How did we get here? It wasn’t too long ago when the Lions had Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. It also wasn’t long ago when the Lions had Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones. It wasn’t long ago when one of the most common jokes at the Lions’ expense was that they constantly drafted wide receivers. Yet here we are now. It’s 2021 and the regular season is two weeks away, and I can’t tell you what this team’s receiving corps is going to look like.
We’ll get a lot of answers by Tuesday when the Lions cut down to the 53-man roster. With that in mind, we don’t really know who is safe and who is not beyond Amon-Ra St. Brown. When the Lions signed Breshad Perriman during free agency it seemed like a lock that he would make the team and that his speed would play a big role in what the Lions planned to do with their offense. Three preseason games Perriman showed he wasn’t capable of such a role and was subsequently cut on Monday morning.
Tyrell Williams has struggled with a groin injury, but he did look well enough during camp and during short appearance in the preseason. He’ll probably be the Lions number one receiver for much, if not all, of 2021. There’s cause for concern there because Williams has struggled with injuries, and he hasn’t played a full game of football since the 2019 season. Hopefully he shows everyone up, but I wouldn't go holding my breath just yet.
Then there’s Tom Kennedy. You can’t dislike this guy. He’s worked hard to switch sports in his adulthood and it looks like it might pay off for him. Kennedy might be on this team in 2021 and even bigger than that, he might be a significant contributor to the offense.
Williams, St. Brown, Kennedy and probably Quintez Cephus are an okay group, but they are far from a good group. So what can they do to beef this group up? Sadly the answer is probably nothing.
Taking a look at the receivers available in free agency shows that there’s really nothing out there. The Lions could give Devin Funchess a shot, but can he heal up from the injury the Packers just released him for? Probably not in time to be a big part of the offense. What about Josh Gordon? Do the Lions want to be the next team to give Gordon a shot? After all, the NFL has relaxed it’s rules on marijuana. The problem is that Gordon is 30 years old, hasn't played since 2019, and even worse than that, he’s still indefinitely suspended as his file for reinstatement from July is still pending.
Then there’s Golden Tate. What about a reunion between the Lions and Golden Tate? I’m sure fans would be all for it. Tate is a beloved player in Detroit and he could immediately take a mentor role on the Lions young receiving corps. The issue is Tate is 33 and he probably doesn't want to play in Detroit. In June Tate was interviewed by Sirius NFL and he named the Titans, Rams and Colts as teams he’d like to play for in 2021. I love Tate as much as the next Lions fan, but I would bet that he’s more than likely done with football. So this option is out.
After that it’s Donte Moncrieff, Josh Doctson and a whole slew of guys that can be had on cheap short-term contracts but aren't going to change anything for the Lions. So free agency seems out unless you need a guy to come in cheap for injury relief.
What about a trade? The Lions have eight draft picks in 2022 before possible compensatory picks. They could try to move one of those to add a receiver capable of really helping the Lions get over. But, are the Lions willing to move a high draft pick? Because that’s what it might take. The Falcons just traded Julio Jones for a second round pick and Jones has been on a steady decline over the last few years.
Brandin Cooks has been moved for high draft picks like 12 times in the last three years, DeAndre Hopkins got moved for a high level running back and fourth-round pick, and Stefon Diggs just got moved for a first-round pick.
The most likely scenario is a waiver wire find. The Lions could—and likely will—add a receiver who was cut by another team this week. But is another team’s cast-off really going to make a difference for the Lions’ long-term need at receiver? Probably not.
So what are the Lions to do? What can they do? Right now it seems like the only option is to wait. That’s it. Just wait until the NFL Draft and free agency. The Lions could be in solid shape in 2022. They’ll likely have a high first-round draft pick plus the pick they get from the Rams. Then in free agency they’ll have money to spend and guys like Allen Robinson, Chris Godwin, Will Fuller and JuJu Smith-Schuster will be available for the Lions to throw their money at. Settle in for the long haul, Lions fans.