Lions 2023 Cap Space: Team Already in Good Standing Against NFL

Brad Holmes

Getty Lions general manager Brad Holmes on the field during training camp in 2021.

The Detroit Lions are starting to think about the 2023 offseason, and as they do, the biggest looming event on the calendar remains the free agent period.

While the NFL offseason isn’t yet close to beginning, Lions fans are likely already locked in and trying to figure out what players they could lure to help boost their fortunes on both sides of the ball.

Already, there is some good news ahead of the offseason when taking a closer look at the team’s expected salary cap. Already, the Lions are seen to have a top 15 total in the league, placing 12th overall as PFF recently showed. As of now, the Lions have $15,050,618 to spend when the offseason begins. That total is just $1,547,898 away from the top 10 spot, held by the San Francisco 49ers.

In terms of what the Lions could be expected to do, the answers are mixed. The team has elected to sign in-house free agents under Brad Holmes such as defensive end Romeo Okwara and safety Tracy Walker the last two years while making only modest value buys across the roster elsewhere and building through the draft.

This year, with plenty of players who are on expiring deals that seem to crave returns, that could be the ticket again for the Lions.

With this money, though, the team could still elect to make a bigger swing or two in order to help their roster take the next step toward consistent contention.

Players Lions Could Cut This Offseason

While Detroit’s expected cap total is near the top of the league right now already, the reality is, things could get even better for the Lions once the offseason gets in full swing.

Leaving likely to return quarterback Jared Goff out of the matter, the Lions could still choose to make multiple cuts that could bump their cap total up even higher and allow them to compete for even more free agents on the open market.

Right now, the most obvious player that could be shown the door is offensive lineman Halapoulivaati Vaitai. While Vaitai had a solid 2021 season in Detroit, he has battled injuries most of his career with the Lions, and was shelved with a back injury most of 2022 at 30. That allowed other guards such as Evan Brown and Logan Stenberg to develop. Cutting Vaitai would save the Lions $9,400,000, but would come with a $5,896,389 dead cap hit.

In addition to Vaitai, another veteran might be jettisoned in the form of defensive tackle Michael Brockers. Brockers put up just four tackles this season, was inactive several times and is the oldest player on the Lions at age 32. His release would come with a dead cap tax of $3,975,000, but could make sense as Detroit tries to get better pieces up front.

Additionally, the Lions could let pending free agents like cornerback Amani Oruwariye and defensive back Will Harris walk, saving them money and allowing them opportunities to negotiate with others.

Detroit has wanted to get the youngest roster in the league trending in the right direction, and if these veterans are cut, it could offer even more help toward getting that done.

Positions Lions Could Target in Free Agency

Detroit has a lot of heavy lifting to do this offseason, and could see the majority of help needed on the defensive side of the ball relative to their struggles there.

The Lions finished 32nd in total defense this past season, and struggled against both the run and the pass. Against the run, they finished 29th with a total of 2,491 yards allowed and 22 touchdowns.

With this in mind, getting help along the defensive line and specifically at defensive tackle would be a good idea for Detroit. Any available defensive tackles are sure to generate free agent interest from the team given needs for upgrades there. That’s similar at linebacker given their role against the run and the pass, too.

In the secondary, cornerback could be on the menu for the Lions early and often due to the fact that the team finished 30th in the league in pass defense, allowing 4,179 yards through the air. Any available veteran cornerbacks that fit the scheme are sure to attract interest from the team as a result of this.

Offensively, there will be some question what happens at running back with D’Andre Swift. Detroit would seemingly have enough at wide receiver, but it’s possible they could look at another addition there, too.

Like any team, there are no shortage of needs or spots the Lions could choose to upgrade. Right now, the Lions will start off in a pretty good spot.

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