Welcome to fall! The food tastes better, the beer tastes better, the football tastes better too. It’s a beautiful trick of the imagination, savoring in decay; leaves dying, winter encroaching and yet your taste buds are getting satiated—gourmandry at the end of the world. Also, the NFL trade deadline is little more than three weeks away.
The Detroit Lions has feasted well these past five games, jumping to a 4-1 start and planting their paws on the NFC North lead. By all statistical means and nerd-math, they’re sitting in a comfortable computational position to make the playoffs. Once there, they’ll have the distinct duty of trying to undo a wretched narrative, win a playoff game finally and probably go farther than that.
But injuries have mounted among Detroit’s defensive backs. Emmanuel Moseley and C.J. Gardner-Johnson are already out for a long time, quite possibly the season for both. It’s forcing the Lions to dig deep, relying on Tracy Walker and Jerry Jacobs—no insults upon their performances, just a remark that depth is drying. Brian Branch can only do so much, and he’s missing games as the Lions work to maintain his health.
It’s enough that it could seriously dampen the Lions’ defense, which has been punching at high marks. In a year where everything is lining up just right, that would be a particular shame.
So let’s make this trade deadline part of the autumn bounty, one Detroit could reap. Let’s utter words that seem silly: the Lions would do wise to consider buying.
It’s a curious thing to consider, it must feel foreign, alien, strange and silly. After all, the Lions are rarely if ever buyers, and last year they were dealing T.J. Hockenson at about the same time. Yet the stakes have never been higher for the Lions and the field so open.
Following Monday’s loss by the Green Bay Packers to the Las Vegas Raiders, the Lions hold an early grip on the NFC North. For that matter, the entirety of the NFC has proven itself top-heavy; the San Francisco 49ers and the Philadelphia Eagles are undefeated, but the Lions are clearly among them as the only serious threats. At the same time, seven teams in the NFL have a record of 1-4 or worse; none of them seem likely to make a push to rally.
Detroit has a clear place of need, a chance to strike this year, and the opportunity to do so. And with the coming weeks, there will be sellers who have the motive to do business.
Every situation with a seller is a one of circumstance. Take for example the Chicago Bears. Given their situation, a poor performing October could see them detonate several roster positions in an effort to shore up draft capital to strike hard at this year’s crop. Cornerback Jaylon Johnson has performed well for them this year, allowing just 41.7 percent pass completion—but with an expiring contract and others to pay, will the Bears deign to keep him? It would sting to trade Johnson to a divisional foe, but the Lions just did business with Minnesota last year and it’s hard to say it’s unheard of.
And the “For Sale” signs are already going up. Somehow the Denver Broncos have gotten laughably and demonstrably worse under the immaculate Sean Payton, and with little hope on their horizon and a bad quarterback contract the team is already listening to offers, according to Adam Schefter.
Denver’s struggling defense enters Sunday ranked last in the NFL in both points and yards allowed per game, and many sources around the league believe the Broncos would be willing to listen to trade interest in almost any player on the defensive side.
The Broncos are a good case study on where the Lions could land for purchases. While they are open to trading most of their defensive talent, there should be serious doubts in any fan’s mind that Denver would part with Patrick Surtain II. If they are, a price tag comparable to Jalen Ramsey might be on the table—corners making first-team All-Pro in their second season don’t grow on trees.
But we don’t need to focus on just Surtain. If the concern is depth, there’s several players the Lions could have. What about the undrafted Ja’Quan McMillian, who has punched above his weight as a slot corner, or the struggling Damarri Mathis, looking for a turnaround in a fresh environment? For safety help, veteran Kareem Jackson could be had. None of them will require high draft picks. These are depth trades, and none should command large ransoms.
The Lions expect this project built for the long-term, but the opportunity cost is staring them in the face. Each year is a different beast for this league, and the NFC’s door is open. It would be a shame to let such an opportunity slip because of conservative natures. There’s no need to bust out the Les Snead “F Them Picks” shirts: you needn’t give up the farm just for a little help.