The Detroit Lions have 13 players that are set to hit free agency this March, and while we have profiled the 10 contributors from last season, there were three potential unrestricted free agents that didn’t play a snap after landing on injured reserve.
Let’s take a look at one of those players.
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: Tracy Walker, Charles Harris, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Alex Anzalone, Josh Reynolds, KhaDarel Hodge, Nick Williams, Dean Marlowe, Kalif Raymond, and Tim Boyle.
Shaun Dion Hamilton
Expectations heading into 2021
Before the Lions had even hired Brad Holmes for their general manager position, the Lions interim management team claimed Hamilton off of waivers after he was released by the Washington Commanders (then Football Team).
Hamilton was coming off his worst season as a professional—a PFF grade of 36.5 in 2020—but he had flashed coverage ability in recent years—89.7 coverage grade in 2019—and that was something the Lions were desperate for, so they took a chance he would show that skill in Detroit.
Actual role in 2021
0 games: Undisclosed injury landed him on injured reserve ahead of the season
PFF grade: 50.7 in one preseason game
When training camp opened in the fall, the Lions appeared to have clear starters at linebacker (Jamie Collins and Alex Anzalone), a rookie that needed time to develop but showed promise (Derrick Barnes), and Jalen Reeves-Maybin, who at the time was a special teams lock with upside depth at linebacker. That left only one or two roster spots open for other options.
By the end of the first week, Hamilton was making splash plays in multiple phases of practice and appeared to be the front runner for a depth spot. By the end of week two, there was talk of him potentially being LB3 and part of the linebacker rotation due to his quickness and ability to hang in coverage.
Heading into the Lions' first preseason game with the Buffalo Bills, Hamilton showed up with a wrapped brace on his left arm (see the lead picture above), but because teams are not required to release injury reports during the preseason, it was unclear is this was a new injury or a precautionary measure to protect a previous injury.
Four days after the conclusion of that game, the Lions were required to reduce their roster to 85 players, and Hamilton was placed on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury. Because he was placed on IR ahead of the regular season, Hamilton was not permitted to play in 2021 as long as he remained on the Lions roster—which he did for the entire year—and the injury that landed him there was never revealed.
Outlook for 2022
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent
At just 26 years old, Hamilton showed potential in the Lions scheme and he fits the profile for what the coaches are looking for at the position. With a lost 2021 and poor 2020, Hamilton could find the free agency market unforgiving, which could open the door for the Lions to bring him back on a league minimum contract.
Currently, the Lions only have four linebackers under contract (Barnes, recently re-signed Josh Woods, Curtis Bolden, and Tavante Beckett) while both their starters (Anzalone and Reeves-Maybin) are unrestricted free agents. The Lions will surely be investing heavily at this position this offseason, but Hamilton could view this as an opportunity to re-establish himself in Detroit, especially with a year of learning the defensive scheme under his belt.
Should the Lions re-sign Shaun Dion hamilton?
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