Being an NFL general manager is a lot like spinning plates. As soon as you think you’ve got everything in perfect balance, a plate starts wobbling and threatening to hurl to the ground. Roster management is as much about forethought as it is fixing immediate problems. And for a team like the Detroit Lions, thinking about the future may take precedence over the immediate needs.
2022 free agency is just about over. The Lions are likely to add a few names here and there, but for the most part, the big moves are done. So even with the draft ahead later this month, Lions general manager Brad Holmes is likely already looking to 2023 to make sure Detroit’s roster is in good shape for the future.
He’s already talked a little bit about the road ahead, showing at least moderate interest in giving extensions to both cornerback Amani Oruwariye and tight end T.J. Hockenson. But those are far from the only players who will be entering 2022 on the final year of their contract. Here’s a look at just some of those players:
- QB Tim Boyle
- QB David Blough
- RB Jamaal Williams
- WR DJ Chark
- TE T.J. Hockenson*
- EDGE Austin Bryant
- LB Alex Anzalone
- LB Chris Board
- CB Amani Oruwariye
- CB Mike Hughes
- S Will Harris
- S C.J. Moore
- P Jack Fox
- LS Scott Daly
- All of the kickers
*The Lions have the fifth-year option with Hockenson, which they are expected to use if a long-term deal isn’t struck.
So today’s Question of the Day is:
Which players should be priority re-signings for the Lions?
My answer: I’m going to leave Hockenson out of the discussion, because if the Lions just use his fifth-year option—and they absolutely should—the decision on his long-term future can be kicked down the road to 2023 or after the 2023 season.
The first priority on this list is probably punter Jack Fox. He’s one of the best punters in the league, and if we’re being honest, the Lions have drastically underpaid the punter for two years of service. The man deserves a raise, even though the Lions hold all the leverage with his current exclusive rights free agent contract, which Fox signed earlier this week. He could very well get an extension this year, and he has earned it.
Oruwariye is really the only other name that stands out as a priority to get re-signed. He took big steps in his game last year, and looks to be—at the very least—a capable starting No. 2 cornerback. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Lions wait on handing him a new deal. Detroit has a few unknowns in their cornerback room, and if Jeff Okudah were to make a miraculous comeback and Ifeatu Melifonwu takes a big Year 2 jump, suddenly Oruwariye’s value to the team may be quite different. I think you’d still want him around—because you can’t have too many capable corners in this league—but you may want to hold off in giving him middle-tier starting money.
Obviously, the Lions will want to wait to see how players like DJ Chark, Chris Board and Mike Hugest play out before lining them up for extensions, but it’s worth pointing out that Detroit rewarded a lot of new players who signed one-year deals last season, so don’t be surprised to see a few of these guys stick around beyond 2022.
The last person I want to talk about is Jamaal Williams. He’s been one of the more fun players to cover, and he just finished with a career high 601 rushing yards. Next year, he’ll be 28 years old, which is getting awfully close to the age in which backs significantly decline. Detroit’s running back stable is pretty deep, with promising young players in Craig Reynolds and Jermar Jefferson. This could very well be Williams’ final year in Detroit, but if he balls out this season, he’s going to make Detroit’s decision very difficult.