The Detroit Lions still have a need up front for their NFL roster, and it’s a need that could be solved by many free agents currently on the market.
Which free agent will be the next to join the team? Recently, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press was asked about that in a mailbag segment and provided an answer. It might not be an answer that fans in search of a big name will like, however.
As Birkett wrote, Jadeveon Clowney would help the Lions, but he has likely priced himself out of range for Detroit at this point in time. That could leave a pair of other options in Markus Golden and Jabaal Sheard. Out of those pair, Sheard could make the most sense because of his cost and potential easy fit within Detroit’s locker room.
“Clowney is good enough to help the Lions (or most teams; the Tennessee Titans are the rumored top suitor), but I think the Lions will add a lower-priced veteran to the mix at some point before the start of the regular season. ESPN’s Matt Bowen offered Markus Golden as a possibility. He had 10 sacks last season for the Giants and would fit at outside linebacker in Detroit, where Jamie Collins and Julian Okwara could have roles. The guy that makes more sense to me is Jabaal Sheard. He’s 31 and wouldn’t provide nearly the same pass rush, but he spent the 2015-16 seasons with the New England Patriots and would fit seamlessly into the Lions’ scheme and locker room.”
Sheard is a player who came into his own a bit in Matt Patricia’s scheme in New England, racking up 387 combined tackles and 51.5 sacks in his career. With the Indianapolis Colts, Sheard racked up 15.5 sacks the last 3 years and has been very productive.
Adding that kind of production late in free agency would be huge for the Lions if Sheard could give it to them. Safe to say Birkett thinks it’s possible.
ESPN Named Lions Current Free Agency Fits
Though the third wave is often anti-climatic, there are still no shortage of solid players that can make a huge impact for the team included. In this vein, ESPN thinks the Lions have a chance to make some noise and add some talent to both their offense and their defense.
In a recent Insider piece on the site, writers Jeremy Fowler and Matt Bowen named some ideal fits for teams, and had a reunion with Larry Warford as well as an agreement with Markus Golden high on the list.
When it came to why the team should sign Warford, Fowler explained it would allow the team a chance to develop some of the younger guards they just added more confidently.
“Reuniting with Warford, the Lions’ third-round pick in 2013, gives Detroit an upgrade over Joe Dahl or Oday Aboushi. It also gives draft pick Jonah Jackson a year to develop.”
Finally, as it relates to Golden, Bowen wrote in the piece that he believes the team needs some added punch up front and that’s just what Golden could provide, even though the Lions already added help in the draft.
“Detroit drafted Notre Dame outside linebacker Julian Okwara in the third round, but why stop there. The Lions are a heavy man-coverage team, and they couldn’t get to the quarterback consistently in 2019. Adding Golden gives coach Matt Patricia another edge rusher for which to scheme.”
Obviously, the Lions could still need defense, so potentially adding Golden makes sense. Its a bit more out of left field to suggest Warford considering Detroit already had him and moved on.
Either way, these are the pair of moves analysts want to see the most as free agency pushes through the rest of the way.
Lions Remaining Salary Cap Space
How much money do the Lions have left to spend? Quite a decent amount, north of $29 million dollars.
That total is second only to the Browns, and the good news is the Lions not only have plenty of money left to sign their draft class, but do a little shopping afterward or during the draft if they so desire. If the team isn’t able to address a position such as defensive line, theoretically, they could still make a deal for a player like a Yannick Ngakoue, Matt Judon or Jadeveon Clowney if they so choose. While such a deal isn’t likely, the Lions have managed to leave enough money that the potential exists for it to happen.
Over the Cap estimates the Lions will need around $12,871,035 to sign their 2020 draft class, which would leave the Lions with around $16,617,165 to spend the rest of the offseason. At this point, they are in very good shape as a result of this, and can still span the market in the coming days.
Adding Sheard wouldn’t break the bank.
Lions Might Need More Defense Within Free Agency
Many fans and pundits would think Detroit’s defense to be completely fixed, but it might not be the case if Bleacher Report is to be believed. Recently, the site power ranked every team’s defense following the biggest moves of the offseason, and the Lions didn’t place highly whatsoever. Detroit’s defense was bad last season, but according to Martin Fenn, the improvements they have made have been minimal.
The Lions placed 29th on the list, with only 3 defenses in the league worse at this point.
Here’s a look at what Fenn wrote about why:
“The Lions made the best decision for their defense by staying at the No. 3 spot in the draft and selecting Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah, who was dominant during his tenure with the Buckeyes. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed first downs on just 20 percent of all targets at the outside corner since 2018. He also dominated in press coverage, making him the perfect replacement for Darius Slay.
Detroit also signed former Atlanta Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant earlier in the offseason while acquiring ball-hawking safety Duron Harmon from the New England Patriots.
The problem is, the secondary figures to see a ton of action due to a relatively lackluster pass rush. The Lions cut edge-rusher Devon Kennard and defensive tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison, but the only move they made to upgrade the line was signing former Pats defensive tackle Danny Shelton.
Shelton was a run-stuffing machine for New England last year, and perhaps the Lions are counting on the additions of linebackers Jamie Collins and Reggie Ragland to help against the run as well. Still, they don’t have much of a pass rush outside of Trey Flowers, which does not bode well for the overhauled secondary. Collins did have seven sacks last season, but he will be 31 in October, and the Lions might need him to be more of a cover backer.
Third-round draft pick Julian Okwara might be able to help set the edge, but the Lions ranked 29th in passing DVOA last year, and the relative shortage of pass-rushing threats will test Detroit’s secondary once again.”
Detroit has added plenty to the mix in both free agency and the draft but could add another player to help in free agency. Someone like Sheard could be an intriguing fit.
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