It’s fair to say the first wave of 2023 NFL free agency is done. The biggest moves have already been made, even if the transactions are only now starting to become official with Wednesday’s start of the new league year.
The Detroit Lions have been as active as they have ever been under general manager Brad Holmes, no longer just focusing on bringing back their own free agents. The Lions have added three potential starters thus far: cornerbacks Cameron Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley, along with running back David Montgomery.
That said, they also took care of their own, handing significant raises to Alex Anzalone and John Cominksy, while bringing back role players like Craig Reynolds, Will Harris, Matt Nelson, and Isaiah Buggs.
So what do national experts think of how the Lions have done so far? Let’s take a look at the latest free agency grades. Below I’ve taken grades from various outlets, and ONLY PART of their reasoning for the grade. For each publication’s full analysis of the signings, click the link in their name.
Note: You can see grades on the Lions’ signings of Cam Sutton and Alex Anzalone here.
Lions sign RB David Montgomery to three-year, $18M deal ($11M guaranteed)
Fit/need grade: B+
Value grade: B
“Montgomery fills the void left behind Jamaal Williams as the short-yardage back, but he can also pass catches out of the backfield — he occasionally lines up in the slot and out wide — and is a plus pass protector at the position, with his 71.7 pass-blocking grade since 2019 a top-10 mark at the position.”
CBS (Tyler Sullivan): B
“While Montgomery has been productive (800-plus rushing yards in each of his four seasons), the Lions lost an excellent leader in Williams to sign Montgomery.
“Montgomery is a good player and should do well in the Lions offense regardless.”
ESPN (Seth Walder): C-
“This is going to sound harsh, but I don’t think paying Montgomery is a particularly efficient use of resources.
“Over the past four seasons, Montgomery has averaged 3.7, 4.3, 3.8, and 4.0 yards per carry, which is unremarkable. His rush yards over expectation per carry — an NFL Next Gen Stats metric that measures performance relative to expectation based on the positioning and movement of all 22 players at the time of handoff — in each of those seasons has been minus-0.1, 0.5, minus-0.1, and minus-0.1. So in other words, in three of the past four seasons, he has actually managed to rush for fewer yards per carry than we would expect. And to make the point even worse, Khalil Herbert led all running backs with 100-plus carries in rush yards over expectation per carry at 1.4 last season ... on the same team.”
Sharp Football Analysis (Dan Pizzuta): C+
“Montgomery wasn’t the star of the Chicago running game last season and he wasn’t the team’s most efficient back but Montgomery can provide value as an every-down rusher and will go to an improved run-blocking offensive line in Detroit.
“There is not much of a difference efficiency-wise between Montgomery and Jamaal Williams, who was Detroit’s lead back and led the league in rushing touchdowns last season.”
Sporting News (Vinnie Iyer): A
“The Lions wanted a little more versatility than Jamaal Williams for power running and also a receiver skilled enough to address the durability issues of D’Andre Swift. This division addition makes a lot more sense than one would think.”
Grade the David Montgomery signings
Lions sign CB Emmanuel Moseley to 1-year, $6M deal
Fit/need grade: A
Value grade: A-
“This is a smart buy-low decision from the Detroit Lions on a player who started off the 2022 season strong, earning a career-high 73.5 coverage grade through Week 5, before tearing his ACL leading up to Week 6. That injury is far removed from Week 1 of 2023, so it’s not as if Moseley recently got hurt and is beginning rehab. Detroit has now added Cameron Sutton and Moseley, with Jeffrey Okudah and Jerry Jacobs in the fold, which could dramatically improve their cornerback unit that was in desperate need of reinforcement.”
CBS (Tyler Sullivan): A+
“Moseley is coming off a torn ACL, yet he’s an excellent cover corner. He allowed a 43.6 passer rating in his five starts last season, with no touchdown passes allowed. Just 26, Moseley has allowed only one touchdown over the past two seasons with a passer rating of 63.2.”
Pro Football Network (Dallas Robinson): B-
“Moseley had shown development in recent seasons, allowing passer ratings below 70 in both 2021 and 2022. Because he’s coming off an ACL tear, the Lions were able to sign him for just $6 million on a one-year deal. Moseley is a solid addition, but I would have liked Detroit to grab another year of contractual control in case he breaks out in 2023.”
Grade the Emmanuel Moseley signing