It’s time for the way-too-early grades on the Detroit Lions’ offseason. I’m sure you’ve probably seen all the analysts from around the national sports media world hand out their grades on the Lions offseason all ready, but now it’s our turn.
I’m going to break it down into five parts and grade each one of them before I dole out the grade for the whole shabang. Let’s jump right into it.
Let’s start it off here. The Lions have struggled with player retention in recent past. After the 2020 season they lost a ton of important players to free agency. This year that wasn’t a problem. The Lions managed to keep just about everyone they wanted. The big keepers were Tracy Walker and Charles Harris, but the Lions also managed to hold onto role players like Evan Brown, Josh Reynolds, and Kalif Raymond.
The players the Lions did lose shouldn’t hurt the team too much. Only three players signed deals elsewhere and of them, only Jalen Reeves-Maybin is the one who feels like a true loss. But the Lions are pretty well stocked at players at the linebacker position, and I can’t blame him for wanting to go a place where he could probably get more playing time.
The Lions kind of missed the boat here, if you ask me. The team had the money and they had the needs, but they mostly chose to stay put. I get the idea of building through the draft, and I can see that the Lions are also saving money going this route. Still, you can’t help but feel like the Lions left some opportunities on the table.
However, the Lions did make some nice moves with who they did wind up picking up. DJ Chark could make a big impact in 2022 and possibly beyond. Deshon Elliott is a starting-caliber safety if he can remain healthy. Jarrad Davis may have his best chance to succeed in his career with this coaching staff, and Mike Hughes should compete for a starting job right away. The value is there. It’s there even more when you look at the team-friendly contracts all these player got signed, too.
Still, I can’t help but feel like the Lions could have done more. It would have been nice to see the Lions make a splash and they just didn’t do it.
This is a big one. The Lions kept their coaching staff together. For a minute there, it didn’t seem possible. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn got head coaching interviews with the Saints and the Broncos, and defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant got an interview to be the defensive coordinator of both the Vikings and the Saints. The Lions managed to keep both guys on staff and that’s a big win.
The Lions did lose their offensive coordinator when the team “mutually parted” ways with Anthony Lynn after he lost play=calling duties midway through the season. They did replace him with the right choice in Ben Johnson though. Johnson played a nice role in creating some of the fun plays the Lions ran late in the season last year. That said, Johnson has never called plays before and will enter 2022 as a first-time offensive coordinator. There’s no guarantee it works out, so that is going to drag down the grade a little bit here.
The Lions absolutely nailed the draft this year. Aidan Hutchinson was long considered to be the best prospect in the draft and the Lions got him with the second pick. On the same night, they got arguably the best offensive prospect when they traded up for Jameson Williams.
Then the value started rolling in. James Houston might be the steal of the draft. James Mitchell is another steal who likely would have gone higher if not for his injury. Sixth-round pick Malcolm Rodriguez is already winning over the coaching staff and Josh Paschal could step in immediately for the Lions defensive line. There’s a lot to be excited about with this group.
It was a big offseason for Detroit. For starters, the NFL Draft is coming to town in 2024. That’s a giant win for the city, and the Lions who have been trying to get the draft in town for a while now. This is going to be a fun weekend that I, for one, can’t wait to experience.
Speaking of experiences that I can’t wait to experience, the Lions got HBO’s Hard Knocks this summer. It’s going to be a ton of fun watching Dan Campbell and company run the team, and it will be twice as much fun watching the world fall in love with Campbell and the Lions.
Speaking of falling in love, the Lions are already starting to see some positive national attention. Suddenly the sports world has been all about praising the Lions this offseason, whether it be high draft grades or early predictions about the Lions being a sleeper team in 2022. It’s been wild to see analysts go from mocking this team to loving this team. Make room, Lions fans, there’s more people getting on the bandwagon every day.
It’s hard to not be very optimistic about the Lions’ future. The way they went about the offseason certainly doesn’t help if you’re trying to keep a level head. You saw the grades. They nailed the draft, kept their coaches, retained the players they wanted to keep, and they had big things happen to the franchise. The only exception is free agency. The Lions missed out there, and I just can’t get over it. The value for what they did get makes up for a lot of that though.
At the end of the day, I have to go with a solid A- grade for the Lions’ offseason grade. We’ll see in January if this grade holds up, but from where we’re standing right now, the Lions nailed it.