Lions Dubbed Landing Spot for $82 Million Star in ‘Hypothetical Exercise’

Dan Campbell Mike Evans

Getty Bleacher Report's Alex Ballentine proposed head coach Dan Campbell and the Detroit Lions to sign wide receiver Mike Evans in NFL free agency.

The Detroit Lions have the seventh-most cap space in the NFL entering 2024 free agency. With that, pundits have connected the Lions to several stars projected to be available in NFL free agency. The most surprising connection, though, may be with veteran wide receiver Mike Evans.

In a free agency mock draft, Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballentine proposed the Lions signing Evans. Ballentine projected Evans to be worth $95.3 million on a 4-year contract.

“The good news is that the core of the team that had a 24-7 halftime lead over the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game is going to remain intact in 2024,” Ballentine wrote. “With a bunch of cap space going into the offseason, it makes free agency a big deal for the team this year.

“They should be looking for a few key pieces who can push them over the top and at least get back to playing for the NFC title.

“That’s why it shouldn’t bother them that Mike Evans is 30 years old. He would supercharge an already devastating offense with a vertical threat who would be a great complement to Amon-Ra St. Brown.”

It’s important to note that Ballentine wasn’t necessarily projecting the Lions to sign Evans. Rather, Ballentine connected the team to Evans in what he called a “hypothetical exercise.”

In the exercise, free agency worked the same way as the draft, with the teams ordered based on cap space. Then each team received the opportunity to pick one player.

Ballentine slotted Evans, who signed a 5-year, $82.5 million contract in 2018, to the Lions at No. 7.

In 10 NFL seasons, Evans has posted 762 receptions and 11,680 receiving yards with 94 touchdowns. He led the NFL with 13 receiving touchdowns during the 2023 season.

In 2023, he also had 79 catches and 1,255 receiving yards.

Lions to Make a Big Free Agency Splash With WR Mike Evans?

For simple hypothetical purposes, there’s little doubt Evans in Detroit’s offense would be scary. Opposing defenses already struggled to cover shifty Amon-Ra St. Brown and tight end Sam LaPorta last season.

With Evans, who has averaged 15.3 yards per reception, too, the Lions passing offense would have historic potential.

“St. Brown is an excellent receiver in the short-to-intermediate areas of the field,” Ballentine wrote. “Evans would immediately be the team’s best vertical threat and would force attention away from Jameson Williams, a former first-round pick who has breakout potential in 2024.”

Evans’ arrival could also allow the Lions to continue gradually developing Jameson Williams instead of forcing him into a starting role in 2024.

In 2023, Detroit’s passing offense finished second in yards. The unit was also third in net yards per pass attempt and fourth in passing touchdowns.

What is Detroit’s Realistic Approach to NFL Free Agency?

As fun as Evans would look in Detroit, the Lions signing him is highly unlikely to happen. The Lions have needs at cornerback, edge rusher and guard, which are probably going to take priority in free agency.

But even with those needs and $54.2 million in cap space, ESPN’s Eric Woodyard isn’t expecting the Lions to sign any big-time free agents this offseason.

“Although this year’s salary cap will be $30.6 million more per team than last year’s $224.8 million, Holmes has said he will remain selective and strategic in identifying top free agents,” wrote Woodyard.

“Ideally, the Lions want to acquire the best players through the draft, develop them and re-sign them once they’re eligible for an extension.”

The Lions have also been a popular choice to trade up in the NFL draft from No. 29. With four picks in the top 92 selections, the Lions have the draft capital to do that if they want to move up for a prospect who they believe could help them push for a championship immediately.

Based on Woodyard’s prediction, though, that seems unlikely too.

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