Right before 2021 Detroit Lions season started, they were in a tough position at wide receiver. Having watched their top three receivers from the previous year leave in free agency, first-time general manager Brad Holmes rolled the dice on some free agent options. Tyrell Williams looked good enough in camp, but Detroit lacked a No. 2 that was playing well enough. Breshad Perriman was the presumed starter opposite Williams, but after an extremely disappointing camp, the Lions released him as part of the team’s final cutdowns.
Not content with entering the 2021 season with an underwhelming receiving corps, Holmes added two receivers in back-to-back days. First, he traded a fifth and a seventh-round pick for Broncos depth receiver Trinity Benson and a sixth-round pick in return. Then he scooped up KhaDarel Hodge from the waiver wire.
Hodge would see the field almost immediately, paving his way first as a special teamer, then expanding his role once Williams and Quintez Cephus suffered serious injuries. In total, Hodge played 16 games, hauled in 13 passes for 157 yards. His year was highlighted by a Week 17 performance in which he set career highs in catches (five) and yards (76).
But Benson—who was the bigger investment—did not see any sort of success like that. He was actually thrust into the lineup first, playing at least 20 offensive snaps in each of the first five games of the season, but he was soon after relegated to the bench. After the team’s Week 9 bye, Benson was active for just two of the team’s final nine games. He would finish with just 10 catches and 103 receiving yards.
On Friday, Holmes joined local radio station 97.1 The Ticket to chat about a variety of subjects. Eventually, the Benson trade came up, and Holmes defended his decision.
“When we acquired Trinity we knew that he had a lot of upside, but we knew that he was a developmental player that was raw,” Holmes said. “Knowing that he was young, the intent on Trinity was not 2021. It was like, ‘If he could contribute, great. If he needs a little more time to learn a new system kinda coming in late, then that’s what he’ll do.’”
It’s an interesting defense, and one with some merit, too. Benson just turned 25 years old, and had never played in a regular season NFL snap before coming to Detroit. However, the fact that Benson played immediately does seem to run a bit contrary to what Holmes was saying. It appears the intent—as it was all season for the entire roster—was to play their young players and let them develop out there. They tried that with Benson, but it was clear he wasn’t meeting their expectations and he was benched.
Now, the emergence of Amon-Ra St. Brown likely had something to do with Benson’s benching. The fourth-round rookie perhaps caught on quicker than the Lions were expecting, and since the two have somewhat similar games, there was no room for Benson on the roster. It also didn’t help that Benson lacked any special teams contributions.
Is it possible that Benson still has a role on this team, even if it is to back up a guy like St. Brown? Certainly, and that’s what Holmes certainly seems to be selling.
“Trinity will still be in a position to compete during this upcoming offseason and going into 2022 for the season,” Holmes continued. “That’s how we view Trinity. He’s a developmental prospect and we’ll just kind of see where it goes.”
You buying it?