In order to get a good look at the potential free agents out there, we need to briefly step back, and look at a whole at why you want free agents to come in the first place:
1) They fill a hole on your roster
2) They represent an upgrade on the players currently on your roster
3) They represent value for money
I'll focus on the former primarily although I'll consider the latter two briefly.
In our recent podcast of Feb 23, we discussed the likely players to be departing the Detroit Lions from the 2020 roster. I consider these to be:
QB Matthew Stafford (traded for Jared Goff and picks)
QB Chase Daniel
WR Marvin Jones
WR Danny Amendola
TE Jesse James
OL Oday Aboushi
OL Joe Dahl
DT Nicholas Williams
NT Danny Shelton
DE Everson Griffen
LB Reggie Ragland
LB Christian Jones
CB Tony McRae
CB Justin Coleman
CB Desmond Trufant
S Duron Harmon
S Miles Killebrew
Of course, some of the players above may not leave but I consider it more likely than not. Others not listed above may also leave, Kenny Golladay for example is out of contract but as of this moment, is expected to be franchise tagged. Daryl Roberts, Don Muhlbach and Matt Prater are out of contract, I expect them to be re-signed but that may not happen.
Replacing like-for-like, there are the following holes in the roster, to be filled via free agency and draft:
Total = 16 players.
Detroit have 6 picks in this upcoming draft, which leaves 10 replacements required.
Obviously who we take in the draft is a subject for hot debate, but I will look at filling all the holes above, just to cover all bases.
With Jared Goff, Detroit likely has it's starting QB for 2021. They could take a starting QB in the draft at 7 in Fields or Wilson, a redshirt prospect like Lance, or a project in later rounds like Jamie Newman. Assuming none of these things happen, Detroit needs a QB2/3 who is going to provide a veteran presence in the room, who will assist Goff in preparing for playing their opponents, at a bargain price. Here's the candidates:
(all estimated salaries per PFF, annualised)
Joe Flacco - 36 years old, $2m
Mike Glennon - 31 years old, $1.5m
The remaining top free agents are either too young/inexperienced (CJ Beathard) or are too expensive to be a backup when cap space is at a premium (Trubisky, Newton etc).
My pick - Mike Glennon. He's slightly cheaper and had a much better 2020 with a young team.
With Kenny Golladay either tagged or re-signed, and Quintez Cephus as a WR3/4, Detroit requires two wide receivers, at least to fill out that room. One I think will come through this deep draft (at least). So, at least one needs to come from free agency. This will either be a burner to compliment KG on the outside, or a slot receiver to replace Danny Amendola. Again, these need to be value for money given KG's salary. Here's the candidates:
Antonio Brown - 32 years old $2m
Curtis Samuel - 24 years old $8.5m
Nelson Agholor - 27 years old $7.5m
Keelan Cole - 27 years old $5.5m
Rashard Higgins - 26 years old $5m
David Moore - 26 years old $3.75m
Josh Reynolds - 26 years old $4.25m
Kenny Stills - 28 years old $2.5m
My pick - Rashard Higgins and Josh Reynolds. Higgins is the speedster, Reynolds can do a bit of it all, both at and would give Goff a variety of targets to aim at.
Ultimately, with TJ Hockenson the firm TE1, and Hunter Bryant set to take a bigger role, the TE2/3 can come out of the bargain bin too! The candidates:
Trey Burton - 29 years old $3m
Dan Arnold - 25 years old $1.75m
James O'Shaughnessy - 29 years old $1.5m
Richard Rodgers - 28 years old $1.75m
My pick - Honestly, I'd be fine picking up a UDFA here actually, but if I'm going to pick from the above it'd be Richard Rodgers. He was PFF's 2nd ranked TE for 2020 and flashed - a cheap one year deal could be worth the upside here.
The two leaving, Joe Dahl and Oday Aboushi are rotational guard pieces. The left hand side of the line is sorted for hopefully years to come. Big V is likely here for another year, at guard or tackle, and Tyrell Crosby had an unexpected great year at right tackle. All this means is that we need cheap, reliable backups at guard and tackle. The candidates:
DJ Fluker - 29 years old $1.75m
Jermaine Eluemunor - 26 years old $2.13m
Zach Banner - 27 years old $2m
Germain Ifedi - 26 years old $2.5m
Denzelle Good - 29 years old $1.75m
Oday Aboushi - 29 years old $1.75m
My pick: I'll give Joe Dahl the chance to re-sign on cheaper terms first. Failing that, I'm going with Eluemunor and Ifedi. Eluemunor had a great season at the Patriots, more than doubling his previous snap count with 419. Ifedi's a unit of a guard at 325 pounds and had the best year of his career in 2020 (which was merely passable but hey...).
Defensive Tackles/Nose Tackles
With Danny Shelton gone, in a 4-3 the starting tackles are Penisini and Hand, and Penisini in a 3-4. At the least you need someone else to come in on the rotation, if not upgrade on either one. The candidates:
Ndamukong Suh - 34 years old $6.75m
Mario Edwards Jr - 27 years old $2.5m
Brent Urban - 29 years old $1.5m
My pick - Suh, I'd love him back, but at this point it feels like nostalgia. He's expensive, a bit older than ideal, he's not going to be here when were competing. I'd go with Edwards, the youngest of the 3, he was the 3rd highest rated interior defender (possibly aided by a late-season PED suspension) but might provide value for money.
Romeo Okwara hopefully returns, but Everson Griffen walks. That leaves RO and Trey Flowers as starting edge rushers, with Austin Bryant and J Okwara backing up. There's an argument that that's enough to run with, but I'm keen to bring in another body to supplement and/or improve that group, possibly pushing Flowers into a 3-tech role. The candidates:
Aldon Smith - 31 years old $7.5m
Haason Reddick - 26 years old $8.5m
Olivier Vernon - 30 years old $2.08m
Kerry Hyder Jr - 29 years old $4.5m
My pick - I'll take a possibly banged up Vernon as a low-risk high reward rotational piece.
The only guarantees for next year are Jamie Collins & Jahlani Tavai. I think Davis will be returning given that Dan Campbell was singing his praises, but it remains to be seen. Neither Davis, or Tavai can be trusted with that 2nd linebacker spot. Collins is versatile enough to play any of the linebacker spots, so the requirement is to either draft or take in free agency a starting quality linebacker. The candidates:
KJ Wright - 31 years old $6m
Denzel Perryman - 28 years old $6.5m
Kevin Pierre-Louis - 29 years old $2m
BJ Goodson - 27 years old $3.75m
My pick - I'm not sure any of the guys above provides Detroit with value for money, I'm looking to the draft here.
With starting corners Trufant and Coleman off, the Lions are left with Jeff Okudah and Amani Oruwariye as starting corners only. That leaves a glaring need at nickel corner, and the need for a rotational piece or two in addition to the hopefully returning Darryl Roberts. The candidates:
Desmond King - 26 years old $5.83m
Mike Hilton - 26 years old $4m
Troy Hill - 29 years old $5.25m
Brian Poole - 28 years old $6m
Nickell Robey-Coleman - 29 years old $2m
Mackensie Alexander - 27 years old $3m
K'Waun Williams - 29 years old $4m
Gareon Conley - 25 years old $2.5m
My pick - give me Mike Hilton! The second best slot corner on the market at a cheap rate. It's a no brainer to me.
With Duron Harmon going, that leaves Tracy Walker and Will Harris in the room as potential starters. Walker had a lot of promise that went entirely unfulfilled in 2020, playing in an unfamiliar role. With Harmon out of the picture, expect Walker to go back to free safety where he's far better than at strong safety. That leaves a starting vacancy at strong safety. The candidates:
John Johnson III - 26 years old $13.75m
Malik Hooker - 24 years old $2m
Bradley McDougald - 30 years old $1.5m
My pick - Hooker appears the best value for money but is a better free safety than strong. John Johnson comes from the Rams organisation so there will be familiarity there, but comes at too high a price for my taste. McDougald is the bargain pick, but the production hasn't been there for a while. I'll take Hooker and I'll be looking at the draft too.
Whew, that was a long one. But then, just under a 1/3 of the roster might go, and they need placing somehow! What do you think?
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