Sometimes it’s hard to really see things until you dig deeper. That happened to me this week. I’m going to let you into the inner workings of Pride of Detroit for a moment here. When we were getting ready for the draft we put out a call sheet full of article ideas and assignments and I selected a piece that would have had me going over the top 10 free agents the Lions could still sign.
I couldn’t find anyone. Ryan Fitzpatrick was my only choice that I really had any conviction about and that just seems crazy to me. The reason I had such a hard time finding anyone is because I’m not sure if the Lions need anyone else and there may not be anyone out there realistically worth adding. This roster is set in my eyes.
I know what you’re thinking and before you say it out loud, let me explain. The Detroit Lions are not a finished product. This roster is much improved from last year, but they’re not good to go and ready to win a championship or even a lot of games. So why am I saying that this roster is set? Let’s dig a little deeper.
Take a really good look at this roster and you’ll see each position is stocked with players and there are questions attached at every single position as well. Take cornerback for example. The Lions have Jeff Okudah, Mike Hughes, Amani Oruwariye, Jerry Jacobs, AJ Parker, Ifeatu Melifonwu, and now Chase Lucas. What do all these players, besides Lucas, have in common besides being on the younger side? They’re all guys that showed that they could really be something in 2021.
Both Jacobs and Parker worked their way up from being undrafted practice squad guys to players who looked like real deal NFL starters at times. Jeff Okudah was coming along before tearing his Achilles. Amani Oruwariye was in the Pro Bowl conversation for a second there before ultimately getting outvoted. He finished third in the NFL in interceptions and looks like he could take another step in 2022. Mike Hughes had the best year of his career for the Chiefs last year. Ifeatu Melifonwu, despite having an injury-shortened season, looked really good at times.
Each one of these guys has the chance to work their way into a bigger role or, at the very least, play a role. Why add anyone else to this group before seeing what these guys can truly carve out?
It’s not just the cornerbacks, it’s the safeties too. With Tracy Walker, DeShon Elliott, C.J. Moore, Will Harris, and Kerby Joseph on the roster already, whose development time on the field are you willing to cut to add someone else?
It’s not just the secondary, it’s most of the team. The Lions have these developmental possibilities on their defensive line, with their linebackers, running backs, receivers, tight ends, and more. At every one of those positions, there’s either an established starter or a young player who could realistically develop into one. So why go out and add a free agent who might hinder the development of any of these players?
Sure, the Lions should be looking to get better, but it’s still early in the rebuild. Baby steps. The Lions should be focused on what they have in the hand instead of what's in the bush.
The flip side that some will bring up is that, like I said, the Lions should always be looking to get better. There are free agents this team can go out and sign that can come in and develop as well and there are veteran free agents that the Lions can bring in to help develop that young talent. The Lions don’t really have that in a lot of places on this team.
So, sure, the addition of a player like Landon Collins or Anthony Barr could really come in and help the Lions be productive on the developmental end. Throwing all the young guys on the roster in the deep end is a good way to build experience and learn from mistakes—after all, Aaron Glenn’s philosophy is that you can’t be afraid to play young players—but there’s nothing wrong with giving them a helping hand.
Frankly, the Lions do have some positions that could use some more help. Their interior offensive line depth is a bit rough and they should sign some help there. The Ryan Fitzpatrick thing wasn’t a joke. The Lions going into the season with David Blough and Tim Boyle just seems crazy to me.
There’s a problem with all this though. It costs money. The Lions bringing in veterans to help the younger players develop causes a cap hits. The Lions do have money, but not much. Detroit would be wise to have some cushion for the regular season and potentially roll over cash to next year when the team is ready to take the next step.
The other thing is that the Lions kind of have that veteran leadership already. It’s not on the roster. It is on the sideline though. The Lions coaching staff is full of former players who had lengthy careers in the league. Let them hand out that veteran tutelage.
This team is not ready to win yet, but they’re ready to learn. The Lions shouldn’t do anything to hinder that learning. That includes adding more players right now.