The Lions have had a tumultuous few seasons since letting go of Head Coach Jim Caldwell. Matt Patricia did not get the job done in two and a half seasons, with a record of 13-29-1. The defense and culture was assumed to get fixed with Patricia at the helm, bringing in those two things from his years in New England. It could be argued both of those things were worse off when Patricia left than when he got to Detroit.
The Lions orchestrated the biggest trade of this offseason so far, dealing Matthew Stafford to the Rams for Jared Goff and a few picks. I’ll be upfront now and say I do not believe Goff is the long-term answer in Detroit. In my opinion, the Lions should head fully into a rebuild, which this article will reflect.
Head Coach and General Manager:
As I mentioned above, Patricia was let go during this last season. The Lions ended up hiring Dan Campbell, most recently assistant head coach and tight ends coach on the New Orleans Saints. Aside from his fiery press conference, Detroit should be excited about this hire. Is he going to be the best offensive mind? No, and that’s okay. In fact, I prefer a head coach who is more of a CEO than a genius on one side of the ball. Campbell will bring that culture that Detroit thought they were getting with Patricia.
The Lions also hired a new general manager, in Brad Holmes. He has been with the Rams since the beginning of his career in the NFL, and he was most recently the director of college scouting since 2013. Once again, Lions’ fans should be excited with this hire. The Rams have not had a first round pick since 2016, but before that, he had a big hand in some fantastic picks like Aaron Donald and Cooper Kupp. Holmes was also the one to execute the Stafford-Goff trade. He may see a future in Goff for the Lions, but I think it’s much more likely he was okay taking on the Goff contract in order to receive more picks back.
Cap Space: $-1.5 million
Desmond Trufant, CB – $6.1 million
Justin Coleman, CB – $5 million
Jesse James, TE – $2.2 million
Nick Williams, DT – $4.7 million
Chase Daniel, QB – $2.3 million
Danny Shelton, DT – $4 million
Joe Dahl, IOL – $2.9 million
This is the bulk of the money the Lions can get back this offseason through cuts or trades. This would free up $27.2 million, resulting in $25.7 million in cap space.
Kenny Golladay, WR
Romeo Okwara, EDGE
Everson Griffen, EDGE
Jarrad Davis, LB
Oday Aboushi, OL
Golladay will be expensive, and Okwara won’t come cheap either, but they are two key pieces in this rebuild. Assuming the Lions draft a QB next year, they need that QB to throw to someone with high talent, or it’s hard for the QB to grow. Okwara is only 26 years old and proved this last season he is one of the best young edge rushers in the league.
The Lions are tight on cap space after their resignings, plus free agency is not the other to rebuild a team. This section will be very similar to the Eagles’ free agency options in last week’s article.
The difference in this list is that the Lions don’t have as many needs as the Eagles, as crazy as that sounds. They shouldn’t sign any of the following positions: QB, RB, WR, TE, DL, LB, or S. They need to build up the offensive line first, and they need a CB opposite Jeff Okudah.
Brandon Scherff, G
Joe Thuney, G
A.J. Bouye, CB
Russell Okung, OT
Alejandro Villanueva, OT
Jason McCourty, CB
Mike Hilton, CB
Desmond King, CB
Austin Blythe, G
Jimmy Smith, CB
Daryl Williams, OT
Quinton Dunbar, CB
Chidobe Awuzie, CB
Jason Verrett, CB
Taylor Moton, OT
Shaquill Griffin, CB
Levi Wallace, CB
Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
Like I said, first and foremost is building the offensive line. The overall strategy I employ when rebuilding a team is in the trenches first. This means offensive line, defensive line, and even linebackers are valued greater than any position, other than QB. If the Lions don’t resign Golladay, I would be okay with either DeVonta Smith, Ja’Marr Chase, or Jaylen Waddle here.
Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
Dillon Radunz, OT, NDSU
Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
Marvin Wilson, DL, Florida State
Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami
Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
The Lions have a lot of options with their second round pick. If they didn’t get an OT in the first round, that should be the pick here. If they did, they can go any other option. Receiver is an option here regardless if they resign Golladay or not.
Jabril Cox, LB, LSU
Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State
Joe Tyron, EDGE, Washington
Josh Myers, IOL, Ohio State
Jay Tufele, DL, USC
At this point Ain the draft, there isn’t an offensive lineman I like more than Myers. He can be a great interior offensive lineman for a long time. Cox had a great season and an even better Senior Bowl. A pairing of Jarrad Davis and Cox at linebacker would create an excellent duo.
Ronnie Perkins, EDGE, Oklahoma
Israel Makuamu, CB, South Carolina
Reggie Roberson, WR, SMU
Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse
Furthering the run on the same positions as they are the most important for the Lions, they can still grab starter level players at this point in Perkins, Makuamu, and Roberson. They can also dip into the safety class with Cisco, who was the front-runner at the position before missing most of the season due to an injury.
Ben Cleveland, IOL, Georgia
Shaka Toney, EDGE, Penn State
Jalen Twyman, DL, Pitt
Hamilcar Rashed Jr., CB, Oregon State
Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
At this point in the draft, there really isn’t a position off limits for the Lions (besides running back and quarterback). I’m not sure why, but I just can’t shake the feeling Shaka Toney will end up as a Lion. Obviously there is the need on the Lions’ side, but Toney just feels like he fits the mold of what they typically look for in a pass rusher.
Tony Fields II, LB, West Virginia
Tedarrell Slaton, DL, Florida
Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse
Whop Philyor, WR, Indiana
Kaden Sterns, S, Texas
Once again, the Lions can go pretty much any position here with their last pick in their draft. I chose these specific guys for various reasons, but mainly because I believe they have high potentials and could be starters in a few years. That’s rare from a pick this late, but there are always a few from each position every year.