The Detroit Lions are two weeks into the 2023 NFL new year and they have been active. Unlike in years prior when general manager Brad Holmes was focused on retention, this year he has been aggressive and willing to go after players both inside and outside the organization.
If you’ve had a hard time keeping up or just need a fun recap, this article will give you an overview of where the current roster sits after the first 14 days of free agency. Organized by position group, we will lay out the projected depth chart, each player's current salary cap hit for 2023, identify which former Lions are still free agents, and which have signed with new teams.
Additionally, we will have links to all relevant articles and we will touch on the Lions’ projected strategy at each position for the remainder of the offseason.
As of the publishing of this article, the Lions have 69 players under contract (90 players is the maximum during the offseason), they hold eight draft picks and typically bring in another 12 (2022) to 13 (2021) undrafted free agents following the draft—though that number may be smaller this year. That leaves only a handful of spots open, meaning they may be close to done adding in free agency.
With only Goff and Sudfeld on the roster, the Lions will likely need to add one or two more signal callers between now and the start of spring camp in late May. Who and how they acquire quarterbacks could come in a variety of ways, as coach Dan Campbell has said the Lions are keeping their options open, while also leaving little doubt Goff is their guy in 2023.
The draft is a logical place to add talent, but depending on what they want, it’s hard to say when, if at all, they will select a player. Adding an undrafted quarterback also seems like a real possibility, as well.
In the end, there is a need, but at what level and when they will address it is unknown—which is probably exactly what Holmes wants.
The Lions have a very solid rotational starting duo in Montgomery and Swift, while Reynolds provides a sturdy RB3 option. Losing out on Williams is a blow to the Lions locker room, but Montgomery is an upgrade on the field and should be able to turn some of last year's 4-yard gains into 7- or 9-yard gains.
Montgomery is the only back (that has seen an NFL snap) on the roster beyond this season, which makes adding a depth piece for the future a priority in the draft. Early guess is that they may be targeting a speed/agility back to complement Montgomery.
If the Lions dip back into free agency, it would likely be after the draft if they miss on landing one of their running back targets.
- RB David Montgomery — Signed 3-year, $18M deal (contract details, roster impact, grade, national grades, approval poll, 5 questions, highlights, Bears Twitter reaction, press conference)
- RB Craig Reynolds — Re-signed a 1-year, $1.1M deal
- Departed: RB Jamaal Williams — Signed 3-year, $12M with Saints (Controversy)
The Lions have been quiet in the wide receiver market, opting to try and re-sign Chark before he took the opportunity to be the Panthers' WR1. To replace Chark, the logical move is to simply upgrade Williams who was limited last season due to ACL surgery, but it seems very possible the Lions look to add some more depth this offseason.
The Lions have done a lot of work on the WR-Xs in this class (Chark’s role) meeting with the top guys as well as prospects available in all rounds and on the undrafted market. That being said, they are also keying in on several other speed options—like Michigan State’s Jayden Reed—as that skill is a primary skill they look for on the outside.
Despite several contributors being in the final year of their contracts, having their top two options locked up makes this a minimal priority.
The Lions return all three tight ends they finished the season with but with no other players added this offseason, this remains a position that could see an upgrade via the draft. If the right player falls to them they could select a tight end early, but if they don’t find themselves in that position, they should feel comfortable rolling with what they’ve got as well.
Nelson was re-signed to give the Lions some security at the OT3 spot, but with only $150,000 in guarantees, the Lions could be looking to upgrade their depth at tackle. The Lions have historically looked for position versatile players for their depth roles, so a player that can play tackle and guard could be on their draft wish list.
- OT Matt Nelson — Re-signed 1-year, $1.3M deal (grade)
Interior offensive line
The Lions return two Pro Bowlers at center and left guard, while right guard looks like it will be a healthy battle between Vaitai and Glasgow. But despite four capable players readying for three starting roles, adding a high-value player to this spot remains a high priority this offseason.
The main catalyst for this increased priority is the expiring contract of Jackson. If the Lions opt to re-sign Jackson, he will demand a high contract and the Lions may want to have a right guard on a rookie contract. So it makes sense to draft a potential starting right guard this season to add to the 2023 competition, while also being developed enough to step into a starting role in 2024.
- IOL Graham Glasgow — Agreed to a 1 year, up to $4.5M deal (Roster impact, Mid-week mailbag podcast from February)
- RG Halapoulivaati Vaitai renegotiated his contract, reducing salary and years
- C Ross Pierschbacher (RFA) — Re-signed 1-year, $1M deal (roster impact)
- Departed: C Evan Brown — Signed a 1-year, $2.25M with Seahawks
- Interior defensive line
One of the top needs entering the season, the Lions re-signed Buggs and tendered Jones, but they have made no other upgrades. The Lions elected not to pay the high prices of the free agency market and appear ready to acquire some interior depth via the draft. It would be surprising if the Lions did not address the position on either Day 1 or 2 of the draft.
- DT Isaiah Buggs — Signed a 2-year $4.5M deal (contract details, roster impact, grade)
- DT Benito Jones — Tendered
- Departed: DT Michael Brockers — Saves Lions $10M in cap space
Re-signing Cominsky and re-working contracts for Romeo Okwara and Harris, allows the Lions to retain their top seven edge rushers from last season. This looks like a loaded group, and in many ways it is, but you can never have enough edge rushers, and four of the seven players are on expiring contracts. This remains a position where the Lions could absolutely be justified in selecting a prospect early in the draft or completely ignoring the position altogether if the right value isn’t available.
- EDGE John Cominsky — Re-signed 2-year, $8.5M deal (contract)
- Romeo Okwara — took a $9M pay cut to stick with the Lions
- Charles Harris — took a $3M pay cut to stay in Detroit
The Lions made a strong play to return Anzalone and that move has lowered the priority of adding more talent at the position. That being said, the Lions did lose more depth than they gained, and adding another player into the mix seems very realistic. Even if said player is not an immediate contributor on defense, this coaching staff’s history suggests they’ll be looking for another special teams dynamo with a linebacker frame.
- LB Alex Anzalone — Re-signed a 3-year, $18.75 M deal (roster impact, contract)
- LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin — returns to the Lions
- LB Anthony Pittman — Tendered
- Departed: LB Chris Board — Signing a 2-year deal with Patriots worth “up to $6.7M”
- Departed: LB Josh Woods — Signed a 1-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals
The Lions had a game plan for overhauling the cornerbacks room and they hit it hard in free agency, adding three players—Sutton, Gardner-Johnson, and Moseley—who could all potentially start in 2023.
While there has been plenty invested for the upcoming season, the Lions lack some stability beyond this year, which leaves the door open for them to add more talent via the draft, including using a top pick to secure that stability.
- CB Cameron Sutton — Signed 3-year, $33M deal (contract details, roster impact, instant analysis, grade, 5 questions, Steelers Twitter reaction)
- CB Emmanuel Moseley — Signed 1-year, $6M deal (roster impact, analysis/poll, national grades, 5 questions, 49ers Twitter reaction)
- C.J. Gardner-Johnson — Signed 1-year, $8M deal with Lions (roster analysis, instant analysis, press conference, Lions players react to signing, what Eagles writers/fans are saying, contract details)
- DB Will Harris — Re-signing 1-year, $2.53M, fully guaranteed deal (roster impact, contract)
- CB Mac McCain — Signed 1-year, $870,000 deal prior to free agency
- Departed: CB Mike Hughes — Signed 2-year deal with Atlanta
- Departed: CB Amani Oruwariye — Signed with New York Giants
Don’t be surprised if the top four names on this list are the Lions safeties in 2023. Walker and Joseph are locked in as starters, Melifonwu is a player they believe can develop, and Moore’s contract all but guarantees he will make the roster. Add in Gardner-Johnson’s ability to also play safety and the Lions look like they may be all set at the position.
Keep an eye out for them to add an undrafted free agent or two who could round out the position for training camp and potentially make the practice squad.
- SAF Tracy Walker — restructures contract, frees up $5M
- DB C.J. Moore — Re-signing 2-year, $4.5M deal
- Departed: S DeShon Elliott — Signed 1-year, $1.77M with Dolphins
Looks like we get to bring back #LongSnapperWatch for another training camp. Daly is the incumbent but McQuaide is a two-time Pro Bowler and was with the Rams through the 2020 season, so general manager Brad Holmes is very familiar with his work.
Will there be a #KickerWatch for training camp as well? It sure seems like a real possibility, with the only question being if the Lions would draft a kicker or simply grab one following the draft.
- K Michael Badgley — Re-signed, per his agent (contract details)
- LS Scott Daly — Tendered
- LS Jake McQuaide — Signed a 1-year deal with the Lions