The Detroit Lions have done a good job thus far of making sure they check off some of their bigger needs during the offseason, and as things push on, it becomes clear they have done well.
With that in mind, the team could still have some major needs lingering into the second week of free agency that they could look to fill with more underrated players, or free agency value buys. What are their biggest needs, though? Trevor Sikkema of Pro Football Focus took a look at that in a piece.
Sikkema wrote that in his mind, the interior defensive line and safety spot remain the biggest holes on defense. Safety may have been seen as a need before the team signed C.J. Gardner-Johnson, but the defensive interior need does remain strong.
“The Lions are surely hoping Levi Onwuzurike can be a consistent contributor for their defensive line in 2023 and beyond, but his back injuries make it hard to have blind faith in that. With that in mind, the Lions need a dominant three-technique defensive tackle,” Sikkema wrote.
Another spot of need called out by Sikkema? The wideout position, where the Lions have some impact players already, but could certainly use another player with a bigger body to give them some snaps in his mind.
“They could also target a big-bodied receiver to pair with Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jameson Williams,” he said.
Clarity could be coming at least in terms of the wide receiver market. Rumors surfaced late last week that the Lions could be heading towards a potential reunion with DJ Chark, who is a current free agent. Chark has been talking with the Carolina Panthers, but as of yet, no deal has been reached between the sides.
Add it up and some of Detroit’s bigger needs have already been checked off. That could leave them in great position going through the rest of the offseason into the NFL draft.
Lions Have Another Major Need at Linebacker
While the need list that PFF provided is solid, there could be one glaring omission in the form of linebacker, which still seems a bit thin after the first wave of signings.
Detroit re-signed Alex Anzalone to a three-year deal this offseason, and has a stud in Malcolm Rodriguez. Outside of him and Derrick Barnes, a 2021 fourth-round pick, there isn’t much on the roster. Barnes posted 47 tackles and one sack last season, and looks to build on a decent first two seasons in the league which has seen him post three sacks and 114 tackles.
In spite of these solid facts, the team still doesn’t have much depth at all, with just Julian Okwara, James Houston and Anthony Pittman left on the depth chart in addition to Rodriguez and Barnes.
The Lions could use another veteran player at the position to help, but perhaps they think Anzalone is the right elder-statesman of the group.
What Lions May Do Next in Free Agency
Are the Lions done with free agency? Given the cap space they have, the team could have enough for a few more moderate additions to help fill needy roster spots for 2023.
In free agency, even after adding C.J. Gardner-Johnson to the mix in the defensive backfield, the team could look to sign an underrated free agent for the interior of the defensive line. Detroit might also like to bring in another linebacker to the mix to add some more veteran presence to that group.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Lions could decide to bring back Chark at wideout, who played a solid role for the team last season. Rumors of a reunion with Chark began to swirl late last week, and the extra cap space could be a catalyst for that move. Even if Chark doesn’t return, the team could look at another veteran at the position.
Additionally, the Lions might decide to look at a veteran tight end. That market offers some potential solutions for the Lions right now, and any could add a proven player to a spot that lacks a bit of bigger-name appeal.
Detroit has done a decent job already, but they could still decide upon some extra moves to help round out the roster.