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Notes: Lions’ frugal secondary is nearly complete

Just a few succession pieces are needed to top it off.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

After signing veterans Corn Elder last week and Quinton Dunbar and Dean Marlowe this week, the Lions should be finished with free agency moves heading into the draft. The addition of Marlowe indicates the team is unlikely to continue pursuing former Broncos safety Will Parks. As pointed out by our Jeremy Reisman, Marlowe has a lot of actual NFL game experience and is likely to compete for a starting spot on defense. He is almost assured of bringing real value even if he does not start on defense since he also has quite a bit of special teams duty under his belt.

At cornerback, Elder is likely to continue playing the slot for the Lions like he did last year for the Panthers. With no other significant competition on the roster, he might as well be considered the starting nickel at this point. Quinton Dunbar, on the other hand, will add to familiar returnee Mike Ford as veteran depth players to compete with Amani Oruwariye on the outside.

Now that we have contract details for both Elder and Dunbar, we can see that both are in Detroit at fantastic prices:

If the bonus dollar amount for Dunbar looks familiar, it’s because the Lions have already signed players this offseason with veteran salary benefit values in the contract terms. Tight end Josh Hill (third-year veteran) and Jalen Reeves-Maybin (fourth-year veteran like Dunbar) both have deals with just the right structure for the rule to kick in.

The moves over the last two weeks take the immediate pressure off the team to field a full unit in the secondary, so now attention turns to the future and draft possibilities. At safety, it will be Marlowe, Walker and Harris taking most of the defensive snaps, but beyond that the roster only has a special teamer in C.J. Moore and practice squad players (Godwin Igwebuike, Bobby Price and Jalen Elliott). Among the cornerbacks, Elder, Dunbar, Ford, Oruwariye and Okudah will surely cover the snaps in 2021. Elder filled a huge hole at nickel, but there is still no clear backup for him.

Although the defense can make it through the year, from a longer-term perspective these are still positions of need. At the very least, fans should be prepared to see the team consider a later-round slot corner prospect to bring up behind Elder and another young safety to provide options since it is still unclear what the Lions have in Walker and Harris. We are now just three weeks out from the draft, so the final touches on this part of the defense will be cleared up very soon.

Now, on to the rest of today’s Notes:

  • I know of at least one member of the Pride of Detroit staff who has been banging this drum for a while (subscription required for the Athletic article):

  • The team is checking out quite a few of the pass-catching options that will be available in the draft, though. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, that includes Florida’s Kadarius Toney.

  • Lions Wire’s Jeff Risdon has a pretty neat draft article series going one position at a time and identifying one prospect in every round the Lions might consider. Yesterday, his article on a linebacker for every round went up.

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