Free agency isn’t just about acquiring new talent. Sometimes, the truly important moves aren’t the players you bring in, but the ones you bring back. The Detroit Lions are entering an important offseason. Which direction should they take with their pending free agents?
With Josh Reynolds re-signed to a very team-friendly deal, the Lions secured their first unrestricted free agent. That leaves a dozen players and a dozen choices from the Detroit Lions to make. The pending free agents range from starters to backups, all of whom are important for a football team. The Lions’ unrestricted free agents are:
- Alex Anzalone, LB
- Tim Boyle, QB
- Tyrell Crosby, OT
- Shaun Dion Hamilton, LB
- Charles Harris, EDGE
- Joel Heath, DL
- KhaDarel Hodge, WR
- Dean Marlowe, S
- Kalif Raymond, WR
- Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB
- Tracy Walker, S
- Nick Williams, DL
Roster turnover is a significant aspect of a rebuild, but are there certain standouts from 2021 that the Detroit Lions should bring back?
Today’s Question of the Day is:
How many unrestricted free agents will the Lions re-sign?
My answer: I think the Lions will re-sign seven of their unrestricted free agents: Tracy Walker, Charles Harris, Alex Anzalone, Kalif Raymond, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, KhaDarel Hodge, and Shaun Dion Hamilton.
The biggest name on the Lions’ list of free agents is Tracy Walker, and I would be stunned if he did not re-sign. Although C.J. Moore is expected to return, the Lions’ safety group is barren. Will Harris has not materialized into a starter, while the remainder of their players are special teamers. There’s always a chance they could blossom in a full-time role, but that seems like too great of a risk for the Lions. Instead, re-signing Walker makes sense for both parties. The Lions get back a talented and experienced safety still in his prime. Walker doesn’t have to test free agency in a deep safety class featuring Tyrann Mathieu, Marcus Williams, Quandre Diggs, Justin Reid, Kareem Jackson, and more.
The market for Charles Harris may be steeper, but I still think he returns to the Lions. Pass rushers are a premium in the NFL, but I think teams might migrate towards players with better track records than Harris. 2021 was by far his most successful season, and teams may view it as a flash in the pan. With pass rushers like Chandler Jones, Von Miller, Haason Reddick, and Emmanuel Ogbah also on the market, it makes sense for Harris to return to the Lions.
Walker and Harris are the two key names to watch, but there are other reasonable moves to make as well. Alex Anzalone was mediocre in his first year with the Lions, but given their lack of depth at linebacker and the minimal interest he’ll garner in free agency, there’s almost no reason not to bring him back on a low-cost deal. Kalif Raymond, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, and KhaDarel Hodge fall into a similar category: there’s little harm in bringing them back if the price is right.
Finally, I think Shaun Dion Hamilton stands a good chance of returning. Hamilton was having an excellent preseason and may have been in the running for a starting linebacker role. Unfortunately, he was placed on the injured reserve before the season kicked off, ruling him out for the entire year. He’s still young, so bringing him back for 2022 makes sense.
As for the players not getting re-signed, Tyrell Crosby is one that stands out the most. I think he’s still a young and valuable swing tackle, but I think it is unlikely that he returns. There are too many questions regarding his health and relationship with the Lions—jump down to the Tyrell Crosby section for more—and I think it would be best to move on. On Sunday, he admitted he’s not sure when he’s going to be healthy enough to play again:
In all honesty, I don’t even know when I’ll be healthy yet to play— Tyrell Crosby (@Tyrellcrosby) March 13, 2022
The remaining unrestricted free agents don’t have a great fit with the Lions. Tim Boyle performed poorly on the field, and unless the coaches really value his intangibles, the Lions should look elsewhere at backup quarterback. Dean Marlowe was alright as the Lions’ third safety, but he will seemingly test free agency. Nick Williams played significant snaps in 2021, but at age 32, it is likely the Lions go younger at defensive tackle. Joel Heath, meanwhile, will be 29 and coming off a torn ACL. He could be brought back at almost no cost, but there is minimal upside.
The Lions have some difficult decisions to make. Which unrestricted free agents should they bring back?