The Detroit Lions have not quite gotten in on the big money bonanza of NFL free agency, but have priorities lots of their own free agents first.
That played out again with the team’s decision to re-sign veteran linebacker Alex Anzalone. News of the agreement with Anzalone was first reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport on Monday, March 13.
“Source: LB Alex Anzalone is signing a 3-year deal worth $18.75M back to the Lions,” Rapoport tweeted.
Some Lions fans may have been wondering why the team elected to keep Anzalone and eschew signing a bigger name such as Tremaine Edmunds, who is has been said to be set to sign in Chicago on a massive $72 million dollar deal. Not only did the Lions have salary cap concerns, Anzalone is a proven culture fit who enjoyed his best season in the league in 2022.
Justin Rogers of the Detroit News provided a good reason for the re-signing of Anzalone. As he said, the linebacker not only had a career year while staying healthy, he was a key mentor for Malcolm Rodriguez on the field.
“Started 17 games, set a career-high in tackles (125), tackles for loss (7.0), quarterback pressures (21 on just 90 rushes), while holding QBs to a passer rating under 80. He was also credited, by his position coach, for accelerating development of Malcolm Rodriguez,” Rogers tweeted.
Rodriguez, of course, had a fantastic rookie year and is seen as a bright light on the defense. Keeping Anzalone around to continue that development while playing some solid football of his own seems like a smart move for the Lions.
Anzalone will run it back with the Lions in 2023, and will bring all of those positive elements and more back to a defense that has plenty of needs.
Alex Anzalone Made Lions History at Linebacker in 2022
Not only is Anzalone a solid fit for the team in terms of helping others grow, he made some history at the linebacker position on his own this year.
As the team’s PR account pointed out after the season, Anzalone managed to be active not only with regards to tackles, but interceptions, sacks, forced fumbles and fumble recoveries to make the history.
“In 2022, Lions LB Alex Anzalone logged the most tackles (125) by a Lions player since 2016. His 21 total pressures generated ranked 4th among all NFL LB’s. He is the first Lion with 125 tackles, 1.0 sack, 1 INT, 1 FF & 1 FR in a season since Chris Spielman (1995),” the site tweeted.
Given he retired with 1,363 tackles, six interceptions, 13 forced fumbles and 19 fumble recoveries, Spielman’s impact was never doubted by fans. He left the Lions after 1995, and was out of the NFL following the 1997 season in Buffalo. In 2021, Spielman was inducted to the team’s Pride of the Lions group, which is essentially Detroit’s ring of honor.
Seeing Anzalone’s name linked with Spielman will likely open some eyes, and shows what type of solid season the linebacker just enjoyed.
Alex Anzalone Enjoyed Big 2022 Season for Lions
Anzalone came on strong during the 2022 season, and was flying to the ball and making plenty of clutch moves on the field for his team most of the year.
Statistically, Anzalone managed to have a career season in Detroit. This past season, he put up 125 tackles, 1.5 sacks and one interception. Prior to that, his high water mark in tackles was a mere 78 in 2021.
In terms of his own play, it can be said that Anzalone has led the way for the Lions in a ton of senses. Arguably his best play this season was the interception he made on first-and-goal early in the third quarter on Thanksgiving Day against Buffalo.
Anzalone took a tipped pass and snuffed out a promising Bills drive to net his own offense some major momentum. It was another case of the veteran understanding the defense and being sound in the moment to make an impact play.
As a whole, Anzalone has put up 326 tackles, 6.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and three interceptions in his career. That’s solid production for the Lions at a big position of need.
Now that Anzalone is returning, the team has locked up another key defensive figure to go with defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs.