When it came to options for the Detroit Lions surrounding free agent Kenny Golladay, one of the more popular choices was to franchise tag him and then trade him away. Of course, like most armchair general managing, this sort of thing is easier said than done. In the end, the Lions simply let Golladay hit free agency, where he eventually signed a four-year deal worth $72 million with $28 million guaranteed.
But according to Lions general manager Brad Holmes, they did seriously discuss signing Golladay and trading him away.
“Yeah, we did discuss it,” Holmes said on Monday. “We did discuss it and we mulled over it. Guys, I wasn’t joking when I said he was at the forefront of my mind throughout the whole process. We did discuss those options.”
Signing and trading Golladay would have been a complicated process. They could have franchise tagged Golladay, had him sign his tender, then field offers for him on that one-year deal worth approximately $16 million. Or, they could have discussed a trade before the start of free agency, collectively come to a long-term deal agreement, have him sign it with the Lions, and then trade that contract to a new team.
One complication of the process would be fitting Golladay’s contract—be it the franchise tag or the long-term deal—into the Lions’ tight salary cap situation at the beginning of the new league year, even though it wouldn’t be on the books for long.
Another complication was the unknown market. There were a lot of wide receivers available in free agency, but with everyone working with a limited cap, it was unclear how eager teams would’ve been to trade high assets for Golladay.
“There is some difficulty in terms of forecasting that’s involved, so that’s kind of why you probably may see [sign and trades] more prevalent in the NBA versus the NFL, but it is possible,” Holmes said. “You can do it, but again with how the market was shaping out with the depth both in free agency and the Draft, then we just felt to go the route of just not tagging him.”
The Lions will likely end up with a third-round compensatory pick in return for Golladay, assuming he doesn’t incur an injury with the Giants. How much they could’ve gotten in a sign-and-trade deal is unclear. In the past tag-and-trades have netted more than that, but with the deflated market—especially at wide receiver—it appears the Lions may have played it smart by avoiding that risk.
The Lions still have a lot of work to do at the wide receiver position themselves. Though they signed several speedy depth options in free agency, there is still a pressing need for a long-term solution there plus a clear No. 1 guy. Holmes noted that the depth at wide receiver in this year’s draft was part of the reason they moved on from Golladay.
“As with pretty much every year in terms of free agency and the draft, that it’s relatively deep in both spots,” Holmes said. “It was a few different factors that went into it, but at the end of the day it was just making the right decision for the Lions, both not only short term but more importantly long term. So, that was a decision that we came to. Wish Kenny nothing but the best in New York and was happy to see that he got a good deal.”