Excluding players released before the season ended, the players lost this offseason accounted for a whopping 11,361 snaps. Most teams aim to improve their roster during the offseason. For the Lions, however, this offseason was more about fielding a team. Expectations are low as a rebuild—or retool, if you prefer—commences, and a majority of their signings were low-risk, short-term moves.
Let’s break down each position to see what’s changed for the Lions.
Note: the snap counts will be broken down as offensive snaps / defensive snaps / special teams snaps.
- Matthew Stafford — 966 / 0 / 0
- Chase Daniel — 65 / 0 / 0
Few positions changed as drastically as the quarterback position. Matthew Stafford, a focal point of the team for a decade, was traded away to the Rams. Coming back the other way, along with a lot of draft picks, is Jared Goff. He figures to account for all of those missing snaps, but whether or not we get the same quality of snaps remains to be seen.
Chase Daniel, meanwhile, was one of Bob Quinn’s final free agent failures. He filled in for Stafford in garbage time or due to injury, but his on-field impact was minimal at best. His role will be filled by either David Blough or Tim Boyle.
- Adrian Peterson — 313 / 0 / 1
- Kerryon Johnson — 295 / 0 / 29
When the Lions signed Adrian Peterson, many expected him to simply spell D’Andre Swift. Instead, Peterson got the most carries last season to modest success. He was minimally involved as a receiver, unlike Swift—more than half of Swift’s 398 offensive snaps came in the passing game. Peterson’s role will likely be replaced by Jamaal Williams, hopefully, an improvement as the 1B to Swift’s 1A.
Nearly 300 snaps for Kerryon Johnson might surprise people due to his meager 52 carries, but he was a crucial part of the offense as a pass blocker. Swift and Williams are the top candidates to replace his snaps, although Williams profiles as the better blocker.
- Marvin Jones — 939 / 0 / 1
- Danny Amendola — 460 / 0 / 13
- Mohamed Sanu — 241 / 0 / 2
- Kenny Golladay — 224 / 0 / 1
- Jamal Agnew — 199 / 0 / 202
Much like at quarterback, the wide receivers underwent a total overhaul, and not for the better. Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, and Danny Amendola were all top options for Matthew Stafford, and the Lions may struggle to replace their effectiveness with the likes of Tyrell Williams, Breshad Perriman, and Amon-Ra St. Brown. Even Mohamed Sanu was a decent late-season acquisition, although it makes sense to give his role to a younger player like Quintez Cephus.
Jamal Agnew’s transition to a receiver wasn’t successful, but his impact as a returner will be sorely missed. Agnew was one of the best returners in the league last season, returning a punt for a touchdown and recording a solid kick return average of 28.0. There will be a battle to replace him in training camp, with Kalif Raymond the frontrunner.
- Jesse James — 464 / 0 / 171
On paper, losing over 500 snaps from your second tight end could be a tough blow. For the Lions, however, it is cutting loose an anchor. Jesse James bombed as a Lion, and he never performed anywhere near his contract. James was hardly a factor in the passing game, and his blocking was never good enough to justify keeping him. Darren Fells takes his place as TE2 at a much cheaper price.
- Oday Aboushi — 621 / 0 / 72
- Joe Dahl — 263 / 0 / 39
With all the offensive line shuffling that happened last season, surprisingly only two players left this offseason, one in free agency and one getting cut. Oday Aboushi was slated to be the top depth option at guard, but with the injuries to Halapoulivaati Vaitai and the struggles of Joe Dahl, Aboushi saw a surprising amount of snaps. Even more surprising? He was actually decent, and that earned him a $1.6 million deal with the Chargers. With Penei Sewell manning the right tackle position, Vaitai is the expected starter at right guard.
After starting for most of 2019, Dahl took a backseat in 2020, largely filling a depth role. The Lions released Dahl this March, saving nearly $3 million against the cap. Logan Stenberg, a 2020 fourth-round pick, should be the top backup.
- Danny Shelton — 0 / 499 / 52
- Everson Griffen — 0 / 247 / 20
With all the defensive line shuffling that happened last season, surprisingly only two players left this offseason, one in free agency and one getting cut. Nose tackle Danny Shelton struggled for most of 2020, but with a new coaching staff in place and his sizable contract, it made sense to move on from the former Patriot. Alim McNeill was drafted as his replacement, with John Penisini spelling him on occasion.
- Reggie Ragland — 0 / 562 / 23
- Christian Jones — 0 / 511 / 163
- Jarrad Davis — 0 / 330 / 134
It seems like the Lions have struggled to field decent linebackers for years. Jarrad Davis was mostly a failure as a first-round pick, with flashes of potential occurring too few and far between. Davis had his best season in 2020, but it was a byproduct of a reduced and simplified role. In 2018, he totaled 976 defensive snaps. In 2020, he had just 330. The Jets bet big on Davis by signing him to a $5.5 million deal. A change of scenery might help Davis, but it’s clear his time in Detroit was up.
Christian Jones and Reggie Ragland were similar levels of ineffective last season in all facets. Neither stood out in the run game, pass rush, or coverage, and they were relics of Matt Patricia’s scheme. Jones was released while Ragland left in free agency. The Lions will likely utilize their linebackers very differently in 2021, with Jamie Collins and Alex Anzalone slated to start. Romeo Okwara and Trey Flowers are also expected to play a linebacker role, but they will be primarily pass rushers.
- Justin Coleman — 0 / 471 / 54
- Darryl Roberts — 0 / 469 / 35
- Desmond Trufant — 0 / 324 / 0
- Tony McRae — 0 / 16 / 123
- Tramaine Brock — 0 / 39 / 1
- Alexander Myres — 0 / 28 / 1
Cornerback is another position where Bob Quinn’s free agent spending did not work out. Justin Coleman had a great start to his Lions tenure, but quickly fell off and was rarely better than average on a struggling defense. Desmond Trufant was brought in to solidify the outside corner role, but injuries and ineffectiveness plagued his season. Both were obvious cuts for the team, with Corn Elder and Quinton Dunbar taking their places. The growth of Jeff Okudah and Amani Oruwariye will be vital to rebuilding this position.
Darryl Roberts was serviceable after having to step into a starting role due to injuries, although he himself missed a month with injury. His role as depth will be replaced by Ifeatu Melifonwu and whichever corner doesn’t win a starting role. Tony McRae was a solid special teamer, but with the firing of Brayden Coombs, the Cincinnati Bengals connection was no longer there for McRae.
Brock and Myres were practice squaders that each played a single game—Brock versus the Buccaneers in Week 16 and Myres against the Titans in Week 15. Myres is best remembered for getting his soul stolen by Derrick Henry.
- Duron Harmon — 0 / 1103 / 121
- Miles Killebrew — 0 / 1 / 361
The Lions lost two very different types of safeties this offseason. Duron Harmon had the most snaps of any Lions player, offense or defense, and he was one of the few positives on the defense last season, although that speaks more to the rest of the defense. What hurts the most about Harmon’s departure is that the Lions haven’t really replaced him. Dean Marlowe is the frontrunner for third safety behind Tracy Walker and Will Harris, but he played just 230 snaps on defense with the Buffalo Bills last season and is far from a reliable starter. Even Walker and Harris themselves aren’t reliable after struggling in 2020. Safety is a major weakness for the Lions going forward.
Miles Killebrew was a special teams ace, and his departure is just another blow to what was a solid special teams unit last season. There’s no clear candidate to fill his role, with multiple undrafted free agents likely competing for a spot. The winner of that battle isn’t guaranteed to be as effective as Killebrew either.
- Matt Prater — 0 / 0 / 92
Remember that period after the retirement of Jason Hanson? David Akers, Nate Freese, and Alex Henery all failed to replace the legendary kicker. Thankfully for Detroit, the Broncos opted to keep Brandon McManus instead of Matt Prater, who was coming off a suspension. The Lions never looked back. Prater was a phenomenal asset for the Lions, establishing himself as one of the best kickers in the game. His long leg and clutch kicking were critical to many Lions victories.
However, Prater posted his worst season in years in 2020, hitting just 75 percent of his kicks, although his leg was still strong. It was a combination of rebuilding and market that led to Prater signing with the Cardinals—a rebuilding team couldn’t justify spending about $3 million on a kicker in a cap-stricken year. The Lions will turn to either Randy Bullock or Matthew Wright at the kicking position, but filling Prater’s shoes will be a tough task.