The Detroit Lions have already begun building their 2022 offseason roster and have made a roster move each of the three days following the end of the season. They have already signed nine practice squad players to futures contracts, added tight end Matt Sokol, claimed JuJu Hughes from the Rams, and released six veterans off the practice squad,
They still have a few more decisions to make on former practice squad players—like nickelback/returner Corey Ballentine and kicker Aldrick Rosas—but the next logical step is to address the team’s restricted free agents (RFA) and exclusive rights free agents (ERFA).
The players listed as ERFAs are fairly straightforward as the Lions won’t have any outside competition for their services. ERFAs can only negotiate with the Lions. So basically, if the Lions want to bring them back, they can.
Things get a bit more complicated for RFAs because the contract cost is higher, they may face competition for players from other teams, and they could receive compensation if they lose a player to another team.
Here’s how it works.
The Lions have three options: They can offer a tender to an RFA, offer a new contract, or simply decline and allow the player to enter free agency.
If the Lions opt to offer a tender, they will designate their offer into one of three options: first round, second round, and original draft selection. Each has a different contractual value, but if another team signs that player to a contract and the Lions decided not to match the offer, they would receive draft compensation equal to the value of the tender.
For 2022, here is the value of an RFA contract for each level tender, per OverTheCap.com:
- 1st round tender: $5,562,000
- 2nd round tender: $3,986,000
- Original round tender: $2,433,000
The Lions have six RFAs to consider. Below is a chart with those six players, what role they finished the season in (starting roles are bolded), if they played special teams, what their 2021 contract cap hit was, and when/if they were drafted.
Among the six, none would likely draw a first round tender ($5.5 million), and a second round tender ($4 million) is probably stretching things as well. For reference, the Lions only had nine players on their entire roster make $4 million or more in 2021.
The original round tender could be an option for the Lions, but again, $2.43 million represents a significant pay raise for all six of the players in this discussion. So that brings us to today’s question of the day:
Should the Lions tender any of their restricted free agents?
Let’s take a closer look at the six options.
David Blough: Tim Boyle made less than $2.4 million last season to be the top reserve quarterback, so unless the Lions believe Blough is ready to be QB2 next year, offering a tender seems unlikely.
Jason Cabinda: There is no doubting his role, and I would understand the move to tender him, but is he worth the investment for his role? He played on less than 13-percent of offensive snaps last season but did log 55-percent of special teams snaps. That’s a value for certain, but $2.4 million is probably an overpay.
Will Holden: As a reserve tackle, the fourth or fifth option at times, he is probably priced out of a tender here. Although he was drafted in the fifth round, meaning he could return a fifth-round pick if someone signed him to a bigger contract, but I’m not sure a team would offer that, especially knowing what they would have to give up.
Evan Brown: He played on a veteran minimum offer this past season and arguably was worth every penny. He proved himself a valuable asset, as a top-level reserve interior offensive lineman who can play all three positions, as well as spot start when needed. $2.43 million is a reasonable offer and solid value.
Josh Woods: He was starting in place of Alex Anzalone—even relaying the plays via the green dot helmet—for a short period of time before landing on injured reserve himself. A tender would represent a strong commitment to him as a player but I’m not quite sure he showed enough to warrant that size raise.
C.J. Moore: He plays one of the most important roles on special teams as the Personal Protector (PP) for Jack Fox on Punts. He also successfully executed a fake punt on a direct snap in Los Angeles and also had an interception late in Week 18 as a reserve safety. Moore is an unsung hero of the Lions, that does a lot of the dirty work for them and should be a priority to retain. It’s close, but $2.4 may be a touch out of his price range.
Erik’s answer: Yes, but only Evan Brown.
I actually believe all six players will return to the Lions in 2022, but most of them will receive standard contract offers with lower cap hits. Brown is the only one on this list that I can say with certainty that the price meets the value.
If I were to rank the RFA’s into tiers, it would look like this:
Tier 1: Brown
Tier Two: Cabinda, Moore
Tier Three: Woods, Blough
Tier four: Holden
Ok, your turn. Let me know your thought in the comments, or send me a response on Twitter (@erikschlitt).