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2023 Detroit Lions free agent profile: Can Anthony Pittman stick on an evolving Lions’ roster?

Anthony Pittman has been a dependable special teamer for multiple seasons but is that enough to keep him on the roster moving forward?

Detroit Lions vs Minnesota Vikings Photo by Amy Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Detroit Lions have 28 players from their 2022 roster set to become free agents in 2023 (18 unrestricted, 10 restricted), and we are covering them all in a series of articles. If you missed any of them, you can check them out here:

Unrestricted free agents: WR DJ Chark, RB Jamaal Williams, RB Justin Jackson, QB Nate Sudfeld, IOL Evan Brown, OT Dan Skipper, NT Isaiah Buggs, EDGE John Cominsky, EDGE Austin Bryant, LB Alex Anzalone, LB Josh Woods, LB Chris Board, CB Will Harris, CB Mike Hughes, CB Amari Oruwariye, SAF DeShon Elliott, SAF C.J. Moore, and K Michael Badgley

Restricted free agents: OT Matt Nelson, C/G Ross Pierschbacher, CB Bobby Price

Exclusive rights free agents: RB Craig Reynolds, TE Brock Wright, TE Shane Zylstra, OL Tommy Kraemer, NT Benito Jones, LS Scott Daly

In our final installment in the series, we take a deeper look at:

Anthony Pittman

Expectations heading into 2022

Originally an undrafted free agent in 2019 out of Wayne State University, Anthony Pittman was switched from MIKE to JACK in former coach Matt Patricia’s system. But when coach Dan Campbell took over, Pittman went back to the MIKE and SAM roles and had a productive 2021. He was active every week of the season—logging 76 snaps as a rotational edge rusher, and 374 as a core special teamer.

Because of his positional versatility, contributions on special teams, and as an edge setter along the defensive line, Pittman had a fairly straightforward path to the final roster.

Actual role in 2022

Participation: 18 games—54 defensive snaps, 355 special teams snaps
Stats: 1 tackle, 1 quarterback pressure, 3 special teams tackles
PFF grades: 52.6 defensive grade, 62.3 special teams grade

Pittman wasn’t part of the original 53-man roster, but he was elevated from the practice squad for each of the first three games. Then in Week 4, with his elevations exhausted, the Lions signed him to the active roster.

In similar fashion to his 2021 season, Pittman held down almost an identical role in 2022. Being that he wasn’t a part of any positional rotation, his defensive snaps dipped a bit from last season, down to 54 in 2022. On special teams, his role more or less stayed the same, logging weekly snaps on every unit, save the field goal team.

Outlook for 2023

Contract status: Exclusive rights free agent

Pittman has two years of tape now where he has proven himself to be a valuable asset as a special teamer. And in defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn’s scheme, he is serviceable as an outside linebacker when the situation calls for it.

With that said, this may be yet another case of the Lions’ roster progressing to a point where difficult decisions have to be made as it pertains to players like Pittman. In years past, two competent seasons on special teams would likely be enough to keep you in Detroit. Now, as the Lions look to take the next step, that dynamic may be going through a change.

Although he has only been in the league three years, the former Wayne State Warrior is a known commodity at this point. Someone who can be a dependable asset on kicking and punting units, but barring some major change in his game—will likely be a career backup on defense.

Can general manager Brad Holmes find someone else to fill in on special teams that may also have more developmental upside as a defender? It’s definitely a possibility. And as young as this Lions’ roster currently is, it is Holmes’ job to always keep one eye fixed on the future.

That being said, exclusive rights free agents typically get a base minimum contract with no money guaranteed, so there’s a good chance he will be brought back—with little to no risk—and allowed to compete for a role.


Should the Lions re-sign Anthony Pittman?

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.