The Detroit Lions have 28 players from their 2022 roster set to become free agents in 2023 (18 unrestricted, 10 restricted), and we are covering them all throughout the month of February.
If you missed any of the previous articles, you can check them out here:
Unrestricted free agents: WR DJ Chark, RB Jamaal Williams, RB Justin Jackson, QB Nate Sudfeld, IOL Evan Brown, OT Dan Skipper, NT Isaiah Buggs, EDGE John Cominsky, EDGE Austin Bryant, LB Alex Anzalone, LB Josh Woods, LB Chris Board, CB Will Harris, CB Mike Hughes, CB Amari Oruwariye, SAF DeShon Elliott, SAF C.J. Moore, and K Michael Badgley
Restricted free agents: OT Matt Nelson, C/G Ross Pierschbacher, CB Bobby Price
Expectations heading into 2022
Daly came to the Lions in 2021 as a success story of the then-newly-formed XFL, and held his own, dethroning Lions legend Don Muhlbach at long snapper. We didn’t hear much from him during the 2021, which is usually a good thing for a long snapper.
Entering 2022, things were expected to be much of the same. Having the continuity of Daly and Jack Fox boded well for the special teams unit amidst their kicker carousel. At least, that was the plan.
Actual role in 2022
Stats: 1 fumble, 1 fumble recovery
The majority of insight you’ll get on a long snapper won’t show up on the stat sheet, and that’s certainly the case for Scott Daly in 2022.
It was a rollercoaster of a season for Daly. As the Lions continued a carousel at kicker, they almost had to begin one at long snapper, with Daly having a tough stretch through the middle of the season. After a punt snap skimmed the ground in Week 7 (his one fumble) and a PAT snap did the same in Week 9, special teams coordinator Dave Fipp came to Daly’s defense.
Dave Fipp says the reason Scott Daly had a poor snap on the missed XP last week was because he tried to pull back the snap, realizing he hadn't received the sign to snap the ball yet.— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) November 10, 2022
Says he has no concern about Daly's accuracy.
Daly rebounded well, with the exception of another appearance in stock report following the Lions’ win against the Jaguars for another low snap. I said it there and I’ll say it here: Jack Fox may have quite literally single-handedly saved Scott Daly’s job. Fox was immaculate as a holder and punter receiving snaps all season. If Fox (justifiably) mishandled the aforementioned snaps, the Lions likely would have been looking for someone to blame after the second or third, and Daly would have been that guy.
Beyond the snapping, Daly did show up in the box score with a fumble recovery in Week 4 against the Seahawks. However, for the season as a whole, the Lions struggled as a team in punt coverage. They were the seventh-worst team in the league in opponent yards allowed per punt return in 2022 per statmuse, allowing 10.43 yards per return. That doesn’t necessarily fall on Daly, but doing your part on punt coverage to close your lane is so important, and takes all 11 guys to do well.
Also worth noting—and this is strictly by the eye test, I do not have concrete data to back this up—Daly’s snaps looked slower as he fixed the accuracy issue as the season went on. Snap speed is a huge part of success on special teams but especially for punt units, and that’s certainly something to keep an eye out for if Daly remains a Lion.
Outlook for 2023
Contract status: Exclusive rights free agent
Before we get into Daly’s situation, let’s explain what it means to be an exclusive rights free agent (ERFA). If a player’s contract is about to expire and they have fewer than three accrued seasons in the NFL, they are considered an ERFA. That means if a team wants to retain that player, they can offer a one-year contract at the league minimum. The player then has two options: sign the contract or sit out the season. In other words, the team holds all the leverage, and most ERFAs are re-signed without any drama.
So now that we’re into the Lions’ ERFAs in our free agent profile series, expect most—if not, all—of these players to be re-signed.
Daly had a rollercoaster of a season, but a change isn’t always for the better. Even if you spend significant capital on a long snapper, there’s no guarantee they pan out (see Jimmy Landes).
A full offseason to reset should benefit Daly, and this coaching staff clearly believes in him to stand by him as he struggled throughout the season. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lions brought Daly back, however I fully expect the Lions to bring in someone else for training camp to challenge for the job.
Should the Lions extend an ERFA offer to Daly?