Lions Pushed to Add Former Defensive Player of the Year in Free Agency

Stephon Gilmore

Getty ATLANTA, GEORGIA - OCTOBER 31: Stephon Gilmore #9 of the Carolina Panthers looks on before the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 31, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

The Detroit Lions have several decisions to make about how they will turn around their team, and different pathways to some of the meaningful changes they could make for 2022.

Before free agency, the debate has only just begun as it relates to what the biggest problem for the Lions might be. Some see it as the offense, while others think it is defensive related. Pro Football Focus can clearly be counted in the camp as believing the defense has the issue while hoping for upgrades on that side of the ball.

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In a piece taking a look at previewing the offseason for every NFL team at Pro Football Focus by writer Anthony Treash, the Lions are urged to take a look at their secondary first and foremost. As Treash explains, he believes the Lions could look at trying to court Marcus Williams from New Orleans given his connection with defensive coordinator and former defensive backs coach Aaron Glenn.

Williams would be a smart addition for the Lions given not only the Saints connection but the production. In his career, Williams has put up a very solid 261 tackles to go with 15 interceptions. He has also broken up 38 passes, and has 1 touchdown to his credit along with 3 forced fumbles. That’s the kind of production that could be a big deal for a needy Detroit defense.

Where Treash suggests an even bolder upgrade is at cornerback, and he believes the Lions should be looking at adding a big-time player in the form of free agent Stephon Gilmore. Detroit’s secondary, he says, has suffered at cornerback the last few years and Gilmore could add some veteran punch to help develop a young group.

Of all the suggestions so far, this could be the most interesting. Moves like this would allow the Lions to load up on offense in the draft as well as the defensive trenches. It could make them very effective overall at improving their needs.

Bleacher Report Called Lions’ Secondary Out, Suggested Big Fix

Pro Football Focus isn’t the only outlet that believes the Lions are facing a bit of trouble in the secondary and needs to find a fix. Interestingly enough, there has been a vote cast on this very topic and it comes from Bleacher Report and writer Maurice Moton as well. In examining the biggest issues for teams that could be fixed in the 2022 NFL draft, Moton believes the Lions are facing a huge problem with what he calls lackluster safety talent. The fix as he sees it? Picking Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton in the draft.

As Moton says, Hamilton is a complete playmaker at safety, and would allow the team their best potential fix at the position sine the Quandre Diggs trade. He wrote that Hamilton would allow the Lions to change the complexion of their defense, given how much ground Hamilton can potentially cover for the team.

Detroit’s safety position featured names like Tracy Walker, Dean Marlowe and Will Harris in 2021. Walker established a career high in tackles with 108, and Marlowe did as well with 67. Harris continues to try and figure things out as a young player. Walker is a free agent, and the team could elect to let both him and Marlowe walk. If that happens, the Lions will undoubtably have to shop for safeties, whether in free agency or the draft.

Cornerback could also be considered a major weakness as alluded to in the PFF piece considering the relative youth and inexperience of the players coming back, meaning this whole group could be primed for upgrade.

Gilmore’s Career Stats & Highlights

Whether it comes with adding a top-flight safety like Williams or Hamilton or not, adding a guy like Gilmore could be an intriguing proposition for the Lions to remember. He has been an elite player in the NFL as recently as 2019 when he was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award winner. He’s also been a two-time first-team All-Pro in 2018 and 2019, as well as a five-time Pro Bowler and a Super Bowl champion. Gilmore has also delivered statistically with 427 tackles and 27 interceptions in his career. He was a former first-round pick of the Buffalo Bills where he played from 2012-2016 before signing with New England in free agency. The Patriots shipped him out in 2021 after a remarkable six year run to Carolina, and he wasn’t able to make a huge difference with just 2 interceptions.

Gilmore is now a free agent, and at 31, should still command a decent amount of coin on the market given his past as a player. The highlights show why signing him might not be a bad idea for a team like Detroit in need of veteran help on the back end:

Will the Lions look at a high-priced veteran cornerback like Gilmore? That remains to be sorted out over the next handful of weeks, but some believe the team’s best path would be to boost the back end with some big-time moves.

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