The Detroit Lions spent the first day of the tampering period to free agency attacking the team’s biggest needs. To help aid their thin defensive line group, they had begun the day by re-signing defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs on a team-friendly deal. While the defensive tackle position is by no means “fixed,” Detroit did well to bring back a serviceable starter and good depth.
Next, the Lions addressed what was widely considered their biggest need on the roster: cornerback. Detroit has reportedly agreed to terms with former Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton on a three-year deal. Given that Sutton is being handed $22.5 million guaranteed by Detroit, it’s safe to say he’s considered a starter and a big boost to a shaky secondary.
The Lions then shored up the linebacker position by bringing back Alex Anzalone on a three-year, $18.75 million deal. Again, the money suggests the Lions view Anzalone as the team’s starter for at least the next two seasons. Combine that with the promise of 2022 sixth-round pick Malcolm Rodriguez and 2021 fourth-round pick Derrick Barnes, and the linebacker position should not be considered high priority anymore.
So that begs the question:
What is the Lions’ biggest remaining need after Day 1 of free agency?
My answer: I still think cornerback remains pretty high on the list and very much in play for the Lions in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. The Lions could still use a more clear No. 1 cornerback, as Sutton will likely be occupying several different roles on the team. Unless Jerry Jacobs or Jeff Okudah take a huge step in 2023, I don’t think the Lions have a lockdown option on the roster.
Defensive tackle, too, remains a big need. The depth is thin there and Detroit could probably use an upgrade over Buggs.
But those aside, I think Detroit’s top two needs are running back and interior offensive linemen.
Let’s start on the offensive line. There remain questions as to whether Halapoulivaati Vaitai will remain on the roster after missing the entire 2022 season following back surgery. His $12.4 million cap hit is huge, and while the Lions like him both as a player and a locker room presence, back surgeries are serious.
Beyond Vaitai, the situation is even worse. Backup center Evan Brown reportedly has a hot free agency market and seems destined to find an opportunity to start elsewhere. Detroit’s primary reserve guard, Tommy Kraemer, missed last season with a back injury of his own, and the Lions didn’t even offer him an exclusive rights free agent tender (yet)—so it’s possible he’s gone, too. In other words, the Lions may need a starter and two reserve interior offensive linemen.
The running back position is less dire and much easier to fix. The Lions have D’Andre Swift, Jermar Jefferson, and Greg Bell under contract—with Craig Reynolds nearly certain to return now that he’s received an exclusive rights free agent tender. The depth is fine, but the starters are not. Swift is unreliable to stay healthy, and the team’s 1A to his 1B—Jamaal Williams—is in the midst of testing free agency. If the Lions just run it back by re-signing Williams, that’s perfectly acceptable. But Williams has a lot of suitors, and even if they bring him back, the Lions need to start preparing for life after Swift, who enters the final year of his contract in 2023.
What do you think are the Lions’ biggest needs going forward?
What is the Lions’ biggest remaining need?