We've just passed Brad Holmes' 1st anniversary as General Manager of the Detroit Lions, and now at the end of his first season, it's about time we look back at his performance so far. In this review, I'm taking in all decisions for which he was ultimately responsible, including trades, free agency, the draft, the UDFA class and in-season moves, and I'm looking at results in relation to expectation. Taking him on pure results (3-13-1) is not really judging apples with apples considering how hamstrung the team have been this season in Free Agency and the draft capital from the Stafford trade mainly kicks in after 2021.
QB Matthew Stafford to LA Rams for 2021 3rd, 2022 1st, 2023 1st & QB Jared Goff.
DE Michael Brockers from LA Rams for 2023 7th.
WR Trinity Benson from Denver Broncos and a 2023 6th for a 2022 5th and 7th.
The first thing, the biggest thing perhaps, to mention through this is Brad's first action as GM, the trade of Matthew Stafford. The Super Bowl-bound QB was traded, after requesting a move, to the Los Angeles Rams for Jared Goff, a 2022 and 2023 1st round pick, and a 2021 3rd round pick. The other deal definitely on the table was Teddy Bridgewater and the 8th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The second trade executed by Holmes was for Rams DE Michael Brockers. Brockers wanted an extension that the Rams were unwilling to give and being against the cap, the Lions dealt a 2023 7th round pick in exchange and gave him the new deal he craved.
The final trade Holmes made was for Denver Broncos WR Trinty Benson, for 2022 5th and 7th round picks, gaining a 2023 6th round pick in return at a time when the Lions were absolutely desperate for a bump at WR.
Verdict: Benson at this point is a bust and facing a very uphill battle to make the roster next year, and yet the compensation is so minor that I don't really mind. Brockers, he's not great (a career lowest 40.5 PFF grade in 2021), but he does what he does well. For the compensation, it's a push for me - even though he's listed as a cut candidate for 2022. The most important aspect is the Stafford trade. Keeping him wasn't an option, and for me, trading a franchise legend somewhere he didn't want to go was also untenable. He was traded to the place offering the best deal, that fit the Lions timeline for becoming a good team again. I could care less if the Rams "win" their side of the trade. The Lions DID win theirs already, mainly because Stafford at his age was worth less than what they received in compensation.
RB Jamaal Williams; 2 years $6m
WR Tyrell Williams; 1 year $4m
QB Tim Boyle; 1 year $2.4m
LB Alex Anzalone; 1 year $1.75m
DE Charles Harris; 1 year $1.75m
K Randy Bullock; 1 year $1.75m
TE Darren Fells; 1 year, $1.2m
S Dean Marlowe; 1 year $1.1m
CB Quinton Dunbar; 1 year $1.1m
WR Kalif Raymond; 1 year $1.1m
CB Nickell Robey-Coleman; 1 year $1.1m
RB Craig Reynolds; 1 year $850k
In-season pickups (all via waivers, free agents or poaching from practice squads):
WR KhaDarel Hodge
WR Josh Reynolds
TE Shane Zylstra
C Ryan McCollum
LB Josh Woods
DE/OLB Jessie Lemonier
LB Curtis Bolton
DE/OLB/TE/FB Rashod Berry
K Riley Patterson
Verdict: This comes down to your definition of the term "expectation". The highest AAV of any of the above is $4m for Tyrell Williams (who, through no fault of his own, busted out with his concussion and may be medically done in the NFL). My expectation from all of the above? Two major hits, two minor hits, and the rest busts. These guys are all being paid next to nothing, especially at some of the more premium positions and my expectation is really based on the volume of picks up rather than any individual expectation.
The reality, it's about what I thought it would be, if not slightly better. Charles Harris is the big win, he gained several ROTL honours including signing of the season and comeback player of the year. He gained more sacks this year than he had in his 4-year career prior. Minor hits can also be claimed on Jamaal Williams, Alex Anzalone, Kalif Raymond, Dean Marlowe, Josh Reynolds and Jessie Lemonier. Riley Patterson was a major win and was money down the stretch with the Lions going through a high volume of kickers. There was a high number of busts, but that had to be expected given the amount being paid to each player.
R1: OT Penei Sewell
R2: DE Levi Onwuzurike
R3: NT Alim McNeill, CB Ifeatu Melifonwu
R4: WR Amon Ra St Brown, LB Derrick Barnes
R7: RB Jermar Jefferson
Verdict: Expectation for this draft class was high. Sewell was the "generational prospect" tackle, Onwuzurike was a player that BH wanted to trade into R1 for, Alim McNeill was PFF's NT1, Barnes was traded up for. The reality exceeded expectations. Penei Sewell had to switch position twice and still remained one of the best tackles in the NFL this season, he and McNeill both made PFF's all-rookie team. Whilst Levi was regarded as a bit of a project, his injury issues came to light late and explained his lack of snaps through the season and Melifonwu flashed when given the opportunity either side of his injury which saw him miss most of the season. Barnes was the biggest disappointment, having been traded up for, he never really looked ready for 1st-team reps for all of the season, and yet you can see what attracted the front office to his talent. Jefferson was beaten out of RB3 snaps all season which is a big shame but what can you expect from an R7 pick? The biggest win was Amon-Ra St Brown. Taken as WR17, he performed at arguable the WR3 level in the entire draft and carried the Lions offense down the stretch, breaking multiple team records along the way. For me, no one has busted, a rarity for the Lions at this point, and the production and the ceilings of these players outweigh the average draft class - indeed PFF rank this as the NFL's no.5 draft class with respect to WAR.
Conclusion: He's consistent, scoring B+ across the board. He's made common-sense decisions, like picking up Josh Reynolds when first in waiver priority, but also made drafted well, and traded well. I'm not used to seeing someone hit in all 3 spots in year 1 and there's no major red flags yet. There's still time, but there's also time for the onwards and upwards to continue...
What do you think of year 1 of Brad Holmes?
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