The main storyline of an NFL offseason is the additions made in free agency, the NFL Draft, and trades. Yet on occasion, the subtractions can be just as interesting.
Perhaps a team moved on from a distracting or controversial player. Perhaps they cut a regressing and expensive veteran. Perhaps they let a notable player or two leave in free agency. Perhaps they traded away a player in need of a fresh start or a fresh contract. Either way, a piece of the previous seasons roster is gone, leaving questions about the team’s and the player’s future. How will the team replace them? How will the player fare on a new team—if he finds one at all?
If you followed the Pride of Detroit offseason tracker, you’ll have a good idea of the subtractions that were made this offseason by the Detroit Lions. Some of them, like Jamaal Williams joining the New Orleans Saints and DJ Chark joining the Carolina Panthers, were financially driven: both sides couldn’t arrive at a price point that worked, so another team swooped in. That’s how it goes at times.
The Lions weren’t overly active in the cuts department this offseason (though more will inevitably happen as the roster is trimmed to 53 players). Michael Brockers was released in February, an expected move given his benching and significant cap hit. The only other players to get released were C.J. Moore and Quintez Cephus. However, this was not for performance or salary reasons. Instead, the two players were indefinitely suspended for betting on NFL games.
The next type of notable subtractions for Detroit came in the form of trades. In both cases, the Lions traded away promising but struggling young players for draft picks far lower than their initial investment. Jeff Okudah never settled into the role of lockdown corner that Detroit envisioned when they selected him with the third overall pick in 2020. Due to revamped Lions secondary, Okudah was traded to the Atlanta Falcons, where he will look to put his early struggles behind him.
The Lions also traded away D’Andre Swift, this time to the Philadelphia Eagles. When Swift was on, you could see the elite talent that enticed Detroit to draft him in the early second round in 2020. However, the injuries limited Swift’s value on the field, rarely playing at full health if active at all. Swift joins a talented but crowded Eagles offense and a committee situation that could prove fruitful for him.
It’s easy to dismiss these formers Lions players as just that: former players. Some people won’t care about a player’s performance unless they are wearing Honolulu Blue. That’s a fair stance, but I think it’s worth keeping an eye on these former players. Maybe something will click for them, or maybe the Lions will be proven right for moving on.
Today’s Question of the Day is:
Which former Detroit Lion will have the most success on their new team?
My answer: I think DJ Chark will have the most success.
I think most of the former Lions are in good situations. Okudah gets a fresh start on a new team in Atlanta. Swift’s effectiveness should increase due to a reduced workload in Philadelphia. Williams should pair nicely with Alvin Kamara in New Orleans. Evan Brown is penciled in as the starting center for the Seattle Seahawks, a notable promotion for the former backup.
There are a few issues preventing them from being my pick, however. The Falcons have a fairly weak secondary, meaning Okudah could be leaned upon heavily—this trial by fire might spark something for Okudah, but it could also mean struggling out of the gate. Swift will always have the label of injury prone, and even with limited touches, all it takes is a single hit to hamper his entire season. Unlike in Detroit, Williams will be the clear backup to Kamara, although Kamara does have the threat of suspension looming. Brown will face competition from fifth-round pick Olusegun Oluwatimi at center, and even if he wins, it will be his first full-time starting gig.
Chark, on the other hand, is primed for a big year. Like Swift, injuries will be a concern for him. Yet unlike Swift, Chark sits atop his team’s depth chart. Having traded away D.J. Moore in the offseason, the Panthers will rely on a different DJ to lead their receiving corps. Chark joins Adam Thielen, Terrace Marshall, Laviska Shenault, and rookie Jonathan Mingo, all of whom are either on the decline or unproven.
Chark has a 1,000-yard season on his resume, and 2023 could be another one. He will also be catching passes from the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, Bryce Young. Young, an accurate and creative quarterback, could pair nicely with Chark’s size and speed. Chark was a key part of the 2022 Lions offense down the stretch, and he could parlay that into a successful 2023 campaign with the Panthers.