The Detroit Lions 2023 season is in the books, which means we’re shifting gears and beginning to take a deeper look at the 2024 offseason.
For this continuously updating piece, we will focus on the Lions' roster heading toward free agency and the NFL Draft. This article is organized by position group and will provide fans with an overview of the players on the roster, injured reserve, or practice squad at the end of the season.
Within each section, we will provide readers with an end-of-season depth chart at the position, identify the roles players held, the 2024 contract details of the players currently signed by the Lions, as well as several key terms to better clarify each player's situation.
Terms to Know:
- UFA: Unrestricted Free Agents can sign with any team during the free agency period beginning on March 13 (Tampering negotiations begin on the 11th). Lions can re-sign these players at any time.
- RFA: Restricted Free Agents rights are held by the Lions. If an RFA receives a contract from another team, the Lions can match the offer or potentially receive draft compensation for allowing the player to leave.
- ERFA: Exclusive Rights Free Agents are only allowed to negotiate contracts with the Lions unless Detroit chooses to let them explore free agency.
- SFA: Street Free Agents are players who were under contract with an NFL team in 2023, but not on an active roster at the season’s end. They are free to sign with any team immediately. The most common SFAs are players on NFL practice squads.
- Futures contracts are deals given to street free agents before the start of free agency. They’re called “futures” deals because while currently signed, these contracts don’t count against the cap until a “future” date—which is the start of free agency.
- 2024 Cap Hit: How much a player counts against the team’s 2024 salary cap.
- Guarantees remaining: this is the remaining guaranteed money owed to the player over the remainder of his contract, not just 2024. If the Lions move on from a player with guaranteed money, that amount will count against the Lions' cap, even though the player is no longer on the roster (“dead cap”). Expiring contracts that had VOIDED years also fall into this category.
NOTE: This article will be updated throughout the offseason and will include links to relevant articles that POD publishes over the next several months, so be sure to bookmark and keep an eye out for updates!
Jared Goff is in the final year of his contract, and as is with most starting NFL quarterbacks, he has begun talks with the Lions on a contract extension. Early expectations are that a new deal will get done this offseason. The asterisk in the guarantees column indicates a potential addendum, and in Goff’s case, he will have another $5 million of his contract become guaranteed (bringing the total up to $10 million) if he is still on the roster come March 15—there is no change to the 2024 cap hit in this situation.
Hendon Hooker is the only other quarterback under contract at this time, and with a rookie deal in place, the Lions appear to be in a very good spot with an affordable, high-upside backup in their ranks.
2023 backup, Teddy Bridgewater is expected to retire this offseason, but due to a voided year in his contract, he will still account for $500,000 against the cap in 2024. For those not familiar, voided years are a team's way of freeing up salary cap space in the current while pushing the cost into a future year—it’s becoming more common in the ever-evolving NFL contract landscape.
Sudfeld spent the season on injured reserve with an ACL injury, but his contract is set to expire and he will likely become an unrestricted free agent.
Blough finished the season on the practice squad, which means his contract is set to expire seven days after the Lions' final game. At that time he will become a street free agent who is eligible to sign with any team.
The Lions have their top two backs under contract and their top two reserves tabbed as exclusive rights free agents (meaning they’ll likely return as well), putting them in a very good spot to retain their running backs room.
Jefferson and Funk will compete in camp, while Ibrahim’s health is still a bit of an unknown and could have impacted why he was not signed to a futures deal.
Cabinda is a dynamic special teams player, but the Lions phased down his role on offense, and it’s fair to wonder if they are headed in a different direction—or if maybe he wants to test the waters outside of Detroit. Coaches do love his game, so a return is also a very viable option.
The Lions will return four of the six players they had on the active roster last season and all three of their practice squad wide receivers. Both Josh Reynolds and Donovan Peoples-Jones will likely be considered for return, but could also be squeezed out if the Lions upgrade their depth in the offseason.
Because Amon-Ra St. Brown has played three years in the NFL, he is eligible for a contract extension. Considering his All-Pro status and extremely low salary cap hit number, a raise may be in order this offseason.
While Sam LaPorta shattered rookie records this past season, the next three tight ends on the depth chart all remarkably landed on injured reserve to finish the season. The Lions could be content bringing Brock Wright back and retaining their top three, but with a broken forearm and an RFA contract, it’s not guaranteed he will return. Zylstra will likely get another look with an ERFA status, and it’s unclear where Anthony Firkser and Zach Ertz fit into the plans.
The Lions have their starting tackles locked up for at least one more year, though Taylor Decker could be a candidate for a contract extension, while Penei Sewell has a fifth-year option on the table and, like St. Brown, is eligible to begin contract extension discussions.
The coaching staff likes Matt Nelson and Dan Skipper—especially as sixth offensive linemen—and thought enough about Connor Galvin to keep him on the practice squad a full year, but none of them are enticing injury replacement options. Upgrading the OT3 spot on the roster could be a low-key priority this offseason.
Interior offensive line
All three guards in the starting mix are UFAs and could potentially leave Detroit with a problem.
Former Pro Bowler Jonah Jackson may be the Lions' top free agent this offseason, but with a high frequency of injuries over the past two seasons, it’s difficult to gauge his market value. Graham Glasgow returned to Detroit to “play with his friends” and had one of the best years of his career. Both the Lions and Glasgow have a mutual interest in re-signing in 2024, which should be an easy decision. Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s health is a big mystery, but a back injury has ended his season prematurely for the second year in a row. After contemplating retirement last offseason, it’s fair to wonder if that thought is given consideration again.
Colby Sorsdal is developing quickly and the Lions like Kayode Awosika enough to pick up his ERFA contract, which should give the Lions some stability.
Interior defensive line
The Lions have found a gem in Alim McNeill, and like St. Brown and Sewell, he is eligible for a contract extension this season. McNeill is a terrific starter, but the Lions have been looking for answers to line up next to him.
Isaiah Buggs earned the job last year but was a replacement option in 2023, eventually getting released. Benito Jones earned the starting job out of camp but he was replaced late in the season by veteran Tyson Alualu, who found the field most often as a practice squad elevation. Levi Onwuzurike is getting healthier but is tough to count on for a starting role and Brodric Martin is developing but on the slow path to the field—more often than not being a healthy scratch.
The Lions will likely enter the offseason looking for a reliable starter along the interior.
Aidan Hutchinson elevated his game once again this season, and while the John Cominsky/Josh Paschal combination opposite him worked well, they’ve shown they’re better bullies than pass rushers. Even with the Lions likely to pick up the ERFA option on James Houston, the Lions absolutely need to find a pass rusher who can work the edge.
Romeo Okwara showed promise, but he, his brother Julian, and Charles Harris appear vulnerable to being replaced. Look for the Lions to negotiate with Romeo but the writing was on the wall for the other two after spending most of the season as healthy scratches.
The Lions prefer six off-the-ball linebackers on their roster and have kept at least six in all three of Dan Campbell’s seasons in Detroit. Jalen Reeves-Maybin earned a Pro Bowl nomination for his special teams efforts this season, while Anthony Pittman has been a special teams staple for all four of his seasons in Detroit.
The Lions will almost assuredly be keeping six on next year's 53-man roster, and it would make sense that they try to work out contracts with Reeves-Maybin and Pittman.
After Cameron Sutton and Brian Branch, there’s not much settled amongst the Lions cornerback room. Emmanuel Moseley is recovering from a second torn ACL in as many seasons, Vildor is a reserve who was forced into a starting role, Will Harris only saw 17 defensive snaps after the bye week, Jerry Jacobs was benched, Khalil Dorsey got a shot to start but was primarily a special teamer, Steven Gilmore was a healthy scratch in 14 games, Chase Lucas was released twice over the final month of the season, and Craig James never left the practice squad.
While it’s clear the Lions need a starting outside corner—preferably a CB1 capable player—they will also likely bring a few of their reserves back for depth and special teams roles.
The emergence of Ifeatu Melifonwu has given the Lions a young, formidable starting duo, but there are some potential issues with their depth. C.J. Gardner-Johnson is a UFA and it’s difficult to project if he will return in 2024. Meanwhile, Tracy Walker has the third-highest salary cap hit on the roster but was a healthy scratch in the playoffs, leaving his future in Detroit very much in doubt.
Beyond Jack Fox, there’s not much guaranteed amongst the specialists. Michael Badgley was the team's pick over Riley Patterson down the stretch but his difficulties with long-range field goals showed up in the NFC Championship. Scott Daly beat out Jake McQuaide in training camp, but a Daly injury led to McQuaide returning to the roster.
Expect some new talent to be brought in for another training camp competition.