The Detroit Lions are more than a few pieces away from a Super Bowl run. But three key pieces in NFL free agency could put them on a path to competing for the NFC North title.
The new league year doesn’t begin until Wednesday afternoon, but there has been plenty of news around the NFL. The Detroit Lions, however, have been one of the quieter teams. But with an estimated $41 million to spend this offseason, it’s only a matter of time until they make some noise.
The Lions have made a few moves thus far, most in the form of releases. Guard T.J. Lang, cornerback Nevin Lawson, and safety Glover Quin were cut before the start of free agency. The Lions have also added veteran slot wide receiver Danny Amendola, who spent last year with the Miami Dolphins.
It’s a big offseason for Quinn. Last year he did his version of “Bucknering” – signing a number of underachieving veteran free agents. At the same time, he let high performers walk – specifically tight end Eric Ebron and linebacker Brandon Copeland.
This free agency period will prove significant for Quinn and the future of the Lions organization. The following three free agent signings could become key cogs for head coach Matt Patricia in 2019 and beyond.
Trey Flowers | Edge Rusher
The obvious statement to make is the connection that free agent Trey Flowers has to Patricia. Patricia played a large part in the development of Flowers, coaching him for three seasons as New England Patriots defensive coordinator before taking the job in Detroit last season.
Flowers is the big ticket free agent target for multiple teams this offseason. His ability to impact the game in so many ways regardless of what you see in the box score will attract many teams in need of an edge rusher.
Multiple reports yesterday indicate that the Lions will sign Flowers when the free agency signing period begins on Wednesday. As the new young cornerstone piece for Detroit’s defense, Flowers will reportedly sign a five-year contract averaging over $16 million per year.
Bradley Roby | Cornerback
The Lions have been trying to put together a solid secondary for years. With Glover Quin now out, there’s a hole at safety. But there has also been a missing piece opposite cornerback Darius Slay since 2014. Jalen “Teez” Tabor, who was drafted in the second round two years ago, isn’t the answer. This past season, quarterbacks had a perfect passer rating when targeting Tabor, according to Pro Football Focus.
Free agent cornerback Bradley Roby, whom the Lions previous regime evaluated heavily throughout the draft process, isn’t expected to break the bank as he struggled in his contract year. Will a team like the Lions want him to sign a “prove it” deal to see if he can return to 2017 form? For a Detroit secondary in need of help, it’s worth a shot.
Chris Conley | Wide Receiver
Quarterback Matthew Stafford is making a lot of money. Too much money, if you look at his performance throughout his time in Detroit. With that said, he needs more help outside if he wants to lead the Lions to their first playoff win since 1991.
Kenny Golladay was a steal for Quinn in 2017. And Marvin Jones may very well be a cap casualty before the 2019 season kicks off – contingent on what happens in free agency, of course. And as mentioned already, the Lions have already added Amendola to play the slot.
Chris Conley was a heck of an athlete coming out of Georgia but has spent all but one year playing with Alex Smith in Kansas City. While Smith isn’t a bad quarterback, his style of play didn’t suit Conley to showcase his skillset. With Patrick Mahomes under center last year, he was able to shine in a more improv-style of offense, catching 5 of his 6 career touchdowns in 2018. Pairing Conley with Stafford might be what he needs to prove himself in the league.