Brad Holmes was hired by the Detroit Lions to find a way to clean up a messy situation, and so far, he’s done a nice job with getting that done in a short amount of time.
Holmes has managed to work some magic within free agency and the draft to build a team that most see as on the come-up in the NFL. Now, the general manager is getting even more love for his team building acumen so far.
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A big way the Lions are looking to climb out of the hole they’ve been in? Get their salary situation tightened up. Gone are the big spending days of the past, and the team has focused on building through the draft as well as a more moderate free agency spending approach. That’s an idea that has earned them some praise this offseason from Pro Football Focus.
Recently, PFF and writer Brad Spielberger looked at ranking teams by their future salary cap in a three-year analysis. Detroit placed 12th in the entire NFL, and Spielberger seemed to like the fact the Lions have not gone all-in with handing out cash in March.
“Detroit gave out the fifth-fewest total guaranteed dollars this offseason as it continues to turn over its roster and let young players assume key roles,” Speilberger wrote.
Specifically, as he said, Detroit’s ability to identify talent that improves their roster in the draft will tell the tale of the rebuild, but so far, things have been done in a responsible way.
“Over the last two drafts, Detroit has made 10 selections inside the first 115 picks. How this group ultimately pans out — along with the quarterback they eventually draft to supplant Goff — could go a long way in determining the Lions’ future for the remainder of the 2020s. At the outset, they’ve executed this rebuild the right way,” he wrote.
Detroit’s offseason has been lauded by many, and it seems the team is finally taking the right approach overall toward building the roster. That’s something which this analysis shows as well as the eye test this offseason.
How Lions Could Approach Free Agency Under Holmes
The Lions have chosen a more cautious approach thus far with this regime and have targeted mostly their own free agents and lower cost buys. In 2021, they re-signed Romeo Okwara as a big move. In 2021, it was adding players like Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond, Charles Harris, Alex Anzalone and Tracy Walker to build up depth. Detroit looked outside the home for some value buys on the open market. The Lions signed DJ Chark to a one-year deal, in addition to names like linebacker Jarrad Davis, cornerback Mike Hughes, tight end Garrett Griffin and linebacker Chris Board. All of those players were solid upside buys for the Lions in terms of players who could come in on short contracts and perhaps play their way into a role for the future. With this in mind, don’t expect the Lions to go out and burn all the cash in the future, either. The team is more likely to find a way to keep as much space under the cap as possible and look for young players to play up to potential to help build the depth of the roster.
In the future, the Lions may open the checkbook once or twice for a bigger signing, but don’t expect there to be many bigger additions. Brad Holmes seems committed to his plan, and it’s one that folks on the outside are seeing and appreciating.
Lions Appear Set to Build Through NFL Draft
Instead of going and shelling out top dollar in free agency as they’ve done in the past with minimal results, the Lions look intent on building a roster that can last through the draft. In 2021, the team added cornerstone pieces like Penei Sewell, Alim McNeill, Levi Onwuzurike, Derrick Barnes and Amon-Ra St. Brown. They hope to have done the same in 2022 with the addition of Aidan Hutchinson, Jameson Williams, Josh Paschal and Kerby Joseph. If some of the team’s late round picks pan out such as Malcolm Rodriguez, Jermar Jefferson, James Houston and James Mitchell, it will only serve to build the team’s roster better and make them more dangerous. Detroit also has another 2023 pick from Los Angeles to work with in order to perhaps find a quarterback, so the Lions look set to build their roster based on young talent.
Assuming the talent pans out as Spielberger says, this could be a sound approach to building up the team’s roster to last. There will come a time where the Lions have to make tough spending decisions in free agency, but for the team, the hope is to build things the right way where those choices are easy based on talent.