Last week, despite a strong free agency, Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes faced some modest criticism.
At the NFL Combine, Holmes told the media that he was going to do a better job filling out the Lions’ quarterback room, creating more competition for the backup job behind Jared Goff. Last year, the Lions opted to keep the status quo. They re-signed both David Blough and Tim Boyle, hoping one would rise to the occasion. Instead, both struggled in the preseason and the Lions eventually cut both. That left Holmes flailing to find a replacement to start the year. They landed on Nate Sudfeld.
So what have the Lions done differently this year?
Well, two weeks into free agency, the only quarterback move they have made is... running it back with Sudfeld by re-signing him to a one-year, $1.6 million contract, with $1 million guaranteed.
On Monday at the NFL owners meetings, Holmes explained why Detroit has not made a more aggressive move in free agency as he seemed to suggest they would.
“We really like Nate. We really did,” Holmes said. “We’re all aware of the mystery behind Nate about the lack of game experience. But we did like Nate.”
As Holmes pointed out, Sudfeld remains a relative unknown. Since joining the league in 2017, he has never started an NFL game and he’s only thrown 37 regular season passes. Last year with the Lions, he only entered the game twice—in blowout wins over the Jaguars and Bears—to kneel out the clock.
But Holmes said there were only a limited amount of free agency quarterbacks that they were looking at, and Sudfeld was the only one of the three targets they came to an agreement with.
“We were looking at some quarterbacks that had a little more game experience, but obviously it just didn’t work out,” Holmes said. “But it’s not like we had a pool of experienced quarterbacks that we were just looking through. Really, it was down to three guys, including Nate. So it just only looking at two (other) guys that we were kind of just looking at and it didn’t work out.”
Obviously, Holmes didn’t reveal the identities of the two other free agent quarterbacks, but it’s interesting to hear that Detroit’s field was so narrow. At the start of free agency, there were certainly more than just three backup quarterbacks on the market who have serious NFL experience, including Sam Darnold, Jacoby Brissett, Andy Dalton, Gardner Minshew, and Case Keenum, to name a few.
Holmes’ comments seem to suggest that the Lions are likely done adding quarterback competition through free agency, but drafting one is now more likely than ever. Holmes even commented that they have talked with Goff about adding talent to the quarterback room through the draft.
“I communicated with Jared at the end of the season about—just like I told you guys at the Combine—yeah, we’ve got Jared, but we didn’t have anything else behind him,” Holmes said. “So (we) just let him know that, ‘Look, man, we’ve got to get more behind you.’ I think we are in a unique position with all the picks that we have to add maybe a pretty talented guy if we go that direction. But, again, it doesn’t have to be the first round, doesn’t have to be the second round. It can be at any point. I just feel like we’re in a good place right now.”
So while the Lions’ lack of free agency competition to the quarterback room can certainly be described as disappointing, it sure sounds like Holmes is not done adding to that position—and perhaps adding a very talented player behind Goff.