The Detroit Lions appeared determined to land their WR1 of the future this offseason and were willing to make a big trade in order for that to come to fruition.
Heading into the 2022 NFL draft, it was revealed that the San Francisco 49ers and star wide receiver Deebo Samuel were at odds. With Samuel in the final year of his rookie contract and requesting a trade, the 49ers decided to explore what type of return he would draw on the trade market.
When the draft arrived, there were two teams reportedly in the conversation to try and acquire Samuel, the Lions and the New York Jets, with each reportedly proposing an offer to the 49ers. In the end, the 49ers seemingly declined both offers and opted to try and mend fences with Samuel.
With the draft in the rearview mirror, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport joined the Rich Eisen show on his podcast on Monday, and felt because the trade didn’t happen, he could report the parameters of the trade offers. While he didn’t mention all the specific pick numbers, we can make an assumption based on other information he gave.
Per Rapoport, the reported offers were:
- The Jets offered a first (No. 10) and pick No. 111 (at the top of the fourth round).
- The Lions offered a first (No. 32) and a third-round pick (presumably pick No. 66)
- Lions received picks No. 13 (Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams) and 46
- Vikings received picks No. 32, 34, and 66
The Lions ended up offering more to move up in the draft to select Williams—the difference being 12 draft slots, as they dropped from pick No. 34 to pick No. 46—but did they get a better deal?
The pros and cons of each trade
Top 3 pros to acquiring Samuel:
- Samuel is an instant starter and still getting better
- He was an All-Pro and Pro Bowler in 2021
- At just 26 years old, he can be a foundational piece to build a franchise around
Top 3 Cons:
- He is in the final year of his contract, and based on wide receiver contract trends, he would likely command a new contract in 2023 that averages $20 to $25 million a year (Spotrac’s market value calculator estimates a four-year deal that averages $24.4 million).
- Samuel has a long injury history due to his playing style. He missed just one game in 2021 but fought through five different injuries during the season. In 2020, he missed a total of nine games due to three separate injuries, each accounting for three games. He also missed one game as a rookie in 2019.
- The 49ers declined the Lions’ offer, which means the cost actually would have been more than the reported first and third-round picks.
Top 3 pros to acquiring Williams:
- Williams was arguably the top wide receiver in this draft cycle and he reportedly did land the top spot on the Lions' board.
- Williams just turned 21 years old and is someone the Lions plan to feature.
- As a first-round pick, the Lions will have control of Williams’ contract for at least four seasons at a rookie price point (all four seasons combined equal $19.9 million), with the team option to retain him for a fifth year.
Top 3 Cons:
- Williams is currently recovering from an ACL injury and while he believes he “should” be ready for training camp, there are no guarantees he will be ready, and could easily end up on the PUP list to start the season.
- Despite winning the trade with the Vikings, the Lions still had to give up more draft capital to get Williams than they were willing to offer for Samuel.
- Williams was only a one-year starter in college, and as with any rookie, there is an inherent risk they fail to reach their potential in the NFL.
Personally, I embrace the aggressiveness of general manager Brad Holmes and am on board with making a trade to land a difference-maker. As far as which deal is better, I think the deal they landed on with Williams also will prove to be the most beneficial both on the field and on the salary cap.
Yes, Williams is a rookie currently dealing with an injury, but the Lions are still in a spot of their rebuild that they can wait on him to fully recover. And when he is field ready, the skills he displayed in college—at Alabama no less—are very translatable to the NFL, and most signs point to him reaching his potential.
The salary cap is where the Lions will see the biggest benefit. Being able to retain Williams at roughly a quarter of the cost it would take to keep Samuel, the Lions can afford to spend that money elsewhere. For example, with Williams costing just $3.6 million this season and his contract increasing only $900,000 each of the following three seasons, the Lions could invest in a receiver like DJ Chark (Spotrac estimates his market value to be $11.9 million next offseason) and still have money left over to spend on other players.
The idea of having Williams, Chark, and roughly $4 to $8 million in additional available funds makes this an easy choice for me.
So what do you think, did the Lions make the better deal?
Which Lions trade offer would have brought them the better deal?
This poll is closed
Acquiring Deebo Samuel
Acquiring Jameson Williams