The 2023 NFL free agency period is less than a week away and we at Pride of Detroit have been doing our best to prepare you for the big offseason event. The Detroit Lions have 28 pending free agents in 2023 (18 unrestricted, 10 restricted), and we covered them all in a series of articles.
If you missed any of them, 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
Pro Football Focus (PFF) also has a 2023 NFL free agency tracker and their latest update ranked the top 201 potential unrestricted free agents, of which the Lions are represented with six of their UFAs. One of the neat things about PFF’s tracker is that not only do they rank the players across the league, but they also provided projected contracts for each.
Let’s take a look at each of the six Lions’ pending UFAs and PFF’s projected contracts to get a clearer picture of if they may return to Detroit next season.
DJ Chark, WR
POD team rank: 2nd
PFF NFL rank: 58th
Previous contract: 1 year, $10 million (fully guaranteed)
PFF projected salary: 3 years, $35 million ($23.5 million guaranteed)
After coming off yet another season with missed games due to injury, PFF’s projected contract seems lofty. But as PFF points out in their explanation, Chark’s size, speed, and skill set combination will always be coveted by NFL teams.
Based on the Lions’ recent investment in the position, the fact that they return five of their top six wide receivers from 2022, and that they are looking at another NFL Draft class with a wealth of options spread through rounds one through seven, that projected contract may be too rich for Detroit.
DeShon Elliott, S
POD team rank: 6th
PFF NFL rank: 113th
Previous contract: 1 year, $1.1 million ($135,000 guaranteed)
PFF projected salary: 2 years, $6.5 million ($3.5 million guaranteed)
With a healthy and well-earned bump in pay for Elliott, the biggest obstacle the Lions may face is that a team with a bigger need at safety may be willing to pay him more. The Lions would likely love to bring him back on a one-year $3.5 million deal, especially with Tracy Walker coming off an Achilles injury. But with Walker and Kerby Joseph the clear starters of the future for this team, the Lions may not be looking to hand out a multiyear deal at the position.
Jamaal Williams, RB
POD team rank: 1st
PFF NFL rank: 114th
Previous contract: 2 years, $6 million ($3.5 million guaranteed)
PFF projected salary: 2 years, $ 9 million ($5 million guaranteed)
The Lions and Williams are currently in discussions on a new contract, and as one of the heart-and-soul players on the Lions team, any level of reasonable contact seems very likely to get a deal done. When we published Williams’ free agency profile, we asked POD readers what level of contract the Lions should give Williams and 69% voted to give him a deal similar to PFF’s projection, while another 25% were willing to spend even more.
Alex Anzalone, LB
POD team rank: 5th
PFF NFL rank: 195th
Previous contract: 1 year, $2.25 million ($1.5 million guaranteed)
PFF projected salary: 2 years, $7 million ($4.25 million guaranteed)
Anzalone is coming off one of the best years of his career and this may be his last opportunity to cash in on a big contract, so don’t be surprised if he tests the market in free agency. A deep linebacker free agency class may put obstacles in his way of landing a big contract, but they may also set the market higher than Anzalone would see in a typical year.
Mike Hughes, CB
POD team rank: 10th
PFF NFL rank: 199th
Previous contract: 1 year, $2.25 million ($1 million guaranteed)
PFF projected salary: 1 year, $2 million ($1 million guaranteed)
Hughes stepped up at the end of the year, and with a thin cornerback group at the moment, the Lions would likely be happy to bring Hughes back at the same level contract he had last season (or even lower by PFF’s projection). Even if the Lions overhaul the cornerback room, as many project, retaining Hughes would help with overall depth and add. veteran presence in the locker room.
Isaiah Buggs, NT
POD team rank: 4th
PFF NFL rank: 200th
Previous contract: 1 year, $965,000 (no guarantees)
PFF projected salary: 2 years, $4 million ($2.25 million guaranteed)
A menace over the back half of the season, Buggs is worth the cost to retain due to his production and leadership. Buggs has also repeatedly expressed his desire to remain in Detroit on social media, which should help facilitate a potential new contract:
I love Detroit Definitely Want To Be Here Long Term pic.twitter.com/YHqxN176YA— Isaiah D. Buggs (@BigPooh_91) September 20, 2022
Even if the Lions invest at defensive tackle this offseason, Buggs is worth the PFF projected cost, even if he is only being used as a rotational piece.