The 2022 NFL Playoffs continue on Sunday, wrapping up the Divisional Round of the playoffs. The first game will feature Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock, followed by Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs at 6:30 p.m. ET on CBS and Paramount+.
Here are four potential 2022 free agents—one from each team—that the Lions should be watching during Sunday’s games.
Rams: Joseph Noteboom, OT (6-foot-5, 321)
Ahead of last week’s Rams game, I suggested watching RG Austin Colbert, EDGE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, and CB Darious Williams to make sure I got some names out in case they lost. Well, they advanced, leaving me to comb back through their potential free agent list. And while they have several notable big names like EDGE Von Miller, WR Odell Beckham Jr., and RB Sony Michel, none of them had ties to Lions general manager Brad Holmes. So that kept me searching and brought me to Joseph Noteboom.
Noteboom was a third-round pick (89th overall) in 2018 when Holmes was the Rams’ director of college scouting. He has started 17 of his 47 games as a replacement at left tackle (nine) and left guard (eight). Now, he also has a bit of injury history of his own (he missed 19 games over his four years in L.A.) but he would offer the Lions positional versatility and would upgrade at the OT3 spot.
With starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth injured (knee), Noteboom will once again start at left tackle—as he did last week—and will have a daunting task of slowing down the Bucs pass rush.
Buccaneers: O.J. Howard, TE (6-foot-6, 251)
The Bucs 2017 first-round pick started his career off well, showing appealing upside, but in year three Howard struggled, was replaced in year four, and then tore his Achilles. He worked his way back to health this season, but he has largely been an afterthought in the Bucs offense—producing just 14 catches for 135 yards and a touchdown over 18 regular season games and last week’s Wild Card round of the playoffs.
We all know how coach Dan Campbell loves his tight ends, and Howard could be a reclamation project that appeals to him. The Lions will be on the lookout for a TE2 to complement T.J. Hockenson and Brock Wright (assuming his ERFA tender is picked up), and Howard could be a relatively inexpensive option to take a shot on.
Bills: Isaiah McKenzie, Slot (5-foot-8, 173)
McKenzie was a player I thought the Lions might target last offseason, but instead, he returned to Buffalo on a team-friendly, one-year veteran minimum deal. A gadget player with speed for days, the Bills only targeted him more than three times in a game once this season: at New England in Week 16, when he tallied 11 receptions for 125 yards and a score.
In last weekend's Wild Card, McKenzie proved to be a Patriot killer once again, and while he only caught three passes, he totaled 45 yards and a touchdown, while also adding on three carries for 29 yards, earning an 85.6 overall grade from PFF.
Two impact players on the #Bills almost weren't on the 2021 team.— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) January 17, 2022
WR Isaiah McKenzie and CB Levi Wallace both were untendered by the Bills as UFAs. Were free to sign with anyone but ended up back for less $
Wallace started all 18 gms, McKenzie had 205 yards in past two Pats gms pic.twitter.com/nZOPBMOHTM
While he is almost exclusively a slot option at receiver, he also lines up at running back and has frequently returned punts and kicks. If the Lions don’t return Kalif Raymond, McKenzie could be an option to replace his role.
Chiefs: Byron Pringle, WR (6-foot-1, 205)
Pringle is an inside-out option and returner for the Chiefs, earning official starts in a handful of his games played. He was originally undrafted out of Kansas State but he worked his way up into a contributing role and earned a restricted free agent tender last offseason. He tends to get overlooked in the Chiefs offense, but he caught two touchdown passes in last weekend’s Wild Card.
A speed option with above-average blocking skills, Pringle would also be a natural replacement for Raymond if the Lions go that route.