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Grading the Lions’ re-signing of DT Isaiah Buggs

Our analysis and grade for the Detroit Lions’ first free agency move: re-signing Isaiah Buggs.

Detroit Lions v New York Giants Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

And so it begins. King Théoden said it prior to the Battle at Helm’s Deep, and I am saying it now as the legal tampering period, or “pre-agency”, kicks off today, March 13 2023, at 12 p.m. ET. The Detroit Lions have begun what is sure to be a busy few days by re-signing defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs to a two-year deal that is worth “up to” $6 million.

Originally a sixth-round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2019 out of the University of Alabama, Buggs had a career year with the Lions in 2022—racking up 46 total tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, and 11 quarterback hurries (per PFF). Although he wasn’t added to the roster until later on last offseason, he ended up logging over 700 defensive snaps due to injuries on the interior. His ability to line up as the one-technique freed up second-year defensive lineman Alim McNeill to kick out to the three-technique, and after a change to their scheme during the bye week, that is exactly what happened. Buggs began to take the vast majority of his reps at the nose, allowing McNeill to use his quick-twitch athleticism to wreak havoc in the backfield. And with the Lions’ defense being as young as it was, Buggs became a vocal leader for a unit that took its lumps early in the 2022 season.

The last 10 weeks? 8-2 with the cherry on top being a Week 18 victory over the Green Bay Packers that eliminated them from playoff contention. Almost immediately after the season concluded in Green Bay, players like Buggs, defensive lineman John Cominsky, and running back Jamaal Williams all publicly stated that they wanted to be back in Detroit. However, despite what some people may want to believe about the NFL’s salary cap, there are always difficult decisions to be made around this time of the year—especially once a roster starts to become competitive.

With Buggs, the Lions are keeping a vocal leader in house on an affordable deal. And while he may not end up seeing over 700 snaps again in 2023, he will likely still be a vital player in the defensive line rotation.

My grade: This was a re-signing that I always expected, considering the market for nose tackles is never all that crazy, and Buggs wanted to be back in Detroit. I will give this one a B. Buggs is a solid player on the interior, but if this team is going to take the next step, the Lions still likely need to add a difference maker to pair with McNeill on the inside. If they can do that and Buggs is the first interior defensive linemen off the bench, then I’ll gladly change this grade to an A.


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