According to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Detroit Lions are planning on releasing cornerback Desmond Trufant at the start of the league new year. This was an expected move as it will save the Lions almost $6.2 million in much-needed salary cap space.
While Trufant leaving the roster will create a depth issue at corner, it also opens up an opportunity for younger players to firmly step into starting roles. When Trufant was healthy last season, he split starting time with Amani Oruwariye and Jeff Okudah, but now their path to starting roles is void of obstacles.
Currently, the Lions only have three corners on their roster, Oruwariye, Okudah, and Justin Coleman. Things could get even tighter as Coleman is also a potential cap casualty and saving nearly $5 million—$9 million if he is a June-1 cut—could be very tempting for an organization looking to create salary cap space.
Regardless of what happens with Coleman, the Lions are expected to build their foundation at corner around Oruwariye and Okudah—which, in all honestly, is a very solid start. Both corners are young (25 and 22 years old respectively), highly athletic, and flashed potential when given the opportunity last season. They both still have some rough spots to clean up in their game, but with defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn (a former All-Pro corner himself) and secondary coach Aubrey Pleasant guiding them, the sky is the limit for their development.
The Lions will need to add talent around them and that means the addition of players in free agency and potentially the draft.
First stop will likely be their own free agents: Mike Ford (restricted), Darryl Roberts, and Tony McRae. Ford has been a steady contributor as a matchup specialist on defense and as a gunner on special teams and could get a look, while our Jeremy Reisman made a solid case that Roberts could be an inexpensive inside/out option.
In free agency, Troy Hill and Darious Williams (RFA) both thrived under Pleasant last season with the Los Angeles Rams and could be solid options. Nickell Robey-Coleman was with the Philadelphia Eagles last season—where he worked with Lions' new special teams coach Dave Fipp—but the three seasons prior, he was also a Rams cornerback under Pleasant. In his three seasons playing under Pleasant in L.A., Roby-Coleman played at least 673 snaps each season and had PFF overall grades of 74.5 and above.
If the Lions turn to the draft, they’ll have options for depth, but if they want an instant contributor, it’ll cost them significant draft capital. The best bet to find an early role player is to target upside nickel corners like Elijah Molden (Washington) on Day 2 or Shaun Wade (Ohio State) on Day 3.