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Friday open thread: Which player can the Lions least afford to lose to free agency?

With free agency just around the corner, it’s almost time for general manager Brad Holmes to make some difficult decisions regarding pending free agents.

NFL: Detroit Lions at New York Giants Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

One aspect of team building that doesn’t get talked about as much is the difficult decisions general managers have to make regarding free agency and retaining one’s own players. And for the Detroit Lions and general manager Brad Holmes—that is the portion of the rebuild they are currently dealing with.

Earlier on in the process, this kind of thing wasn’t really an issue. Take the 2021 season, for example. The Lions were really up against the salary cap due to contracts handed out by the prior regime, and due to having well over $60 million in dead cap, didn’t have many difficult decisions to make in terms of keeping talented players on the roster. The focus was on trimming some of those aforementioned contracts, honing in on youth, and gaining experience along the way.

Fast forward to the present day, and the roster is now leaps and bounds ahead of where it was this time last year. Holmes and his staff have done a remarkable job of mining talent in nearly every round of the draft, and have found several difference-makers in both their 2021 and 2022 draft classes.

Armed with significant draft capital for the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft and cap room that ranks in the top ten of the league, Holmes and company will now have some difficult decisions to make. Several veterans that were brought in via free agency had really productive years, and more than a few have expressed their desire to remain in Detroit, but with only so many roster spots and so much money to go around—there will inevitably be at least a few left out of the Lions’ future.

Today’s Question of the Day is:

Which player can the Lions least afford to lose to free agency?

My answer: It might be the chalky answer, but to me, the answer is veteran running back Jamaal Williams. In almost any other case I can think of, bringing back a running back that is close to 30 years old wouldn’t really make much sense from a value standpoint. Just let the player test free agency elsewhere, draft a replacement on Day 2 or 3 of the draft, and keep things moving.

With that said, most players aren’t Williams. From the beginning when he was signed prior to the 2021 season, the anime-loving running back has been instrumental to the shift in the culture surrounding the franchise. Sure, he is a dependable one-cut back that usually gets what is blocked for him. But he brings so much more than that with his attitude and the way he approaches every day. Keeping him in the fold as this team hopefully takes another step in the right direction just feels like the smart thing to do.

What about you? Which player do you think the Lions can least afford to lose in free agency? Let us know in the comments.

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