The Detroit Lions have been hard at work during free agency and the offseason, and now that the market is settled and things have taken shape, folks can begin to ponder how the Lions have done thus far with the moves they have made and what they have done.
Detroit has been busy adding players to the mix, and everyone they have brought on the team can fill a new role for the Lions in terms of improving depth or the outlook in the locker room. To that end, it’s been a successful offseason already in Detroit.
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So how should some of these moves be graded? Here’s a look at the breakdown of the biggest moves the team has made thus far in free agency. Check back periodically as this list will be refreshed as new moves are announced.
Jared Goff, Quarterback (Trade)
The Lions couldn’t go into the offseason without any quarterback at all if they were going to trade Matthew Stafford, so the move to get Goff in addition to the draft pick heist was a stroke of genius from the from office. Nobody is pretending Goff doesn’t have his warts, but the key for the Lions will be seeing what he can do with a new offense and new start. It’s good for the team to jump-start his career in this way, and a savvy move for the Lions to give him a new chance. All-told, it’s a good move.
Michael Brockers, Defensive Line (Trade)
From the low price of a seventh-round pick in 2023 to the fact that Brockers adds some instant creditability to one of the weakest points of the Lions defense in 2020, there is nothing that doesn’t make this deal a potential home run for the Lions. Brockers is the kind of guy a defense can build around and will instill a culture for the team. Just a great move by Brad Holmes to take advantage of a desperate cap situation in Los Angeles and pounce.
Jamaal Williams, Running Back
Getting Williams on a savvy two-year contract could prove huge for the Detroit offense given he will run with something to prove and will be doing so for a division rival. It will be fun to see what Williams can do with his big opportunity and he is a great leader and personality for the locker room who will also add some punch on offense. Great signing for the Lions in more than one way.
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Tyrell Williams, Wide Receiver
Williams was the first signing the Lions made and the first real sign that the team was going to undergo a massive offseason of change at the wideout spot. The good news? It’s a short-term deal that isn’t worth much in the end, and will allow Williams to be able to step up and prove himself for the future. Williams is a good deep ball man with stats similar to Marvin Jones. There’s a chance for him to thrive in an offense he should be familiar with thanks to the presence of Anthony Lynn. As a whole this is a great move for the Lions to make. Low-risk, high-reward for the team at a spot of major need. Injury recovery and durability is a concern, but proving that checks out, this signing could be excellent.
Breshad Perriman, Wide Receiver
Perriman has good Detroit bloodlines to rely on, but he’s been a bit of a nomad in the league and has bounced around a lot. Does that mean he doesn’t have it, or he simply hasn’t found the best situation for himself yet? The Lions will offer him another chance to give some consistent production. Detroit probably could have done better by going in a different direction, but they did get a good price on Perriman, which saves the deal in a major way. He can come in and contribute and might put on a show for a bigger contract in 2022.
Romeo Okwara, Defensive End
Nothing to hate about bringing Detroit’s best pass rusher back from 2020 on a cheap deal for 2021. In the future, Okwara gets his in the form of a more lucrative deal and he will be around for three more seasons. A solid deal for the Lions which should allow a beleaguered Detroit defensive line to regroup and have a much better chance at success moving forward. Okwara sticks around on a deal that rewarded him and the Lions keep one of their best defenders. Hard not to see this as a win-win for the team.
Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Linebacker
The new staff has watched a ton of tape on Reeves-Maybin, so there is a method to their madness with this short-term re-signing. Likely, the team has big things in mind for Reeves-Maybin as a special teams player and also perhaps playing a bigger role on the defense. Detroit’s linebacking group has been such a mess it’s tough to grade any return high, but Reeves-Maybin has not been able to get his feet wet much as a contributor at all, so there could be some upside left to his game.
Kalif Raymond, Wide Receiver
Raymond is an under-the-radar talent and a player who has not really shown himself in a major way at this point in his career, but is still someone to take seriously given his speed and ability to contribute on special teams. Detroit may have found one of the next electric return men in the league at a very cheap price, which is good to know given the loss of Jamal Agnew. Raymond can also contribute as a wideout which could be huge for the Lions given the lack of depth at that spot. A decent signing with high upside.
Damion Ratley, Wide Receiver
There is a lot to like with the underrated talent, specifically his ability to get loose for deep balls and explosive plays. It is nice to see the Lions taking a chance on some lower-tier free agents and Ratley could be a player who becomes a force given the right situation. This signing will not make many headlines or lists, but it could be a smart one for a Detroit team that simply needs pass catching options for 2021.
Charles Harris, Defensive End
The Lions needed pass rush help to supplement Okwara, but instead of going with a more established name, they opted for a low buy on Harris, a former first-round pick with only 6.5 career sacks to his name. It was puzzling to say the least for Detroit, who could have used a veteran with a bit more production to rely on. Still, not a terrible move to get a veteran in the mix who could have better days ahead of him and flourish in a better system. It’s an average move, but one that could pay off if Harris finds his footing and comfort in Detroit.
Alex Anzalone, Linebacker
The Lions desperately needed a player like Anzalone on the roster. He is a lot like Bobby Carpenter from a few decades ago. Anzalone is a solid tackler and a player who can fill in and offer depth at linebacker in a key way. He knows Dan Campbell and Aaron Glenn, so he could be a favorite of the staff as well. There won’t be a major learning curve and he should fit right in with the attitude the Lions are trying to build. This move won’t make a lot of headlines, but it is something that the team should benefit in a big way from.
Randy Bullock, Kicker
Bullock is not Matt Prater, so that fact alone will force many Lions fans to proclaim him a failure. Still, he’s got a strong leg and is relatively young in the grand scheme of things, which means this could be an upside signing as well. Bullock isn’t likely to be handed the job either given the presence of Matthew Wright on the team, so if he wins a role, it will be for a reason. The Lions are betting on the durable kicker to show what made him a favorite in Cincinnati early in his career. It’s not bringing Prater back, but it’s decent, established league competition for the kicking room.
Corn Elder, Cornerback
Elder is an unnkown commodity for the most part thanks to the fact that he does not have a robust stat line in the NFL to rely on, but that is not something that can be held against him given the respect he has earned around the league. It’s a solid depth signing with some great upside, and arguably a better decision for the Lions than putting a bandaid over their cornerback issue with cheaper veteran players like they did the last few offseasons. Elder could be a solid player in the nickel role and brings a tough hitting mentality to the secondary. He should pair well with what Aaron Glenn is looking to do. Jalen Ramsey wanted him in the mix for Los Angeles, so that says something about his abilities.
Quinton Dunbar, Cornerback
The Lions are taking a flier on Dunbar, a player who has shown some production in spurts, and it’s a very smart move. Along with Elder, the Lions are content to sign one-year players to come in and try to elevate their stock and the stock of the team. Dunbar is a guy who has a scheme fit with the Lions given Aubrey Pleasant and Aaron Glenn, and can be a tough cornerback for the Lions while providing some excellent depth. It’s smart for the Lions to bet on players like Dunbar in the early stages of the rebuild, so this could be a move that pays off both now and later for the defense.
Dean Marlowe, Safety
Marlow may not have the biggest name, but he’s the kind of player who could quietly play a big role for the Lions moving forward. Marlowe is an ace special teams player, a great character guy and someone who could take on a much bigger role for the Detroit defense if he can get snaps he wasn’t getting in Buffalo. It’s an under-the-radar move, but a good gamble for Detroit to make considering Marlowe is not likely to cost much money and could deliver big play for the team.
Darren Fells, Tight End
The Lions went into crisis mode after the abrupt retirement of Josh Hill and landed on their feet in a big way with this move. Fells not only knows the Detroit culture and locker room, but he has been very sneaky productive for the Texans the last few seasons with 11 scores. Fells is a quality locker room guy and a quality blocker, so this is a seamless fit. He might deliver some offensive punch unexpectedly too. All told, this is a great move for the Lions, who were lucky to score a talent like Fells this late in free agency.