 31 and coming off an injury-plagued season, it’s possible Ingram could be had for a lower-than-normal deal. And if he liked playing with Anthony Lynn, it’s possible Detroit could have a leg up.
LB Kwon Alexander
The Lions already swiped Alex Anzalone from the Saints, why not get the guy the Saints traded for to replace Anzalone as well? Detroit is woefully thin at off-ball linebacker, and Alexander would allow the Lions to use Anzalone in a more situational role than as a full-time starter, which would be ideal for all parties involved. Injuries have marred Alexander’s career, but if Detroit can keep him healthy, he can be a Pro Bowl level talent.
CB Nickell Robey-Coleman
Of these 10 free agent fits, none make more sense than the Lions signing Nickell Robey-Coleman. We’ve already mentioned the connection several times on this site, but Detroit absolutely needs a starting-level nickelback and Robey-Coleman has held that role for all of his career. With three successful seasons in Los Angeles, both Brad Holmes and Ray Agnew know what he can bring to Detroit. Heck, even special teams coordinator Dave Fipp had a one-year overlap in Philly last year, as Robey-Coleman can also contribute there.
CB Ross Cockrell
Though Cockrell doesn’t have any direct connections to the Lions, he is from Farmington Hills. He’s mostly been a special teams guy over the past couple of seasons, but Cockrell does have a few successful years as a defender capable of playing both on the outside and the nickel positions.
Last year, he was a late addition to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and in the final stretch of the regular season, he was essentially the team’s starting nickel corner and earned himself a very solid 71.2 PFF grade.
S Malik Hooker
Detroit needs to add at least one safety this offseason, and after a recent run on them in free agency, Hooker is the best remaining of the crew. But injuries remain the biggest concern of the former first-round pick. Hooker tore his Achilles in 2020, which means he’ll have to clear medicals for the Lions to even consider him. But give him a one-year prove it deal, and the Lions could score big on a clear talent who will turn just 25 in a couple of days.
S Tre Boston
Boston played a single season under Anthony Lynn with the Chargers. A full-time starter for the past five seasons, Boston’s play has been solid, but unspectacular. One of his best aspects is his versatility, as he split time in the box (424 snaps) and at free safety (429) almost exactly evenly last season. Those skills would be valued in Detroit’s split safety scheme.
Seeing as the Panthers released Boston, a signing would not cost the Lions a chance at a compensatory pick, either.