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4 potential 2022 free agents the Lions should watch during Saturday’s Divisional Playoffs

Identifying one player from each of today’s playoff teams the Lions could be interested in.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The 2022 NFL Playoffs continue on Saturday with the Divisional Round of the playoffs. The first game will feature the Cincinnati Bengals at Tennessee Titans at 4:30 p.m. ET on CBS and Paramount+, followed by San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers at 8:15 p.m. ET on FOX.

Here are four potential 2022 free agents—one from each team—that the Lions should be watching during Saturday’s games.

Bengals: B.J. Hill, DT (6-foot-3, 311)

Hill was originally drafted by the Giants in the third round of the 2018 draft, and early expectations were high as he could find himself in a rotation as a run plugger. After starting 12 games his rookie season, he started just five in year two, none in year three, and was traded to the Bengals the following offseason. (Side note: the Bengals sent back center Billy Price in exchange. Price was taken with the 21st pick in 2017, in what looked like a panicked choice after the Lions took their guy, Frank Ragnow, one pick earlier).

Hill started just two games for the Bengals this season, but he has been a terrific rotational piece. Long thought of as a run-stuffer only—which he is very good at—Hill expanded his game some this season to include some pass-rushing skills, registering 32 pressures and 5.5 sacks (he is credited with seven at PFF), both career highs.

If the Lions move on from Nick Williams, Hill is a young (not yet 26 years old), rotational option that has some very appealing traits the Lions look for in their interior defensive linemen.

Titans: Rashaan Evans, ILB (6-foot-2, 232)

After a solid 2020 season that saw Evans grade out as PFF’s highest-graded tackling linebacker (89.5 tackling grade), the Titans elected not to pick up his fifth-year option, and, instead, tried to sign him to a contract extension. They have been unable to do that, and he is set to hit the free-agent market in March.

Evans started this season off on a very rocky note, earning well below-average grades across the board from PFF, and like most of Tennessee’s top players, he ended up missing a chunk of the season due to injury. But since his return in Week 14, he has played well in a starting role (averaging between 60-70% of weekly snaps) and has looked more like the player we had seen in previous years.

Evans fits the mold of a new-aged NFL linebacker who can fly around the field and is a player I have had on my radar since his days at Alabama. Even after a down year, I think he’d look good in Honolulu Blue.

49ers: Jarrod Wilson, FS (6-foot-2, 210)

The former Michigan Wolverine went undrafted in 2016 and signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars when Lions’ defensive line coach Todd Wash was their defensive coordinator. Over the next five years under Wash, Wilson worked his way up from special teams contributor to 26-game starter during the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

This past season, with a regime change in Jacksonville, Wilson was released at cutdowns and joined the Jets, where he was on and off the roster (starting three games) before the 49ers picked him late in the season. He hasn’t done much for the 49ers on defense, in what is looking like a lost season for Wilson, but he is a fixture on special teams.

Wilson won’t be a highly-sought-after player this offseason, but his experience with Wash, coupled with his history in the state of MIchigan and the fact that he has previously found success through effort play, are all solid indicators he could be a depth target for the Lions with upside potential.

Packers: De’Vondre Campbell, ILB (6-foot-4, 232)

A fourth-round pick by the Atlanta Falcons in 2016, Campbell worked his way up to starting WILL linebacker in their 4-3 scheme. In 2020, he signed a one-year contract with the Cardinals ($6 million) where he, once again, found a starting role, lining up at multiple spots. Despite a decent but not exceptional year in Arizona, he took a pay cut ($3 million) in 2021 and joined the Packers—which unlocked his potential.

With the Packers, Campbell has had the best season of his career, recording 146 tackles, two interceptions (including one off Jared Goff), posting an 84.3 overall grade from PFF (including an 83.1 coverage grade and 90.4 tackling grade), and a first-team All-Pro selection.

The Packers are beyond $40 million over the 2022 salary cap right now and have several free agents who they surely want to return, including Campbell. But after a terrific season, affording him will be very challenging for Green Bay, which could open up an opportunity for the Lions to land a two-for-one player: adding an All-Pro linebacker while also making their division rival weaker.

He’ll be expensive to add, but it may be worth it.

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