The Detroit Lions are 1-6, and that thoroughly disqualifies them from being buyers at the NFL trade deadline—which is on Tuesday, November 1 at 4 p.m. ET. If team owner Sheila Ford was being honest when she said this was a complete teardown and rebuild, then at 1-6, they’re clearly still in the early phases of both. There’s more tearing down and rebuilding to do.
In the NFL, the best way to do that is through the draft. And while the Lions still have an extra first-round pick left over from the Matthew Stafford trade, they could always stand to accumulate more.
There hasn’t been much chatter about the Lions being involved in any trade talks thus far this year, and if we’re being completely honest, it doesn’t look like they have a ton of players worth dealing. That said, here’s a list of the five players most likely to be traded, along with what we think Detroit could get for them and the likelihood the Lions make a move.
The Detroit Free Press reported that the Lions have not fielded any offers for Hockenson as of this past weekend, and the tight end told the newspaper this week that he’s laughed off any suggestion of being traded. That said, rumors can escalate in a hurry, and Hockenson may be one of Detroit’s most valuable pieces.
A former first-round pick, Hockenson hasn’t been the centerpiece of the team’s offense in 2022. His 3.7 receptions per game are the lowest since his rookie season, and even though his yards per game is currently at a career-high, that is being skewed by one 81-yard reception. Take that away, and his 44.9 yards per game would also be the lowest since his rookie season.
With only one more year left in his deal beyond this season, this could be Detroit’s opportunity to sell before his value drops.
Estimated value: Mid-round pick or two. As Mike Payton noted in his opinion piece on this topic, history puts Hockenson’s value around a second-round pick based on the 2020 trade of Hayden Hurst.
Financial impact: Hockenson has $3.8 million remaining on his 2022 contract, and if he were traded, the Lions would absorb approximately $1.8 million as a cap hit and free up roughly $2 million in cap space. His 2023 base salary ($9.4 million) is fully guaranteed, but base salaries travel with the player to the acquiring team.
Likelihood that it happens: Low-to-medium likelihood. Of all the options, this may be the most likely. The Athletic’s Jeff Howe even proposed a trade that would net the Lions Tampa Bay’s first and fourth-round picks for Hockenson. If the Bucs offered that, I think the Lions would be wise to jump on it, but as I noted above, I don’t think his value is that high. Detroit does not have someone on their roster capable of taking Hockenson’s place, although it would provide an opportunity for rookie James Mitchell to get an increase in valuable playing time to develop.
Any time trade talks stew among fans, Decker’s name seems to come up—much to his own dismay. And while it seems unlikely the Lions would part with a key member of their offensive line, the truth is there are a lot of offensive tackle-needy teams out there and Decker will be 30 next season.
Decker is a good player at a high-value position who could be entering the twilight of his career soon. Those are exactly the kind of players you consider moving if you’re a young, rebuilding team—if the deal makes sense.
Estimated value: Potential first-round pick. Left tackles aren’t traded very often, because they’re so coveted and hard to find. That said, in 2021 the Ravens traded Orlando Brown to the Chiefs for a first, third, fourth, and future fifth-round pick. Brown was only 25 years old and had a pair of Pro Bowls, so his value was likely higher than Decker’s, but I still think a first-round pick is realistic.
Financial impact: The good news is the Lions would free up nearly $5.3 million in cap space in 2022 if they traded Decker.
The bad news is, with approximately $17.9 million remaining in guaranteed money, meaning, they would absorb a $3.2 million cap hit in 2022 and $14.7 million in 2023. Ouch.
Likelihood that it happens: Slim to none. Not only does Decker’s recent restructure make him a financial headache to trade, but the team values him both as a player and a leader. This is something, however, the Lions may more strongly consider next year when it is much more financially viable and the team may be looking for cap space to extend Jonah Jackson and Penei Sewell.
Oruwariye is in the final year of his contract, meaning if there’s a team out there that’s willing to give up draft capital for the former fifth-round pick, this would likely be the time for Detroit to snag it. If Detroit isn’t currently planning on giving him an extension, this is likely their only opportunity for compensation for him, as he doesn’t seem likely to earn Detroit a compensatory pick.
With the Lions getting a little healthier at cornerback (Jerry Jacobs and Will Harris are off the injury report), Detroit could move on from Oruwariye, who was benched for poor play earlier this season but has since re-joined the starters.
Estimated value: Late round—maybe conditional—pick. Oruwariye has plenty of experience, but his recent play is impossible to ignore. He’s also in the final year of his deal, meaning whoever would trade for him would only get a three-month rental on him.
Financial impact: Of the $1.5 million remaining on the final year of Oruwariye’s contract, just under $50,000 is guaranteed, meaning the Lions would free up around $1.45 million in cap space.
Likelihood that it happens: Low. While his recent benching suggests the Lions may be willing to move on from Oruwariye, it’s hard to imagine he has much of a market out there. He has a lot of experience, but he’s currently PFF’s lowest-graded cornerback, and that benching isn’t going to look great on his resume. Detroit seems more likely to see if he can bounce back the rest of the season and maybe make a case for re-signing this offseason.
Brockers has been benched, meaning he’s just kinda taking up space on the Lions roster. While Brockers is certainly past his prime at 31 years old, a veteran like him can be a plug-and-play piece for a team lacking depth and in need of a guy with scheme versatility.
That said, Detroit values his leadership qualities, and his ability to mentor young players is certainly something that could help the Lions weather the storm of this season.
“When we talked and communicated (the benching) with him, he’s like, ‘Look, I’m all in,’” Campbell said this week “He’s practicing, he’s, ‘You need me, you need me. In the meantime, I’m going to continue to help these young guys get better.’ He’s a pro’s pro, man.”
Estimated value: Late-round pick. Interior defenders of his age don’t typically garner anything more than a sixth or seventh-round conditional pick.
Financial impact: The restructuring of Brockers contract lowed his base salary to just $3 million this season, of which, around $1.75 remains. That means, for the acquiring team, they could acquire Brockers and only owe him that amount.
Meanwhile, the Lions would absorb $2.3 million as a cap hit while freeing up $1.75 for this season, but they would also carry a cap hit into 2023 of nearly $4 million.
Likelihood that it happens: Low. This looks a lot like the Jamie Collins situation from last year. Even if Brockers does have a market out there, other teams may believe it's only a matter of time before Brockers is released. The Lions say Brockers has accepted a role as a mentor to Detroit’s defense—something the team actually needs—but we’ve yet to hear that (or anything) from Brockers himself.
That said, Brockers won’t come with a big financial burden to the trading team. Yes, he has a $10 million base salary in 2023, but it would come with zero guarantees, meaning the acquiring team could release him after this season at no cost.
For whatever reason, running backs seem to be the target of many buyers at the trade deadline. Christian McCaffrey was already dealt, while Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt rumors are floating out there.
Swift doesn’t have the on-field accomplishments of any of those players, but the potential he brings is obvious. For Detroit, they may be nearing the end of their patience with his injury issues, but for the trading team, he could represent a short-term option (who is currently off the injury report, but was clearly limited on Sunday) that brings an extra dimension to their offense during a championship run.
Estimated value: Mid-round pick. McCaffrey hauled in a second, third, fourth, and future pick for the Panthers, and while Swift is a couple years younger than McCaffrey, he also has a fraction of his resume. Swift dreams of a 1,000-1,000 season, but McCaffrey has actually done it. Swift has proven he can be a big-play weapon, but the lack of availability over his career limits his value.
Financial impact: By trading Swift, the Lions would absorb a $555,000 cap hit while freeing up $816,000 in cap space in 2022. But the Lions would still be on the hook for the remaining signing bonus, which would mean a $942,000 cap hit in 2023.
Likelihood that it happens: Low-to-medium. It seems like there may be a market out there for a big-play running back, so Detroit could very well receive some calls. But given his injury history, he’s not likely to receive anywhere near the ballpark that the Panthers got for McCaffrey, which eliminates most of the motivation for Detroit to deal Swift. He’s not a financial burden ($2.3M cap hit this year, $2.7M next year), so unless they get a bigger-than-expected offer, the Lions likely ride out the rest of his contract.