NFL free agency is just a mere two days away and we all can’t wait for the Lions to cash in on the players that will help the team reach that seemingly unreachable plateau of a championship. Right?
As we all know, that’s probably not going to happen. The re-vamped Detroit Lions’ front office will likely misuse the $27 million that they have at their disposal, luring the fans in for another 9-7 season.
While that is my very cynical and negative opinion, hopefully, the Lions can actually nab some good free agents this year. The market is lush with everything the team needs, from youth, to experience, to value, to talent. There are good finds and every position and Detroit can improve greatly by additions through free agency before the draft.
Here is the best free agent fit at every major offensive position for the Detroit Lions in 2018.
Quarterback- Matt Moore
Before you begin to freak out, yes the Lions are indeed in the market for a quarterback. A backup quarterback.
Jake Ruddock sold himself pretty poorly this season as a solid backup, so the Lions should look to the market for a cheap, experienced option for the clipboard holder. As funny as this option sounds, Matt Moore is the best one out there.
The 33-year-old has had a fabled career as a backup and has even dusted off the shoulder to start in five games in the last two seasons. Over those five games, he posted a 62.3 completion percentage for 1,582 yards, 12 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. He had a couple of decent wins with the Miami Dolphins and is definitely confident in the kind of system that Detroit runs.
He can spread the ball out west coast style and has relied on a running back system identical to that of Detroit. He was only paid a little under $2 million in 2017, so the Lions could realistically get him for around $1.5 million or so. Backup quarterbacks are important and if the offensive line continues to let Matthew Stafford get hit left and right, the team needs a number two option.
Offensive Line- Ryan Jensen
The Lions have two solid options at tackle with Taylor Decker and Rick Wagner protecting the outsides while the team has a decent guard combo in T.J. Lang and a mix of Graham Glasgow, who is a center-guard hybrid, and Joe Dahl. The left guard spot could still be better, but the line desperately needs a center. Travis Swanson, the best center on the roster, missed five games this season and is set to be a free agent.
With this said, the Lions need to put a lot of time, and probably money, into getting a premier center. Ryan Jensen of the Baltimore Ravens couldn’t fit the bill better. The five-year pro started in all 16 games this past season as relief and proved to be better than the former starters.
He was ranked as one of the top centers in the league per Power Football Focus and he is reportedly demanding a price likewise of this ranking. It is reported that he may earn the biggest contract a center has ever received, that would be north of $10 million. The price tag is well worth it as the O-line would be pretty locked down after a move like this. Bite the cash bullet and solidify the offensive line so Stafford doesn’t spend every game on his back.
Running Back- LeGarrette Blount
After a couple cuts throughout the league, there are still not many great long-term options for free agent running backs. Most of the best backs are over 30 and the Lions really need to focus on finding a franchise back. Ameer Abdullah could still be the answer for that, but youth should be the forefront of attraction in any back that Detroit seeks, whether it is a free agent or a drafted player.
LeGarrette Blount honestly, in my opinion, remains the only free agent option that would be worth it. He is fine with playing in a multi-back system and he works well in a pass-first offense. He led the league in touchdowns just two seasons ago and posted 766 rushing yards and three total touchdowns with the Super Bowl Champions in 2017.
He would be a great addition for third-down situations and gives the Lions experience at running back that they haven’t seen since Reggie Bush. Again, however, the Lions probably shouldn’t spend too much money in this department. Blount made roughly over $1 million last year and pretty much operates on one-year contracts at the tender age of 31, so he would be exactly the kind of short-term back the team needs.
Wide Receiver- Jeff Janis
Wide receiver is a tricky position for the Lions. Both Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. posted over 1,000 yards last season and combined for one of the more deadly receiver duos in the league. Stafford had decent options at the third spot. Rookie Kenny Golladay had a short but awesome rookie season, posting several 50+ yard touchdowns for the offense. With Golladay a solid option at the second wideout spot and with Tate operating mostly in the slot, the Lions aren’t in desperate need to find a new wide receiver.
T.J. Jones, who had a solid 30 reception season, is a free agent and will likely look for a bigger role somewhere else. The Lions are still pretty deep at the position, with Jace Billingsley and Andy Jones being the four and five spots. So, the money needs to be spent somewhere else.
There are a lot of guys that will come relatively cheap that are actually pretty good, but the Lions shouldn’t mess with the chemistry they have developed in the receiver core. So, ironically, the absolute cheapest option at wide receiver is the best. Former Green Bay Packer Jeff Janis will be a UFA and would be a super steal for the offense. Janis has played in every game for the Packers since the beginning of 2015 but only has two career touchdowns (one receiving and one rushing). Janis’ true talents were shown in the 2015 playoffs where he averaged 20.5 yards a catch and caught two touchdowns in two games.
Janis is a crafty short guy that you want out there on third down and he would be a great addition to an already deep core. He made less than $600,000 in 2017, so getting him for around $1 million a year is very possible. However, the draft is really where the Lions should focus their time on this position.
Tight End- No.
Ah, yes. We still have Eric Ebron. What a joy.
Even through swirling trade rumors, the North Carolina product has remained on the team thus far and it may seem the pass dropper will be on the roster for 2018. I don’t care how it happens, but I hope (and assume) Ebron will be off the team by the end of free agency, whether he is cut or traded.
The tight end market doesn’t have a lot to offer in terms of talent or value. Obviously, Jimmy Graham has been linked to the team, but the list it is just a lot of players that the media hypes up yet none of them have the stats to back it up. Graham is elite, but he would cost a fortune. Several of the top tight ends have had on and off injury problems which is a big red flag for free agent shopping.
I think the Lions should just look to the draft and find a 6’11”, senior tight end from some small school to replace Darren Fells‘ blocking presence and continue to develop Michael Roberts, who was drafted last year out of Toledo. Roberts had some good plays last year and I think he has much more potential than Ebron. Get rid of the $8 million that we would be paying Ebron and get some more draft picks or a defender and use the extra cash to further the defense.
We don’t need another tight end when our offense doesn’t run the plays through that position.
I will be posting the defensive free agent list later today.
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