Detroit Lions: Last Chance Saloon for the Current Regime?
Last time we discussed how the Carolina Panthers season fell off a cliff after a promising start, and the same can be said for the Detroit Lions. Very little was expected of the Lions entering 2019 and expectations sunk even lower when they allowed the rookie head coach and quarterback combination at the Cardinals to mount a miraculous comeback in Week 1 in order to tie the game. However, two weeks later they were sitting at 2-0-1 with victories over the Chargers and Eagles, who were both expected to challenge for the playoffs. The next two games saw them play the Chiefs tough, before suffering a heartbreaking loss at the hands of the Packers. With a couple of different breaks this team could have been 5-0 and enthusiasm surrounding them was high.
Unfortunately for the Lions, that is when the wheels started to fall off. After their Week 5 bye they won just one more game all season, finishing the season with a nine game losing streak and losing 12 of their last 13. The one positive is they now have the third overall pick and the chance to change their franchise fortunes either through a blockbuster trade or adding a blue chip player.
General Manager: Bob Quinn
Head Coach: Matt Patricia
There is no way of sugar coating it, these two are lucky to still be in a job. In the last two seasons the Lions have a 9-22-1 record, with the previous Head Coach having been fired following two 9-7 seasons. When you add in talk that Patricia and Quinn have alienated the locker room on multiple occasions with their actions, be it in the media or trading away players highly respected among the team. Both appear to be on their final chance in Detroit and they simply cannot afford to have another bad season in 2020.
Cap Space: $46 million
The Lions appear to have the resources at their disposal to make a run at the playoffs in 2020. $46m in space with your franchise quarterback under contract is a fairly comfortable place to be.
They have opportunities to open up more cap space while incurring relatively minor dead cap hits. Darius Say could open up another $10.4m but to replace a corner of his talent would cost a lot more than that. The same sentiment can be made for left tackle Taylor Decker, who could clear $10.4m himself without incurring any dead cap. A final name to mention is linebacker Devon Kennard, who could open up close to $6m in cap space, but is another big part of that defense.
There are some smaller moves they could make to open up cap space if the desire was there, but the comfortable cushion they have right now should ensure they do not need to make any radical moves.
Impending Free Agents
When you look down the list of ions free agents not many names jump out at you. Guard Graham Glasgow is perhaps the most valuable piece with his reliability and more than respectable performances. For once the Lions offensive line was not a complete disaster in 2019 and it would be good if they could return the same unit.
After Glasgow it is names such as Tavon Wison, Danny Amendola and A’Shawn Robinson that highlight the list of free agents. All of those players are reasonably replaceable and the Lions should let them walk with the hope they either return after testing the free agent market or can be replaced with relatively little problems.
Major Need: Defensive Back
The secondary was perhaps the biggest weakness for the Lions in 2019 and they then went and traded away Quandre Diggs to make matters worse. They have another safety in Wilson set to leave and there is talk that Slay may be cut. Even if they keep Slay, they need to add more talent to this secondary, both at corner and safety. Good job they should have a chance to draft a corner prospect who has been touted as one of the best in the last decade.
Major Need: Defensive Line & Pass Rush
Talk that Damon Harrison is set to retire should have the Lions on full alert when it comes to their defensive line. They may need to address the entire defensive line and their pass rush and without it then any issues on their secondary will be exploited. The Patriots proved this season that you can have a dominant defense without a scary pass rush, but the Lions do not have the talent on the back end of the defense that the Patriots do. If the Lions can add strength in the middle of their line and find a solid situational pass rusher this offseason then they can at least cause the quarterbacks in their division some concerns in 2020.
Head of NFL Content
Image credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports