The Detroit Lions won’t be playing football during the 2023 NFL postseason, but that doesn’t mean the team can’t be watching it while being focused on their future.
After a close brush with the playoffs, the Lions are pondering how to improve their fortunes for the 2023-24 season. Beefing up in free agency could soon be a goal, and the team will have a few players that they can watch this weekend that may be able to help in the near future, both from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Writer Kristopher Knox took a look at picking out some impending free agent fits for teams. He had linebacker Lavonte David and cornerback Jamel Dean as two players Detroit should be watching intently during the playoffs and specifically the Wild Card round.
For David, Knox hinted that the Lions could target him to help fix a defense that struggled in the second level plenty this year.
“Lions fans should expect their team to target defensive players almost exclusively in free agency and the draft. Signing David to help shore up the second level would be a tremendous first step,” Knox wrote in the piece.
In terms of the other Buccaneers defender, Knox wrote that he believes the Lions need to keep their eyes on Dean as well. Dean is slated to be a free agent, and could be a player that could play a vital role for the Lions if the team elected to pursue him.
“Detroit should be right at the top of the list of teams looking to sign Dean. Not only did the Lions rank 30th in passing yards allowed, but they also ranked 31st in yards surrendered per attempt, 23rd in passing touchdowns allowed (26) and 19th in interceptions (12). Dean could be a huge asset on the back end for Detroit,” Knox wrote.
As it stands now, the Lions have a top 12 cap space total for 2023 already according to Spotrac, who had the team at around $18 million under the cap this offseason. It could certainly grow with more cuts and trades coming down the pipe, and there’s sure to be action as there is in any offseason.
In terms of the spots the team could look, linebacker and cornerback could be high on the list given Detroit’s relative weakness at both of those spots this past season. Either spot could be ripe for an upgrade from the outside.
With David and Dean, the team and fans have a couple of players to keep their eye on as the Wild Card round concludes on Monday night.
David’s Stats & Highlights
In terms of production, there haven’t been many players better than David through the years at linebacker since he came into the league in 2012 out of Nebraska with Tampa Bay.
As a rookie, David was a 2013 first-team NFL All-Pro, and a second-team All-Pro in 2016 and 2020. He cracked the 2015 Pro Bowl, as well. Statistically, he has been dominant, putting up 1,335 tackles, 29 sacks, 27 forced fumbles and 12 interceptions. He also claimed Super Bowl 55 with the Buccaneers.
The highlights from last year show a very active player that can cover a lot of ground on defense:
David is currently 32 years old, but could be the kind of veteran presence teams crave given his playoff experience and ability to make big plays consistently on defense. A team like Detroit that is young at linebacker could certainly benefit from what he brings to the mix.
Dean’s Stats & Highlights
As for Dean, he’s younger than David at 26, and broke into the league in 2019, when he was a third-round pick of Tampa Bay.
Since then, though, he’s developed into a solid cornerback and a big play option on the back end for the Buccaneers defense. While Dean hasn’t earned any league accolades for his work yet, he could be on the rise given 193 tackles, seven interceptions and 41 passes defended.
He also has an interception return for a score and plenty of other big plays on tape to his credit:
If given a bigger role in Detroit, Dean could flourish for the Lions and be part of a solution to a pass defense which was ranked 30th and allowed 245.8 yards per-game through the air.
With money to spend and holes on defense, the Lions could be aggressive this offseason. In the minds of some, this is where their focus should turn once the offseason begins.