As the Superbowl looms closer, there is a time that nears, a time that every football fan dreads, a time we call the off-season. During this time we will be filled with talks of the draft, free agents, and writers spewing nonsense click bait about their ideas to fix their respective teams. We even have one hero here in Detroit who suggested last year that the Lions trade Matt Stafford for Tom Brady (you know who I speak of Detroiters). Well lucky for you, I’m here to bring you reasonable solutions for how to move this team forward in Matt Patricia’s second season.
According to overthecap.com the Detroit Lions come into this off-season with just over 33 millions dollars in effective cap space (calculated as the maximum cap space a team will have when it signs at least 51 players to its roster for that season). This is good for 15th in the league, so while we don’t have unlimited power this off-season, we have the flexibility to make some impact signings to help this team in the 2019 season.
Before getting into some names to keep an eye on around the league, it’s important to note a few current Lions who could impact that current number of $33 million. TJ Lang is the name currently brought up most often in this conversation. A 31 year old Michigander, many people think Lang could take a “home town discount” in a restructured contract, but he hasn’t played a full season since 2014 in Green Bay, and, if cut, would give this team an additional $8.7 million in cap space. Glover Quin took a huge step back on the field last season, and with the emergence of last year’s 3rd round draft pick Tracy Walker, the team needs to think about the $6.25 million they could open up if they part ways with Quin. Nobody will tell you Nevin Lawson is a quality starting CB, but you can argue he’s the best #2 option on the roster right now. That being said, cutting Lawson would open up $4.125 million to try to find a better option in the open market. Cutting Christian Jones after a disappointing season would open up $3 million, and Theo Riddick, while a formidable 3rd down back, has regressed since his 80 catch 2015 season and would open another $3.425 million. Kenny Wiggins is the last name to look out for, a guy who you cringed to see on the field, Wiggins (if cut before June 1st) would give us another $2.75 million. All in all, with these potential cuts included we could have anywhere from $33 million to $61.25 million to spend depending, of course, on how cut throat Bob Quinn and his staff want to be in the coming months.
All that being said, let’s check out the free agency market and see what players would fit with this team.
- Jason McCourty, New England Patriots
- McCourty will be 32 by the 2019 season, but has been playing some of the best football of his career the last couple seasons. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the #14 CB in the league last year, and was on a 2 year, $6 million contract. He would slide into the CB2 spot perfectly on a one or two year deal.
- Jason Verrett, LA Chargers
- I’ll start with the obvious here, he’s had a really hard time staying on the field (He’s played 25 games in 4 years). Now that we took care of that, Verrett is an extremely talented and physical outside CB who was one of the better corners in the league in 2015 season through the 14 games he played. You can get him on a bargain and take a chance on his health, and if it hits you have a great CB2 for pennies on the dollar.
- Ronald Darby, Philadelphia Eagles
- He’s probably going to be the highest paid CB this off season in terms of unrestricted free agents as a 25 year old, but for a team that desperately needs a starter outside of Slay, he’d be worth every dollar. Darby is a consistent player with over 50 PBUs in less than 50 career games.
- Jadeveon Clowney, Houston Texans
- He’s going to demand a hefty price tag, but he’s also exactly what Detroit needs on the edge. He’s tremendous against the run, is improving as a pass rusher, and has the size and versatility to move everywhere around the defensive front. At 25 years old, he still has nearly limitless potential.
- Dee Ford, Kansas City Chiefs
- Ford is coming off by far the best season of his young career. He finished the regular season with 13 sacks and 13 TFL before a devastating offside play that led to the Chiefs going home after the AFC Championship Game. He’s only 27 years old and should get a big pay check, but this team really needs a pure pass rusher off the edge.
- Za’Darius Smith, Baltimore Ravens
- Smith is really similar to Dee Ford in terms of his free agency outlook for this off-season. He didn’t play much and was short on production his first three seasons in the league, but finished this last year with 8.5 sacks and 60 QB pressures according to PFF.
- Dante Fowler, LA Rams
- A top 5 pick in 2016, Fowler hasn’t put it all together, but has improved every year and is 25 years old. If you trust the coaching staff to unlock his potential, Fowler might be worth the potential paycheck he’s going to get.
- John Brown, Baltimore Ravens
- Brown is a speedy deep threat who can take the top off of any defense. He’s not a consistent threat, but with Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones on the outside, this gives Detroit 3 guys who defenses have to think about down the field.
- Cole Beasley, Dallas Cowboys
- Basically the complete opposite of John Brown, Beasley is a model of consistency who works the middle of the field and will always be open for Stafford on 3rd down. He’d be a good replacement for Golden Tate in the slot this year.
- Anthony Barr, Minnesota Vikings
- Barr has been on my radar since he was drafted in 2014. He has the versatility Patricia looks for, he can play off the edge or in the middle (probably better on the edge) although he’s taken a step back since his 2015 season when PFF graded him at a 90.0 overall.
- Danny Trevethan, Chicago Bears
- Trevethan is a guy to keep an eye on if Chicago decides to save some money with the amount they already have wrapped up on the defensive side of the ball. He’s a versatile veteran presence who has a knack for finding the ball if/when he can stay on the field.
- Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
- Anyone who plays fantasy football knows everything there is to know about Reed. He’s a tremendously talented receiving tight end when healthy, but has racked up a few too many concussions and hasn’t played a full season in his 6 year career.
- Jared Cook, Oakland Raiders
- Cook is 32 but is coming off a great season in Oakland. He’s still got plenty of juice left and would fit perfectly into this offense, filling the receiving void left by Eric Ebron.