The Detroit Lions are beginning to set their sights toward NFL free agency period and consider who they should chase in order to improve their fortunes for 2020. When this happens on March 18, undoubtably, there will be plenty of focus on defense.
In terms of that defense, there is little doubt that the Lions need to invest in their defensive front in a major way. The team didn’t pressure the pocket in 2019, and struggled in the trenches with the run as well. All that adds up to some major changes being needed and expected in the trenches for 2020.
Fortunately, there are plenty of options for the Lions to help boost things defensively in the trenches, and if the team were to sign any of these players, they would take a huge step forward for 2020.
Here’s a look at some of the best options for the Lions as it relates to the defensive line this year.
Everson Griffen, DE, Minnesota Vikings
Griffen, to this point in his career, has been one of the most dynamic players up front in the league with 355 tackles and 74.5 career sacks. He’s 32 years old, but has proven himself as a dynamic defender capable of wreaking havoc. Griffen’s sack total of 8 from 2019 would have been the highest on the entire Lions defense itself. More than this, Griffen has always been a thorn in Detroit’s side. In his career, he has consistently exposed the Lions’ offensive line to the tune of 16 career sacks, the most of any team he has ever played in the league. If the Lions can’t beat Griffen, they may as well try to sign him in order to get more production up front and prevent their own quarterback from getting hammered in the process.
Robert Quinn, DE, Los Angeles Rams
The Lions already have one Bob Quinn, and it would sure be interesting if they were able to add another who can get after the quarterback in order to solve one of the biggest problems on the team. In his career, Quinn has been solid with 80.5 career sacks and was a former first round pick that has done great things by age 29. Obviously, the Lions need a player who can be a major disruptor and Quinn is it as it relates to that. He also has 24 career forced fumbles, and is still young enough that he could be a guy the team could build around for the next handful of years.
Marcell Dareus, DT, Jacksonville Jaguars
One of the toughest nose tackles in the business, Darius would be an excellent addition to the Detroit front given how tough he is and how much he can fill a void in the line. Dareus has plenty left, and has been active in the middle with 358 tackles and 37.5 sacks in his career. Such numbers would make him a super productive player for the Lions to not only consider, but sign. The free agent should get plenty of looks, and the Lions would be wise to add him to the mix to eat space and control the center of the line.
Shelby Harris, DT, Denver Broncos
Harris has bounced around in the league a bit, coming in as a seventh round pick out of Illinois State in 2014 of the Oakland Raiders. He’s put up 136 tackles, 14 sacks and 1 forced fumble during his time in the league, which most recently played out in Denver but also wound through the Jets and Cowboys. Harris is a thick nose tackle, which is something the Lions defense could be lacking in a big way lately. He could be the prototypical plugger for Matt Patricia’s front, and a good moderate cost item for the team to invest in this offseason.
Arik Armstead, DE, San Francisco 49ers
After being a first round pick of the 49ers in 2015 out of Oregon, Armstead has had an up and down career to this point. He collected only 9 sacks during his first four years in the league, but in 2019, has exploded for 10 sacks and looked the part of a dynamic pass rusher in a contract year, Armstead, as a whole, has put up 136 tackles, 19 sacks and 2 forced fumbles in his career to this point in time. While he hasn’t lived up to the billing, he’s the kind of player who has been an untapped gem for a Matt Patricia defense before. San Francisco picked up his option for 2019, and that decision was rewarded. Negotiations could be underway for his return, but if the Lions can pry him free, it would be a huge development.