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6 potential 2023 free agents Lions should watch during Sunday’s Super Wild Card

Identifying one potential free agent from each of today’s playoff teams that the Detroit Lions could be interested in.

Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

The 2023 NFL Playoffs continue with three games on Sunday. The action kicks off at 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS, featuring the Miami Dolphins (7) taking on the Buffalo Bills (2). Then at 4:30 p.m. ET on FOX, the New York Giants (6) will take on the Minnesota Vikings (3). The day concludes with the Baltimore Ravens (6) taking on division rival Cincinnati Bengals (3) at 8:15 p.m. ET on NBC.

Here are six potential 2023 free agents—one from each team—that the Lions should be watching during Sunday’s games.

Duke Riley, LB, Dolphins

Riley finds his name on this list for one primary reason: Lions’ special teams coordinator Dave Fipp.

Riley, a speed MIKE at LSU, was a top 75 selection by the Atlanta Falcons in 2017, but after just a month into season three, they traded him to the Philadelphia Eagles. In Philly, Riley saw his special teams play nearly double under the tutelage of Fipp, who was the Eagles coordinator at the time. The following season, Riley was named the Eagles' special teams captain.

The Lions prefer to keep six linebackers active on game days, three primarily see the field on defense, while the other three are primarily special teams players. With only two linebackers signed for 2023 (Malcolm Rodriguez and Derrick Barnes, though Anthony Pittman is an ERFA and also likely to re-sign), the Lions could easily be interested in a player who used to be a captain on Fipp’s unit.

Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Bills

Speaking of linebacker, if the Lions decide to spend in free agency, Edmonds should be near the top of their list of players to consider.

A two-time Pro Bowler, Edmunds (6-foot-5, 250 pounds) is coming off arguably his best season in the NFL. A traditional MIKE by trade, Edmonds can line up all over the field, and can play every snap due to his range and coverage skills—he earned an 88.1 coverage grade from PFF this season. And the best part is, he has five years of NFL experience, and yet, won’t turn 25 years old until May, indicating he’d likely be hitting his prime during a multi-year contract.

Matt Breida, RB, Giants

There was a time, not long ago, when Breida was considered one of the top up-and-coming running backs in the league. But as often happens in the NFL, his window to shine quickly closed and he has been relegated to reserve duties the past three seasons. Overall, he can still be a productive back, but if he were to join Detroit’s roster, it would likely be in a Justin Jackson-type role—as a veteran depth option with special teams value.

He also scored against the Lions this past season, which could be something they took notice of.

Duke Shelley, CB, Vikings

From afterthought to starter, Shelley has made quite an impression on the Vikings roster this season.

Originally drafted by the Bears in the sixth round of the 2019 draft, Shelley had a relatively quiet career in Chicago. But in Week 10, he was elevated from the practice squad to the Vikings' active roster and he did his best James Houston impression.

Shelley is just 5-foot-9, so he’s not a perfect fit in a Lions system that leans on length, but with just three corners signed in 2023 (Jeff Okudah, Jerry Jacobs, and Chase Lucas) the Lions will be looking for competition in all shapes and sizes of players.

Josh Oliver, TE, Ravens

Oliver was a third-round pick of the Jaguars in 2019, but after two injury-filled seasons, he was traded to the Ravens in 2021. He has started nine games this season in the Ravens' two-tight end offense, but with Mark Andrews TE1, and a pair of fourth-round rookies (Isaiah Likely and Charlie Kolar) developing quickly, Oliver has been used primarily as a blocker. With the rookies projected to step into bigger roles next season, Oliver will likely enter the offseason a free agent.

For the Lions, they will likely return all three of the tight ends on the roster at the end of last season (James Mitchell is under contract, while Brock Wright and Shane Zylstra are ERFAs and surely will get offers) but will need competition and they prioritize tight ends who can block. Oliver finished the regular season with PFF blocking grades of 71.0 in passing situations, and 74.6 on running plays.

Germaine Pratt, LB, Bengals

If the Lions want to upgrade their linebacker core but don’t want to spend Tremaine Edmunds-level money, Pratt could offer them a slightly cheaper option with a lot of the same bells and whistles to his game.

Pratt, a third-round pick of the Bengals in 2019, is in the midst of a breakout year. At 6-foot-3, 250 pounds and a 9.3 RAS score, Pratt is a plug-and-play linebacker that would take the Lions' second level up a notch. During the regular season, he posted an impressive 80.6 overall grade from PFF, and a substantial 90.1 coverage grade—the highest mark for any linebacker this season.

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