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2022 Detroit Lions free agent profile: Do the Lions still need veteran depth like Dean Marlowe?

Marlowe was solid for the Lions in 2021, but is that enough to bring him back in 2022?

NFL: Detroit Lions at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Today, we take a look at safety Dean Marlowe, who is set to be one of the Detroit Lions' 13 unrestricted free agents this offseason.

This is the latest installment in Pride of Detroit’s free agent profiles series, and if you missed any of the previous articles, you can check them out here: Charles Harris, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Tim Boyle, Alex Anzalone, Tracy Walker, Josh Reynolds, KhaDarel Hodge, and Nick Williams.

Dean Marlowe

Expectations heading into 2021

Initially an undrafted free agent out of James Madison University, Marlowe spent his rookie year with the Carolina Panthers, then the next three with the Buffalo Bills as a reserve safety and special teams player.

Part of the appeal for Marlowe coming to Detroit was the opportunity at more reps on defense. With the Lions up against the salary cap in 2021, they needed affordable veteran help: players who performed well within previously designated roles, but were seeking situations putting them on the field more than in the past.

With safeties Tracy Walker and Will Harris on the roster, Marlowe was signed to provide options at both safety spots. He was expected to be a dependable special teams contributor as well.

Actual role in 2021

16 games (9 starts): 67 total tackles, one fumble recovery, and two pass breakups
PFF grade: 61.0 defensive grade (55th out of 92 qualifying safeties)

Save for a few weeks when a shift of Will Harris to cover for injured slot corners forced Marlowe into the starting lineup, his role was more or less what the Lions envisioned for him at the beginning of the season. He was the third safety on the field at times, provided depth behind Walker and Harris, and was a mainstay on both the kicking and punting units.

As solid as Marlowe was on special teams, there isn’t any one thing that he excels at on defense. He isn’t someone you can line up over a tight end on a down-to-down basis. He doesn’t possess a ton of range to where he could be left to roam as a deep third safety, and he doesn’t have the size or physicality to consistently be a box safety.

Outlook for 2022

Contract status: Unrestricted free agent

As of now, there is likely to be plenty of turnover at the safety position going into 2022, with only Will Harris and Brady Breeze under contract. Backup and special teamer C.J. Moore is a restricted free agent, while Jalen Elliott and JuJu Hughes are both exclusive rights free agents.

Many have made their case as to why Tracy Walker should be brought back, and for good reason. He is a leader on defense, and his teammates and coaches seem to have plenty of respect for him, both as a player and as a human. So where does that leave Marlowe?

He will be 30 years old by the time camp opens in August. At that age, it’s worth wondering whether or not the Lions would be better off allocating that roster spot to a younger player with more upside.

As noted on my profile for defensive tackle Nick Williams, general manager Brad Holmes has more resources at his disposal than he did a year ago. While players like Marlowe and Williams are not bad players, there is obvious room for improvement from a roster construction standpoint.


Should the Lions re-sign Dean Marlowe?

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.