To say that this upcoming offseason is important for the Detroit Lions is an understatement. General manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell are already miles ahead of where they were at this point last season—when they were just getting their bearings as new hires who had to kick off their Detroit careers with a blockbuster trade.
Now the fruits of that trade are upon us. The Lions have two first-round picks, nearly bookending the opening round with Picks 2 and 32, plus a few likely compensatory picks as a result of cleaning house last offseason. That’s a lot of draft capital for the 2022 offseason, but it’s only half of the equation ahead.
Free agency comes first, and unlike last year’s abnormally small salary cap, the Lions have some spending money they could use to add some veteran talent. Gone are the dead cap hits from Matthew Stafford, Justin Coleman, Desmond Trufant and Jesse James. As of now, only money paid to three players will count as dead cap for 2022: Jamie Collins, Tyrell Williams and Jahlani Tavai, accounting for just over $8 million in cap space. That number could certainly rise with the potential cuts of Trey Flowers or Halapoulivaati Vaitai, but it’s still a much more responsible cap situation than in previous years.
Put it all together and the Lions have resources:
So today’s Question of the Day is:
What is the Lions’ most important offseason decision?
My answer: I could go with a lay up like whatever the Lions do with their No. 2 overall pick, but I’d rather get a little more specific.
The Lions had a bottom-five defense in the league in 2022, and fixing that needs to be a priority. The coaching staff on that side of the ball is talented and highly-regarded, but they could only do so much with the talent they had. Obviously, getting back key players like Romeo Okwara and Jeff Okudah could help—if they are able to play at a high level after suffering devastating Achilles injuries.
But, to me, the situation at safety may require the most attention on this team. Right now, the Lions only have three safeties signed to contracts for 2022: Will Harris, Brady Breeze and JuJu Hughes. Considering two of those players are far from guaranteed a roster spot, there is work to do.
As Erik Schlitt pointed out earlier on Tuesday, safety is a critical position in this defense, and re-signing Tracy Walker needs to be a priority. But even if they do that, there is still a lot of work to do. Not only is Harris tough to rely on at a starting spot, but 2022 will be the last year on his contract. To put it bluntly, the Lions have no future plan at the safety position. They need to fix that.
Luckily for Detroit, free agency offers a plethora of options at the position. The Lions could go on a spending spree for someone like Marcus Williams, who will not come cheap but would bring familiarity to Detroit’s coaching staff and scheme. Or they could go with more budget-friendly options like Vikings’ Xavier Woods. Spotrac values Woods at $4.3 million a year, but he’s only 26 years old and earned a solid 66.4 PFF grade last year.
Of course, there’s also Kyle Hamilton sitting near the top of the 2022 NFL Draft class. Other viable options like Penn State’s Jaquan Brisker, Michigan’s Daxton Hill or Georgia’s Lewis Cine may be available with Detroit’s other three top-70 picks.
It’s actually a pretty decent year to need a safety, and the Lions need at least three. Considering the importance of the position in this scheme, the Lions should spare no expense. Get it done, Brad.