The Detroit Lions are not holding back from adding players to their cornerbacks room. On Monday, they reportedly signed CB Cameron Sutton, and then they followed that bold move up by signing CB Emmanuel Moseley and re-signing Will Harris on Tuesday.
Sutton looks to be in terrific shape to hold down one of the Lions’ starting roles, and the guaranteed money committed to him further suggests that to be a reality. Now Sutton does have the range to step inside and play a nickel/slot role—which we will likely see based on his usage history—but his primary role will be on the outside.
Who starts opposite Sutton is a bit in question, as it looks like it could turn into a three-way battle in training camp.
Last year Jeff Okudah held down a starting role until he found the bench late in the season. There is still a bit of mystery surrounding his playing time—he was also dealing with injury—but his late-season role leaves things a bit in doubt. The No. 3 overall pick has loads of upside, but he has been too inconsistent as a pro.
Opposite Okudah was Jerry Jacobs, who returned from an ACL injury a month into the season, and was back into the starting lineup at the halfway point. Jacobs is very dependable, and his developmental arrow is pointing up, but he lacks overall experience.
Moseley was a two-year starter on the outside for the 49ers in 2021 and 2022, but an ACL injury in Week 5 cut his season short. He figures to challenge for the starting role with Okudah and Jacobs, but step one is getting back on the field. Early reports are positive, and expectations are that he will be ready for camp, but the Lions had similar aspirations for Jacobs last season, indicating patience may be required.
As I reported yesterday, Emmanuel Moseley will be ready to go for training camp. This is a good addition at corner for Detroit. https://t.co/gD3AaNoivh— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) March 14, 2023
Another way of determining what level of play they think they can get out of a player is to follow the money. Sutton’s contract averages $11 million over three years, while Moseley, Okudah, and Jacobs are all on expiring contracts. As far as salary, Mosely’s deal is reportedly for $6 million but coming off an ACL likely lowers his cost. Okudah is still on his rookie deal, and as a high pick, he is on the books for over $10 million. While Jacobs is on UDFA rookie contract money and costs less than $1 million. Again, no real clarity beyond Sutton’s role.
The Lions coaching staff rewards players on performance and gives early leans to returning players. So if I had to guess how the competition plays out, this is my rough prediction:
- Okudah and Jacobs start in spring camp for the first week
- Sutton enters into a starting role shortly after, pushing Okudah and Jacobs into a rotating battle
- During the spring, Moseley will likely be recovering from his ACL
- In the fall, Sutton and the winner of the Okudah/Jacobs battle will start while the other continues to battle
- As Moseley regains health, he will slowly be introduced into the competition as he acclimates
- There will be clear starters by the end of training camp, even if the competition continues into the season
On the inside, Will Harris was the Lions’ starting nickel and should be the early favorite to start there again. First and foremost, Harris will need to hold off last year’s seventh-round pick Chase Lucas, who showed a lot of promise before being injured halfway through the season. Lucas is more of a pure nickel, while Harris is a safety/slot, but the roles are similar and will be competing for time.
Additionally, Sutton will likely take some snaps away from the slot defensive backs, and depending on what they’re looking for at the position, it’s possible Okudah or Jacobs also compete for playing time there as well.
So with all this competition, will this prevent the Lions from investing in the position in the draft?
In my roster impact of signing Cameron Sutton article, I suggested the Lions were “not close to done adding talent to the position group” as they are currently overhauling the position. And, now, despite two more additions, I still believe they’re probably not done adding.
General manager Brad Holmes drafts for the future, and of the six corners mentioned in this article, four of them are on expiring deals, one is brand new to the organization, and one is a rookie who did not finish the season.
Adding another top-flight corner in the draft, even using No. 6 or 18, is not out of the question. By adding this much competition in free agency, the Lions have put themselves in a situation where they don’t need to force their hand in the draft, but if the right player is available to them, they're not going to pass on him because they have a lot of competition already.
You can never have enough corners.