Lions tender all six of their exclusive-rights free agents

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Brandon Copeland

The Lions have offered tenders to all six of their exclusive-rights free agents.

NFL free agency begins Wednesday, but the Lions made their intentions known this week that they plan to retain some of their young and mostly unproven players — wide receiver Corey Fuller, linebacker Brandon Copeland, safety Isaiah Johnson, center Braxston Cave, defensive tackle Khyri Thornton and running back George Winn.

Exclusive-rights free agents are players with no more than two accrued seasons in the NFL. If teams extend them an offer, typically for the minimum salary, they have to accept in order to play that season.

The tenders for exclusive-rights free agents are not guaranteed, so there's no financial risk for the Lions to bring back these players. If they make the 53-man roster, Winn and Fuller will make $600,000, Copeland, Johnson and Thornton will make $525,000 and Cave will make $450,000.

Fuller was a sixth-round pick by the Lions in 2013, but after spending his rookie year on the practice squad, he had just 18 receptions the past two seasons.

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Copeland was one of the Lions’ top special teams players in 2015 after joining the team following the veterans combine. Winn has also provided special teams value the past two years.

The 6-foot-1 Johnson was an undrafted rookie last year and should compete for playing time this offseason, though the Lions plan to add a starting-caliber strong safety in free agency.

Cave spent most of 2015 on the Lions practice squad, and Thornton was active for six games after the Lions claimed him in October.

With the six exclusive-rights free agents on board, the Lions can move onto decisions on their 17 unrestricted free agents and one restricted free agents, tight end Tim Wright.