By this time next week, free agency will be under way, and who knows what the Detroit Lions will look like? Until then, we still have previewing to do. Today we're going to talk about edge rushers. The Lions finished the 2021 season with just 30 sacks. That’s the third worst in the NFL. So needless to say, the Lions need help in this area.
The issue in free agency is that the cupboard is a bit bare this year, as it typically is with edge rushers. There’s a decent amount of players available, but a good deal of them are in their 30s and will probably be looking to return to the team they already play for or hoping to join a team ready to win a championship. The draft is really where the Lions can get things done at this position. Still, we mined out five guys that the Lions could take a look at next week. Here they are:
- 5 free agent quarterbacks to watch
- 5 free agent running backs to watch
- 5 free agent wide receivers to watch
- 5 free agent tight ends to watch
- 5 free agent offensive linemen to watch
- 5 free agent defensive tackles to watch
Dante Fowler Jr.
There’s going to be something of a theme here today. We’re looking for connections with the Lions front office and/or coaching staff, and we’re looking at players who just haven’t hit yet. Fowler falls into both of those categories.
The former third overall pick has really struggled during his career. He’s played for three different teams since being drafted in 2015 and hasn’t lived up to his draft status on any of them. His best years came in 2018 and 2019 when he was with the Rams, including an 11.5-sack season in 2019. Perhaps Ray Agnew, who played a part in bringing Fowler to the Rams, can play a part in bringing Fowler to Detroit. The Lions happen to have a bit of a history of getting players like Fowler to play their best ball. Maybe Fowler could be the next guy on that list. His former Falcons teammate Charles Harris could provide a good example of what Fowler could do in Detroit.
Speaking of Charles Harris, the Lions should try to get him to return. Harris had a pretty productive season with the Lions in 2021 after struggling early on in his career. The problem the Lions are going to run into is that Harris is going want to get paid. I don’t blame him. This is his chance to get his biggest payday in the NFL. He’s not going to get top money, but he could potentially get a Romeo Okwara type deal. The question is, do the Lions want to pay that?
If Harris is game to return and he’s not looking to get overpaid, the Lions should absolutely make sure they try to keep him.
Maybe it’s a Falcons thing? McKinley is another former first-round pick who hasn’t fully realized his potential. He actually wasn’t too bad in Atlanta until injuries really derailed things. The Falcons would wind up releasing him during the 2020 season. The Raiders picked him up, but he never played a game for them. Last season he played four games for the Browns before tearing his Achilles and missing the rest of the season.
The Lions would be taking a risk here on a guy who has only played eight games in the last two years, but it’s a low risk. The Lions could bring in McKinley on a short-term, incentive-laden deal on the inexpensive side of things and see what they can do to help rehab McKinley’s career.
Here’s one that could very well be possible. The former Michigan State Spartan and Detroit native could be looking to come home to play for the Lions after spending his entire nine year career with the Buccaneers.
Because Gholston is already 30 years old, Detroit could offer a short-term deal where Gholston can come in and be a guy who is not expected to start. A veteran presence from a guy who has won a Super Bowl should always be welcomed. Gholston can still get to the quarterback, too. He recorded five sacks in 2021. That’s a nice amount for a guy that would play off the bench in Detroit.
Before we get out of here, we have to at least find one connection with Aaron Glenn and Dan Campbell. Carl Granderson is nice option for the Lions in 2022. He’s young and he’s not yet fully figured out. Granderson graded out a decent 63.2 on Pro Football Focus in 2021. That’s down from the 68 he had in 2020, but he also doubled his snaps last season. Granderson is a guy who, if put in the right position, could put up some solid production. That situation could be Detroit.
The rub here is that Granderson is a restricted free agent. So if the Saints offer him a tender before free agency starts, the Lions can only try to offer Granderson a deal, and the Saints have an opportunity to match the Lions’ offer. With New Orleans’ rough cap situations, the Lions should be able to outbid them. However, if New Orleans uses a first or second-round tender (unlikely),the Lions would owe the Saints draft compensation
So if New Orleans puts a tender on Granderson, the Lions should run away from him. But if the Saints pass, Granderson becomes an unrestricted free agent, and the Lions should come calling.