FWith the NFL’s “tampering period” just a week away, for the next few days we’ll be previewing free agency by taking a look at the best players the Detroit Lions should consider at each position of need.
The Lions have some holes to fill this year. Luckily they’re a team with money and there are plenty of options out there. Over the next few days, I’m going to go over each position that the Lions need to fill the most and share four free agents they should consider signing.
Let’s start with cornerbacks.
Let’s start it off with the guy that is going to be at the top of everyone’s radar. The former third-round pick has been a revelation for the Buccaneers since his rookie year in 2019. Dean has graded out in the elite category all four years of his career per Pro Football Focus. In 2022, he graded out at his career highest with a 77.9. That’s good for 11th in the NFL.
Dean brings more to his game than just good coverage. He is an elite run stopper. He had the fourth highest run defense grade among corners in 2022. The Lions value those skills highly.
The rub here is that Dean is going to likely command a lot of money if the Bucs allow him to hit the market at all. The Lions can afford him, but it would be the biggest out-of-house contract general manager Brad Holmes has ever given
If you can’t get Jamel Dean, why not get his teammate? Bunting is not as good as Dean, but he’s still very good. He’s also a hometown kid. Murphy-Bunting grew up in Macomb, Michigan and played his college ball at Central Michigan. Perhaps that could help bring him to the Lions.
Murphy-Bunting is coming off the best year of his career, however it was marred with injury. He missed five games this season, but was a regular on the injury report.
The former second-round pick, though, is just 25 years old and earned a PFF grade of 76.6 in 2022, nearly as high as his counterpart Dean. The bad part is that Murphy-Bunting doesn’t bring that run stopping ability that Dean does. He compensates that with solid coverage skills. His 74.5 coverage grade is well above league average.
If the Lions are unable to get Dean, Sutton is a very nice consolation prize. After spending the first four years of his career coming off the bench, Sutton has developed into a solid starter for the Steelers over the past three seasons. After struggling somewhat in his first year as a full starter in 2021, Sutton bounced back and had a big year last season. Per PFF, he allowed the ninth-fewest yards among cornerback with at least 400 coverage snaps.
Sutton would be cheaper option than Dean—and he has a little more versatility to play inside—but he has a less of history of proven success.
Here’s where you take a chance. Moseley only played four games in 2022. He’s coming off an ACL injury suffered in early October, and had an injury in 2021 as well. Still, there’s a ton of value here.
Early in his career when healthy, Moseley had shown signs of becoming a solid, young cornerback. From 2019-21, Moseley tallied a total of 28 pass breakups and had already logged five in five games in 2022 before tearing his ACL. Last year, the Lions finished 27th in pass breakups. They need someone with those kind of ball skills.
This is a low-risk, high-reward situation. The Lions aren’t going to spend top dollar here and they should still look to draft a guy, but they get a young corner that has played pretty well while healthy. It’s worth a look and a short prove it style contract.