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NFL free agency grades: How Detroit Lions did on Day 1

A look at the free agency grades national writers have given the Detroit Lions after signing Cameron Sutton, among other moves.

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Pittsburgh Steelers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Day one of the NFL free agency tampering period is in the books and the Detroit Lions are one of many teams already on the board. While the Lions only publicly acknowledged a couple of re-signings—running back Craig Reynolds and defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs—the team’s two biggest moves remain only reported, not official.

First, the Lions were the first to make a big splash in the cornerback market, agreeing to terms with former Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton on a three-year deal. That move cannot be made official until Wednesday.

A few hours later, news came down that the Lions are re-signing linebacker Alex Anzalone to a three-year contract of his own. The Lions can make that signing official any time they want, as it’s a re-signing. However, as of Monday night, it has yet to be confirmed by the team (although Anzalone more or less confirmed it on Twitter).

Regardless, NFL analysts shared their thoughts on the Lions’ moves on Monday, but really only the Sutton deal made national waves. So without further ado, here are some free agency grades given to the Lions after Day 1 of free agency.

CB Cameron Sutton — three years, $33 million ($22.5 guaranteed)

Touchdown Wire (Doug Farrar): A+

Sutton can go up against the NFL’s best receivers and come out on top. I’m not quite sure why he didn’t have a more robust market, but kudos to the Lions for leaping all over this one.”

ESPN (Seth Walker): B+

“It’s always scary paying corners because of how up-and-down they can be from year to year, and Sutton’s yards per coverage snap allowed in 2021 was 1.1, which was league average. But Detroit is not paying him like a top-flight corner, so this is a good deal.”


  • Fit/need grade: A-
  • Value grade: B

“The Lions needed to find an outside cornerback in free agency this offseason, and Sutton provides exactly that. Pittsburgh played man coverage at about the same rate as Detroit did in 2022, and so the schematic fit makes sense for both sides.”

The Athletic (Mike Jones): A

“One of the league’s top performers at his position last season, Sutton will improve a Detroit secondary that ranked 30th in the league, surrendering 245.8 passing yards per game. Sutton brings great versatility. He had expressed a desire to return to Pittsburgh; however, the Lions obviously proved more attractive.”

Over The Cap: C+

“This is a good signing by the Lions and a pretty reasonably priced contract for one of the first corners off the board this year. Sutton has been on the field for almost every snap for the Steelers the last two years and has developed into a solid player at the position. While he is a little older than some other free agents expecting two years is a fair expectation. The only thing I do not really like here is the void years. I don’t think this is the right position to really use those on. The Lions have had a hard time moving on from players and this may be a byproduct of that.”

Sports Illustrated (Matt Verderame): A-

“A six-year veteran with the Steelers, Sutton now goes to Motown where the Lions are trying to shore up what was a porous secondary in 2022. No team gave up more yards per play, allowing 6.2. Sutton immediately upgrades the defensive backfield, joining forces with No. 3 pick Jeff Okudah and third-year corner Jerry Jacobs.”

Sporting News (Vinnie Ayer): A

“The Lions wanted to secure a solid No. 2 experienced corner opposite Jeffrey Okudah and Sutton can help stabilize outside coverage in Aaron Glenn’s scheme.”

LB Alex Anzalone — Re-signed on three-year, $18.75M deal

Many outlets did not choose to give this move a grade. Either this move was not significant enough to register on their grades lists or they are waiting for more contact details to come out, seeing as we don’t even know the amount of guarantees in Anzalone’s deal. Either way, here are a couple of platforms and the grades they gave out.


  • Fit/need grade: B-
  • Value grade: C

“Anzalone was solid for the Lions last year, with his 58.5 PFF run-defense grade and 58.9 PFF coverage grade both ranking in the top 60 among all linebackers. It’s just a bit of an overpay on a day when we saw a division rival in the Bears sign T.J. Edwards for a pretty similar deal. Anzalone is not a bad player for the Lions to bring back, he just costs more than you’d like given his limitations.”

Sports Illustrated (Gilberto Manzano): B+

“Anzalone agreed to a three-year deal worth $18.75 million to remain with Detroit, according to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport. The stout middle linebacker racked up 125 total tackles and seven for loss this past season.

“This move comes hours after the Lions added cornerback Cameron Sutton (see below). The Lions still need help on defense, but they’re trending in the right direction by retaining a key in-house free agent and adding a versatile defensive back.”

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