The Detroit Lions have several decisions to make regarding their free agents in 2021. With a new head coach and general manager in 2021, how much cap space do the Lions have, and which players are headed for free agency this offseason?
How much cap space do the Lions have in 2021 to re-sign their free agents?
The Lions are in an interesting spot when it comes to their salary cap. With just a handful of priority free agents in 2021, the Lions do not need to do anything radical. They have 42 players under contract for 2021, so they do not need to clear space as a priority.
However, with the Lions having just $11 million in cap space, they will have to make tough decisions with their 2021 free agents. Unless they are willing to open up a chunk of space, the majority of their highest-profile free agents will likely hit the open market.
The Lions have difficult decisions to make with their free agents on offense in 2021
The Lions enter this offseason with the majority of their question marks on the offensive side of the ball. All three of the Lions’ top wide receivers are set to become free agents in 2021. Keeping all three will prove an expensive endeavor, but they could probably find a way to keep two of the three if they wanted.
Kenny Golladay, Wide Receiver
Golladay is going to be a headache for the Detroit Lions when it comes to deciding on their free agents in the 2021 offseason. When Golladay is on the field, he is a high impact performer. He scored 11 touchdowns in 16 games in 2019 while averaging 18.3 yards per reception. However, in 2020, he played in just five games and just 22% of the Lions snaps.
It would be unfair to call Golladay injury-prone, given he played 31 of 32 games in 2018 and 2019. However, coming off a frustrating season, are the Lions going to be willing to invest big money in the receiver. Spotrac values Golladay at around $19 million per year. While he is undeniably talented, committing that much money to him is a tough call for the Lions.
Marvin Jones, Wide Receiver
Marvin Jones has been Mr. Reliable for the Lions. Since arriving in 2016, he has missed just 11 games in five seasons. When he has played 15 or 16 games, he has seen over 100 targets in those seasons. He has a catch percentage of 62.3 during his Lions tenure and has averaged 14.9 yards per reception with 36 touchdowns.
With the Lions projected to be tight on cap space in 2021, he could be a luxury they cannot afford. However, a veteran receiver would be ideal for the Lions to retain. If they can make the contract work, Marvin Jones could be considered a priority among the Lions’ 2021 free agents.
Danny Amendola, Wide Receiver
Amendola has been a solid addition for the Lions. In his two seasons, he has 166 targets, 108 receptions, and 1,280 yards. However, a slot receiver is a luxury that the Lions may choose not to prioritize. In the last four seasons, Amendola has been on three different teams. We could see him add a fourth team in five seasons in 2021.
Adrian Peterson, Running Back
The Lions decided to bring in Peterson for the 2020 season after being released from the Washington Football Team. Peterson offered a veteran presence to an inexperienced running back group. Detroit leaned on him early in the season and also while Swift was injured. However, in the latter half of the season, Peterson carried the ball less than 10 times in eight of 10 games.
Peterson has offered a reliable presence, playing in all 16 games. However, he contributes little on special teams and has only played 30 percent of the offensive snaps. Peterson should not be a priority for the Lions to bring back this offseason.
The Lions have a couple of key players set to be free agents on defense
While the Lions’ free agents on defense lack immediate star power, they do have key options set to hit free agency in 2021.
Romeo Okwara and Everson Griffen, Defensive End
Okwara led the Lions in sacks with 10 in 2021. The next closest player behind him was Everson Griffen, with 3.5 in seven games. With Griffen also set to become a free agent in 2021, the Lions have a tough choice to make on Okwara. Do they let both Okwara and Griffen leave and rebuild their pass rush? Or do they look to retain one and hope Trey Flowers can play more than seven games in 2021?
Spotrac currently has Okwara valued at around $10 million per year. After his breakout season, the Lions could be faced with a tough decision between prioritizing Okwara for their defense or Golladay for their offense. Griffen will likely prove to be the lower-priced option because of his off-field issues. However, he is older and was only on pace for seven sacks in 2020.
Duron Harmon, Safety
Harmon finished the season third on the team in tackles with 73. He finished behind Swiss Army knife defender Jamie Collins and fellow safety Tracy Walker. Harmon has been a long-time stalwart of the Patriots defense and played under Matt Patricia. A new head coach and general manager combination will likely not have the same affinity for Harmon as a player.
Coming off the best year of his career, Harmon will likely be looking to cash in. He is a luxury the Lions cannot afford. However, he could be a solid piece for the Lions to bring back if a clear home does not immediately appear in free agency.
Who are the other free agents?
On defense, the Lions have several rotational free agency pieces in 2021. Reggie Ragland is the most established of the group having played 50 percent of the snaps in 2021. Both Darryl Roberts and Jarrad Davis have seen a reasonable amount of playing time. None of them are likely to command a high price on the free agent market.
Behind them are Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Tony McRae, and Miles Killebrew. Mike Ford (CB) is a restricted free agent who will likely garner limited interest.
On offense, Oday Aboushi is the highest-profile free agent after the receivers and Peterson. The guard has started 42 games for five different teams during his career. He will likely want to test the free agent market but could settle back with the Lions if nothing materializes in free agency. Mohamed Sanu is another free agent at the wide receiver position. He could be a cheap veteran option if the team moves on from Jones and Amendola.