Lions Potentially Losing TE to NFC Contender in ‘Rare RFA Action’: Report

Brock Wright

Getty NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Detroit Lions tight end Brock Wright signed an offer sheet with the San Francisco 49ers on March 29.

The Detroit Lions appeared to address their tight end depth with a tender for Brock Wright and free agent contract for Shane Zylstra this offseason. But the Lions will need to take another step to secure Wright’s services for the 2024 season.

That’s because on March 29, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported the San Francisco 49ers signed Wright to an offer sheet. Because he’s a restricted free agent, the Lions have five days to match the offer to keep Wright.

“Some rare RFA action: Lions restricted free agent Brock Wright has signed an offer sheet from the 49ers, sources say,” Rapoport tweeted. “Detroit now has five days to match.”

This is noteworthy for a few reasons. For one, it adds fuel to a potential Lions-49ers rivalry. San Francisco erased a 17-point halftime deficit against Detroit in the NFC championship game to advance to this year’s Super Bowl.

Both teams are expected to be contenders again in 2024. At the very least, with signing Wright to an offer sheet, the 49ers are raising the price for Detroit to keep one of its veteran tight ends.

Wright posted 13 catches for 91 yards and a touchdown in 14 contests last season. He has recorded 43 receptions, 424 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns in three NFL seasons.

An undrafted free agent from 2021, Wright has mostly been a blocking tight end for Detroit.

Lions TE Depth Heading into 2024 NFL Draft

Entering the offseason, Sam LaPorta was the unquestionable top tight end on Detroit’s roster. As a rookie, LaPorta posted 86 catches for 889 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns on his way to second-team All-Pro. He also made the Pro Bowl and finished third in voting for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

LaPorta is already a star, but other than the 23-year-old, the Lions only had James Mitchell on their roster at tight end.

With a tender offer for Wright and 1-year contract for Zylstra, though, the Lions filled out their tight end room.

But if they now lose Wright, the Lions’ tight end depth will take a significant hit. Zylstra is recovering from a torn ACL he suffered during 2023 training camp. He missed all of last season.

Without Wright, the Lions would only have two tight ends on the roster who played snaps in 2023. And the second one, Mitchell, has played sparingly in his NFL career.

Mitchell lined up for 157 offensive snaps last season. He only caught 2 passes for 28 yards.

Wright was second among Detroit tight ends with 423 offensive snaps in 2023.

Lack of TE Depth in NFL Free Agency

With Wright’s offer sheet, the 49ers could very well be trying to snatch a depth player from another NFC contender. But San Francisco could also be interested in Wright simply because of the lack of tight ends available in free agency.

On March 7, The Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett wrote that tight end is “considered one of the thinnest positions in free agency this year.” Pro Football Focus ranked just two tight ends among the top 50 available players in NFL free agency this offseason.

Based on PFF’s tight end free agent rankings, the top 10 free agent tight ends are signed with new teams. The best tight end still available is Logan Thomas, who PFF rated the No. 240 overall free agent this offseason.

With few free agent options to replace Wright, the safe bet is that the Lions will match the 49ers’ offer sheet. If they don’t, tight end could become a bigger need for Detroit in the 2024 draft.

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