The opening round of the 2023 NFL Playoffs comes to its conclusion on Monday when the Dallas Cowboys (5) take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4) on Monday night at 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN/ABC.
In this article series, we will sort through the pending free agents of the playoff teams on the schedule today and pick out one from each team that the Detroit Lions should be watching.
If you missed either of the previous installments in this series, be sure you check out the potential 2023 free agents on our watchlists from Saturday and Sunday’s Super Wild Card matchups.
Here’s who to keep an eye on during Monday night’s game:
Tony Pollard, RB, Cowboys
The Lions will surely prioritize re-signing Jamaal Williams in free agency, but if both sides can’t come to an agreement, Detroit could be in the market for a running back. If Williams departs, coupled with D’Andre Swift’s injury history and the high level of importance put on the running game by this coaching staff, they may be willing to invest at the position.
The running back free agent market has the potential to be flooded this offseason. Saquon Barkley (Giants) and Josh Jacobs (Raiders) lead the group, but there are several other backs capable of starting, including Williams (Lions), Kareem Hunt (Browns), Miles Sanders (Eagles), Devin Singletary (Bills), David Montgomery (Bears), and Tony Pollard (Cowboys).
While most of the backs mentioned above are clear starters on their respective teams, Pollard has long been considered the complement back to Ezekiel Elliott. But if you look closer at their situation, you’ll see that Pollard has been chewing into Elliott’s snaps for some time and has looked like the more explosive back. In fact, according to PFF, Pollard has 31 explosive plays this season, which ranks sixth most in the NFL.
This is elite-level shiftiness from Tony Pollard. pic.twitter.com/voywpVjFKt— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) November 4, 2022
Even as the No. 2 option, Pollard still managed to rush for 1,007 yards this season, including nine rushing touchdowns. But Pollard isn’t just a rusher, he is also a consistent contributor in the passing game. This season he secured 39 receptions for 371 yards and three touchdowns, as well as earning a 75.3 pass blocking grade from PFF.
The biggest downside of acquiring Pollard is that he will require a financial investment. He is just 25 years old, but according to Spotrac’s Market Value projection, Pollard should expect to earn a three-year, $25.4 million contract ($8.47 million per year) in free agency.
Jamel Dean, CB, Buccaneers
It’s no secret that the Lions will be in the market for cornerbacks this offseason and it would make sense to look at the ones who could potentially be at the top of the free agent class. That means doing their homework on Dean.
Dean has the size (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) and athleticism (9.93 RAS) you want in a CB1. His instinctual physical nature causes problems for offenses both in coverage (75.6 coverage grade from PFF) and in run support (82.5 run defense grade). If we nitpick, looking for flaws, you could argue he can be a bit overaggressive and will gamble at times, with only average results—41 pass breakups and seven interceptions over four years.
PICK 6! Jamel Dean takes it to the house! #GoBucs— NFL (@NFL) October 18, 2020
: #GBvsTB on FOX
: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app: https://t.co/qYnOYOB3CA pic.twitter.com/qk0Tn7O45M
Dean is just 26 years old and figures to take advantage of a growing cornerback market. Spotrac Market Value projection lists his likely contract at three-year, $26.3 million ($8.76 million average) but that seems light, especially considering six corners earned free agent contracts that averaged over $10 million per year last offseason.