The Detroit Lions have poured a huge portion of their offseason resources into the cornerback position. Their biggest external signing of the Brad Holmes era took place shortly into the negotiating period when they handed Cameron Sutton a three-year, $33 million deal. They didn’t wait long to strike again, adding former 49ers cornerback Emmanuel Moseley on a one-year deal.
And just when you thought the Lions were done, Detroit struck again on Sunday night, adding the best free agent still available in versatile defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson.
Before free agency, we had pondered whether the Lions had a single starting cornerback on their roster, and it’s clear the Lions were wondering the same thing. Their free agent additions have added three players who will undoubtedly contribute in 2023, but will they be handed starting jobs right away?
Today’s Question of the Day is:
Who will be the Lions’ three starting cornerbacks in Week 1 of the 2023 season?
My answer: I think the one person we can be pretty darn sure of is Cameron Sutton starting at the outside cornerback spot. The Lions gave him a monster deal, he’s coming off his best career season, and he has leadership qualities written all over him. He’s in.
It’s far less clear for Moseley. First of all, the 49ers cornerback is coming off a torn ACL, and based on his comments last week, he won’t be ready for OTAs. There’s no indication he’ll miss any of training camp, but coming into a new team with no on-field work until July could start him low on the depth chart.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Jerry Jacobs or Jeff Okudah begin camp at a starting spot over Moseley. So will there be enough time for Moseley to win a spot before the start of the season? It’s hard to say, but I don’t think the Lions are in the business of just handing players starting jobs, and Moseley’s $6 million contract isn’t enough to guarantee him the starter status. That said, he’ll make it onto the field at some point.
At nickel, I don’t think there’s much of a question. While many are still labeling Gardner-Johnson as a safety—and he’ll probably take some snaps there—I think the Lions view him primarily as a nickel. That’s where he played under Aaron Glenn in New Orleans, and he made a lot of his plays in Philly there, too. He’ll contend with Will Harris for the spot, but there isn’t much of a competition there. Gardner-Johnson should be a Day 1 starter, especially since he comes with familiarity of the team’s defense already.