This has easily been the craziest free agency ever, right? The AFC West is loading up with every player available, the Jacksonville Jaguars are overpaying the rest, and the Detroit Lions are just chilling watching it all happen. The Lions are biding their time, but there are still plenty of positions of need that the Lions can fill. Taking a look at who’s left, it looks the Lions can still fill out the tight end, linebacker and safety position. Let's’ take a look at who’s left at each position and who works best for the Lions.
The Lions have a pretty decent tight end already on the roster is T.J. Hockenson. While he took a bit of a step back in 2021 after making his first Pro Bowl in 2020, he’s still a pretty good player, and the Lions offense should open up a lot more for him in 2022 now that it’s a more sorted out. Still, the Lions could use another option out there, even if they are reportedly signing Garrett Griffin.
Enter Gerald Everett. The former Ram has the connections with the Lions front office already after Brad Holmes was part of the group that scouted him when the Rams took him in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Everett has been a nice weapon since coming into the league. He’s not the type of guy who can take over the game, but he can get you 400-500 yards a season and at least 3-4 touchdowns. What Everett does best, though, is block. In 2021, Everett was the seventh best graded tight end when it came to pass blocking. That’s what the Lions need on the other side of Hockenson. The fact that he can catch passes is a huge bonus.
Other names to watch:
- Austin Hooper: The recently-released Hooper would present another pass catching option for Goff, but his blocking could use some work.
- Kyle Rudolph: The former Viking could bring a little bit of everything to the table, but his veteran leadership in the tight end room could mean that much more.
- Blake Jarwin: A tight end who specialize in blocking if the Lions just want a bruiser to move guys around. He does have a pretty bad injury history, though.
- Durham Smythe: This guy just reminds me of Dan Campbell. He’s a big guy who can block, but will rarely catch the ball.
Leighton Vander Esch
I know, I know. I had Vander Esch in the second installment of this year’s Just Say No series. The reason there was that Vander Esch has had a lot of trouble staying healthy during his four-year career. But when he’s good, he’s good. So this would be one of those high-risk, high-reward type of thing.
The Lions would no doubt be able to get him at a cheaper clip with a prove-it contract and still be able to explore options in the draft in April. If he works out, it’s a bonus. If he doesn’t, the Lions should be able to get away without much, if any, damage to their bottom line.
Other names to watch:
- Bobby Wagner: It’s sort of a pipe dream right? Wagner is more than likely looking for a spot to win another ring, and rumor has it that Russell Wilson is trying to recruit him in Denver.
- Nick Kwiatkowski: The former Bear had a good run in Chicago before cooling down with the Raiders and getting released. Maybe a return to the NFC North could help him get back to it?
- Danny Trevathan: Speaking of the Bears, they just released Trevathan a few years after he was one of their signature signings. Trevathan is not the player he used to be, but the veteran knowledge and leadership is invaluable.
I would be remiss if I didn’t head to the plate and take a big swing. Detroit still needs a safety to pair with Tracy Walker in 2022. How about the honey badger?
Mathieu has achieved a lot in his career since the Cardinals drafted him in 2013. He’s made the Pro Bowl, been an All Pro, and won a Super Bowl ring. Now he’s on the back half of his career. He’s not old enough to miss out on a pay day, but old enough to miss out on a big one. He also has that veteran leadership that I’ve been talking about. Imagine pairing him up with the Lions’ biggest defensive leader in Tracy Walker. Some damage could be done.
I realize that there’s a lot going against this. The Lions don’t have a ton of money left and they are spending like it at the moment. Mathieu, like Wagner, is probably looking to win another ring, too. If Mathieu is willing, the Lions should make a move.
Other names to watch:
- Landon Collins: Another veteran that could help out the Lions young secondary. He has taken a step back in recent years, though.
- Jabrill Peppers: Peppers could not only help out at safety, he’s also a tremendous special teams player. Michigan fans would be happy with this one.
- Keanu Neal: A young linebacker/safety hybrid, Neal has talent but just hasn't fully realized it yet after some injuries. Neal made the Pro Bowl in 2017, but hasn’t played a full season since. Last year, the Cowboys tried him primarily at linebacker and it didn’t go well. A move back to safety with Aaron Glenn and Aubrey Pleasant guiding the way could be the career revitalization Neal needs.
- Terrell Edmunds: A former first-round pick, Edmunds is still a young player who could use some help developing. Again, Glenn and Pleasant would be the perfect group here.