Lions Given One of NFL’s Highest Grades for Free Agency Haul Thus Far

Brad Holmes Dan Campbell

Getty Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell walk on the field during Lions training camp in 2021.

The Detroit Lions came into the early portion of free agency with some major goals to accomplish. According to some, they’ve done a nice job to achieve those goals.

With multiple defensive needs, the Lions needed to sign multiple defensive starters. Through the first week of free agency, they have managed to do that, as well as keeping around some of their own more vital free agents.

To that end, free agency has been a success for the Lions already. But what kind of letter grade can be put on that success? According to Pro Football Focus, one of the highest marks in the NFL.

The site recently graded the work of all teams during free agency, and when it came to Detroit, the results were very good. The Lions received an A- for their work in the 2023 free agency period, and the site was very impressed with many of their deals.

To start, PFF appreciated Detroit landing cornerback Cameron Sutton, a player they have been impressed with in terms of his ability to be stingy in defense.

“The Lions needed to find an outside cornerback in free agency this offseason, and Sutton provides exactly that. Pittsburgh played man coverage at about the same rate as Detroit did in 2022, and so the schematic fit makes sense for both sides,” they wrote.

The site also liked Detroit adding cornerback Emmanuel Moseley, a guy they described as a “smart buy-low decision” for the team’s front office.

As it relates to Detroit’s top offensive addition, the site liked David Montgomery because as they wrote, he could provide a bit more upside than Jamaal Williams in terms of his talents.

“He is as tough as they come and has legitimate three-down potential if D’Andre Swift were to miss time with injury, whereas Jamaal Williams has become more of an early-down-only type of player,” the site said of Montgomery.

Finally, the one in-house move that the site broke down was the team keeping Alex Anzalone on a three-year deal. While they admitted Anzalone is a quality player, they thought the $18.75 million dollar deal was a bit pricy.

“Anzalone was solid for the Lions last year, with his 58.5 PFF run-defense grade and 58.9 PFF coverage grade both ranking in the top 60 among all linebackers. It’s just a bit of an overpay on a day when we saw a division rival in the Bears sign T.J. Edwards for a pretty similar deal. Anzalone is not a bad player for the Lions to bring back, he just costs more than you’d like given his limitations,” the site said.

All of this work adds up to a 0.385 WAR gained, and the A- grade for the Lions so far during this period. As a whole, the Lions were one of just five teams to earn an A- mark or better for their free agency moves.

What’s Next for Lions During Free Agency

While the Lions have done a nice job checking off several needs already, the work could be expected to continue on the secondary market in the weeks ahead.

The team’s defense has managed to improve in a big way with the addition of Sutton and Moseley as well as the return of Anzalone, John Cominsky and Isaiah Buggs. In spite of that, the Lions could certainly stand to add one more linebacker to the mix.

As improved as the team’s defensive backfield looks to be, there are questions at safety. Detroit brings back Tracy Walker, but lost one of their top contributors in free agency in the form of DeShon Elliott. Whether the Lions have a response in free agency or the draft remains to be seen, but one could be expected.

Offensively, Detroit seemingly scored by bringing in Montgomery to man their backfield while Graham Glasgow adds toughness and depth to the offensive line. Help could be needed from a depth standpoint at pass catcher, though, with wide receiver and tight end a few of the markets to monitor in the coming days.

The Lions could still shop for lower cost veteran upgrades at some of the spots where they have elected not to make moves just yet. That’s probably the most important thing for fans to remember heading into the second week of free agency.

Lions Deserve High 2023 Free Agency Grade

As a whole, is an A- grade fair for the Lions in free agency? It feels like that is more than the case when looking at the total picture for the team.

In past years, the Lions have leaned on bringing back internal free agents first. That’s been an approach that has paid off for them, and could be expected to do so again. All of Anzalone, Buggs and Cominsky represented must-retain free agents in Detroit. Each one of them returned.

With regard to the players coming in from the outside, Sutton seems like a big score for the team’s defensive backfield, and a guy primed to play lots of different roles for the Lions this season. Moseley seems like a quality gamble on a one-year deal, and Montgomery and Glasgow will help Detroit’s offense remain very tough.

What prevents the score from being a bit higher is likely the fact that the Lions have not made an upgrade at safety or linebacker from the outside, or tight end. It’s important to remember those players could be found in a deep draft, so fans should be patient.

Overall, seeing an A- score for the team’s work feels very fair at this point, and could show why Brad Holmes may have just enjoyed yet another successful start to an offseason.

Read More