Detroit Lions fans have expressed pretty loudly that they have little interest in the outcome of Super Bowl. Hell, many of you don’t even plan to watch it. In our poll from Saturday, over half of Lions voters said they do not even plan on watching the San Francisco 49ers take on the Kansas City Chiefs.
But there is at least one minorly practical reason to watch Super Bowl 58. There are plenty of players who will be playing that game who could be free agents come next month. And given the Lions are in a comfortable salary cap position, it’s quite possible that someone who plays on Sunday will eventually be playing for Detroit in 2024.
So here are eight Super Bowl players who could be a Lions free agent target in 2024, four from each team.
DT Chris Jones
Let’s get the most expensive option out of the way. Jones is an absolute game-wrecker and would be a welcome addition to a Detroit defense that is lacking true game-changing talent in their front seven. Jones has posted an average of 11 sacks a season over the past six years, and he is far from a liability against the run, too.
Jones will turn 30 this offseason, so his career is certainly on the downswing. Additionally, he’ll come expensive and he’s a player that knows his worth. His holdout went into the regular season last year, and he ended up getting a one-year deal worth over $18 million guaranteed. Don’t expect a cheaper price tag than that. In fact, PFF is projecting a $30 million/year average for Jones.
CB L’Jarius Sneed
The Lions have a pretty serious outside cornerback problem, and Sneed appears to be one of the best potential options this year in a relatively thin free agent market. While Sneed started his career playing mostly slot, he moved to the outside in 2023 and thrived. For the season, he allowed a passer rating of just 62.5, a completion percentage of 52.0, and didn’t allow a single touchdown during the regular season, per PFF. He also posted 14 passes broken up (eighth in the NFL) and two interceptions.
He also came up with the biggest play in the AFC Championship game:
EDGE Mike Danna
Danna, a Michigan native and former Wolverine/Chippewa, has seen his NFL production slowly increase over his four-year career. He became a full-time starter for the Chiefs this season and rewarded them with his most productive season to date. He finished the season with 50 tackles (7 for loss), 6.5 sacks, three passes defended, and 13 QB hits. PFF credited him with 46 pressures, the third most on the team.
At 6-foot-2, 257, he’s a bit undersized, but he displays a surprising amount of strength. That’s why the Chiefs have not been afraid to throw him inside on passing downs (129 of his 874 snaps came at the interior).
This would be a case of buying high, though. Coming off a rookie contract as a fifth-round pick, Danna is projected to get around the $7-9 million/year range. However, with the Lions set to potentially lose Romeo Okwara, Julian Okwara, Charles Harris, and even possibly John Cominsky (as a cap casualty), Detroit will need to invest in EDGE talent.
G Nick Allegretti
The Lions are facing a potential huge overhaul in the middle of their offensive line, and Lions GM Brad Holmes said that position “will not be overlooked” this offseason. The interior, especially, could be a problem with Jonah Jackson, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Kayode Awosika, and Graham Glasgow currently on expiring contracts.
Allegretti has never been a full-time starter, but he has plenty of backup experience and has stepped in on several occasions to help keep the boat afloat. That will be the case on Sunday, as he is expected to start at left guard in replacement of Joe Thuney.
This year alone, Allegretti has played snaps at left guard, center, and right guard. That kind of versatility would be valued in Detroit, especially as a depth piece. In his only year where he logged more than 300 snaps (899 in 2020), Allegretti posted a 66.0 PFF grade but was particularly solid in run blocking (70.2). Looks like a fit to me.
Note: EDGE Chase Young was intentionally left off the list. I saw all I needed to see here.
OL Matt Pryor
You aren’t likely to see Pryor play much on Sunday, if at all, because he’s currently a backup. But the veteran offensive lineman could still certainly be a potential target for Detroit. In the past four years, he has started six games at left tackle, seven games at right tackle, and 11 games at right guard. Having veteran versatility like that could help fill the role of Matt Nelson or Dan Skipper—both free agents—if the Lions opt to move on. There’s been a lot of talk about Detroit’s future at guard, but there’s some work to do at tackle, as well. Pryor helps out both positions.
DT Javon Kinlaw
It’s fair to say Kinlaw’s career has been a pretty big disappointment thus far as a former 2020 first-round pick. He only has seven tackles for loss and 11 QB hits in his four-year career with the 49ers, and he’s never posted a PFF grade above 54.1 for an entire season.
But under the guidance of star 49ers DL coach Kris Kocurek, Kinlaw showed some serious signs of improvement in 2023. He posted a 72.1 PFF pass rushing grade this year and produced 34 total pressures—both figures placing him in the top 40 among defensive tackles.
However, despite his decent size (6-foot-5, 319 pounds), Kinlaw has gotten worked in the run game his entire career. That could be an immediate disqualifier in Detroit, but if the Lions are looking to invest in a situational interior pass rusher, Kinlaw could be a relatively cheap, young option.
EDGE Clelin Ferrell
Note: Ferrell will not play in the Super Bowl, as he recovers from a knee injury.
Speaking of first-round busts, Ferrell just did not work out with the Raiders. However, this could be a prime example of simply landing in the wrong spot. While Ferrell was not electric for the 49ers this year, he did arguably produce his best season to date. As a 17-game starter in San Francisco, Ferrell produced a career-high 13 quarterback hits and six tackles for loss (although just 3.5 sacks).
Ferrell acted as the player opposite Nick Bosa to let their start edge defender run free. Could he serve the same purpose for Aidan Hutchinson in Detroit? He would come at a relatively affordable price after signing just a one-year, $2.5 million deal in San Francisco last offseason.
DB Logan Ryan
Ryan is primarily a nickel or safety, and while the Lions have that position locked down with Brian Branch, the future is not as certain for a guy like C.J. Gardner-Johnson. Detroit, quite simply, will need some depth at that position, and a 33-year-old veteran like Ryan could be the veteran mentor a guy like Branch needs.
At this point in Ryan’s career, he’s going to be very selective about where he plays—if he decides to play at all. He didn’t sign with the 49ers until December of this season. But Detroit is now in the category of “Super Bowl contender” and word of their infectious culture has certainly spread.
As an added bonus, new Lions cornerbacks coach/pass game coordinator Deshea Townsend actually coached Ryan for one year with the Titans back in 2017.