On Monday, the Detroit Lions announced that they have tendered five of their 2023 exclusive right free agents.
An exclusive rights free agent is a player with less than three years vested in the NFL and is on an expiring contract. Because ERFAs are not vested veterans, teams hold their contractual rights and have the option to offer them a one-year contract, typically for the league minimum amount.
Unfortunately for the players, once tendered, they have only a few options in front of them. First, they can sign their tendered contract and will be back on an NFL roster, which is the option almost all choose. Second, if they decide they do not want to sign their tender, they can ask for their release, which the team may or may not agree to. Lastly, if the player refuses to sign, and the team refuses to rescind the tender, the player would be forced to sit out the upcoming season—which is why most elected to take the first option.
Simply put, expect all the players listed below to sign their tender and be part of the Lions' 90-man offseason roster.
TE Brock Wright - After the team traded T.J. Hockenson away, Wright took over starting tight end duties for the remainder of the season. Wright played well in the new role—including catching a game-winning touchdown against the Jets—but will likely face competition for the starter role in 2023.
TE Shane Zylstra - Zylstra stepped into the Lions’ TE3 role after the Hockenson trade, eventually splitting time with rookie James Mitchell as a rotating TE2. The high point of Zylstra’s season was a three-touchdown performance against the Panthers in Week 16. He will be fighting for a roster spot in 2023.
NT Benito Jones - Claimed at cutdowns, Jones saw his role increase as the season wore on, and by the end, he was getting regular rotational snaps and contributing on a weekly basis. Jones primarily filled the reserve nose tackle role last season, and his upcoming role could be determined by the other defensive linemen acquired this offseason.
LB Anthony Pittman - We first learned of Pittman’s tender via Dave Birkett of the Free Press on Wednesday, which was an expected move considering Pittman's value, especially on special teams. In 2021, Pittman saw over 400 special teams snaps for Detroit (which led the team) and in 2022, he was just one behind the team lead with 358 special teams snaps. Pittman’s contributions should put him in a good spot for 2023, but he may need to show more on defense.
LS Scott Daly - After taking over for Lions legend Don Muhlbach in 2021, Daly has served as the team's primary long snapper over the last two seasons. Last year, Daly did not face competition in training camp for his role, and it’s unclear if he will face a challenger this training camp, or if he will continue to play unopposed.
The Lions had two other ERFA options that were not announced with this group: running back Craig Reynolds and IOL Tommy Kraemer.
The Lions did announce Reynolds was re-signed, but it is not clear if he simply signed his tender or if he received an entirely new contract. Either way, he is back on the roster.
As far as Kraemer, he had a back injury that cost him all of last season and it’s possible that injury is preventing him from being tendered, or it’s also possible the team has decided to move on. There is no clarity on that situation at this time.