Lions mailbag, Part 2: Draft Rashan Gary? QB ‘noise,’ receiver candidates
And just like that, we're back with Part 2 of the Detroit Lions mailbag. Be sure to go back and check out Part 1.
What's your take on the rest of the NFC North moving forward? I know it's pre draft/free agency so it's hard to break it down.
The Bears will be paying for last season's spending spree this offseason with less cap space and no first- or second-round draft pick. Sure, they'll likely free up some money with some cuts, but it might not be enough to retain safety Adrian Amos and/or cornerback Bryce Callahan, two important pieces to the team's defensive back end in 2018.
The Vikings are also sitting up pretty tight against the cap prior to making any roster cuts, which has led to some speculation they could part with big names such as Everson Griffen, Kyle Rudolph or Trae Waynes. More likely releases might be Andrew Sendejo or Mike Remmers.
Minnesota isn't at risk of losing too many key pieces via free agency, but we've probably seen the last of Anthony Barr in purple and gold. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, a hired gun in 2018, will also probably be on the move.
As for the Packers, they figure to make the most noise this offseason. The team has a new coaching staff, which tends to lead to more aggressive roster overhaul, and with $35 million in cap space and two first-round picks, the team is primed for a quick retooling.
Two longtime Packers are set to be free agents, linebacker Clay Matthews and wide receiver Randall Cobb. Nick Perry is also a potential cap casualty.
Any chance that the Lions and Ansah agree to a 1 year "prove it" deal for something like $12M? Should they?
While being definitive on any topic is a good way to look dumb in hindsight, I see almost no chance Ziggy Ansah is back in Detroit next season. We all know what he's capable of doing when healthy, but durability has been a big issue the past three seasons and he'll be coming off another shoulder surgery. It's time for both sides to seek a fresh start.
What are the odds they move Agnew to offense to fill the slot receiver role?
OK, I know I just said I don't like to make definitive statements, but there's no way Jamal Agnew is switching sides of the ball. There's no reason he can't continue to be a gadget player on offense, but the required nuance of playing slot receiver isn't something that can be grasped overnight, or even with a full offseason committed to the drastic conversion.
If Gary is there at 8, is he worth the pick? Also, if Haskins is there do you take him and let him sit for a year or so as an eventual replacement?
Sure, I wouldn't have an issue with the Lions taking Rashan Gary with the No. 8 pick. Like we talked about with Ed Oliver in the first part of this mailbag, Gary is kind of a tweener, but one who can work in Matt Patricia's scheme. I would anticipate him playing on the edge during early downs and sliding inside on some more obvious passing situations.
With Gary there's a ton of athleticism and untapped potential. Give that to Patricia and defensive line coach Bo Davis and let them develop it.
This QB talk is just noise right?
If we're talking about the Lions considering a quarterback in the first round, yeah, it's mostly a combination of noise and Bob Quinn not wanting to rule anything out, at least publicly.
Matthew Stafford is Detroit's quarterback, through next season and probably 2020. If he doesn't rebound from last season's performance, I could genuinely see the team drafting a potential heir next year, similar to what the Ravens did with Lamar Jackson or the Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes.
The Lions seem to finally have a cohesive front office, scouting department, and coaching staff, but is there a chance that could get derailed due to a lack of ownership succession planning? Is there an ownership succession plan in place?
Is there a succession plan? Let me put it this way, I can't imagine there not being one given Martha Firestone Ford is 93 years old. I can tell you we've asked Rod Wood in the past for information about the plan and he's declined comment.
Justin, it seems that every year a player has a breakout season only to fall back to mediocrity, for whatever reason, the following season. Which player from last year’s Lions team will follow this pattern?
That's a pretty negative question. Why do you have to be so negative?
OK, so who had a breakout season in 2018? Kerryon Johnson, Kenny Golladay and Da'Shawn Hand. Maybe A'Shawn Robinson.
Of that group, I guess I'd lean Hand, and the only reason I say that because, as I suggested previously, he might be destined to spend more time on the edge. And if that ends up being the case, it would come with a different set of challenges.
Which defensive player on the Lions would you pick to be the most improved player from 2018 to 2019?
Tracy Walker has the biggest opportunity to play more, and if he can translate the success he had in limited snaps as a rookie, he's the obvious answer. But I'm going to go with Jarrad Davis.
The young linebacker made some meaningful strides in his performance last season, cleaning up many of his coverage issues while displaying a previously untapped pass-rushing element.
Where Davis continues to lag is consistency with his run fits, pursuit angles and tackling. Some of that can be tied to adjusting to a new scheme and his role within it. With a full season of experience, he should be a much better run defender in 2019.
Which free agent CB would be the best fit for the Lions defense?
If the medical checks are positive, Ronald Darby has the ball skills sorely needed opposite Darius Slay. In 46 career games, Darby has broken up 54 passes and tallied six interceptions.
From the nickel, I really like Callahan from Chicago. He's also coming off an injury, so you have to make sure that's good to go, but I really like the way covers in the slot.
If they go after a free agent WR, who would be the best fit?
Let's assume the Golden Tate ship has sailed, because it probably has following the trade to Philadelphia last season. The Lions will likely be in the market for a traditional slot receiver and I think Cole Beasley or Adam Humphries make plenty of sense.
Do you draft a QB in the first three rounds if you're running the team?
No one wants me running this team, but if I were in charge of the Lions' draft this year, and inherited Stafford and his contract, I'm addressing other needs in those early rounds beyond the backup quarterback spot. It's next year where I might seriously consider using an early pick on the quarterback position.
Which is better Super Troopers or The Big Lebowski?
As with many males my age, I worship at the alter of the Coen Brothers. Lebowski and "No Country for Old Men" are two of my personal favorites.
What can the league do to make onside kicks relevant again?
Bring back Kickalicious.
What number will TJ Hockenson be wearing for the Lions?
This is a premium trolling tweet.
Do you see the Lions ponying up for a top-tier free agent or will they aim for value and depth and try to build in the draft?
The beauty of Quinn's run as general manager is he's shown a willingness to do both. He paid top market value for Marvin Jones, T.J. Lang and Rick Wagner to fill needs, while taking a more measured approach last season.
The Lions GM has made it clear he won't overspend. The front office establishes a player's value and won't get caught in a bidding war that wildly exceeds it, regardless of the need. That's a big reason the tight end situation ended up the way it did last year.
Given Detroit's cap space, I think they'll make a run at some of the bigger fish on the market. But Quinn won't panic and overpay to land one.
Who was the last All-Pro or perennial Pro Bowl free agent signed by the Lions in the prime of his career?
Cornerback Dre Bly made a couple Pro Bowls after the Lions signed him, but a better fit for your parameters would be return man Mel Gray, a four-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro after signing from New Orleans.
Does anyone in the AAF look like they have a shot to make the regular season roster for any team?
I'll be honest Scott, I've spent very little time studying AAF talent. OK, none. I've watched a handful of plays to see what the league was about, but I'm not about to evaluate talent. I'm sure there will be a number of guys who make NFL rosters next season.
How would you rank these positions of need for the Lions: edge rusher, cornerback, safety and tight end?
Biggest need: Tight end, cornerback, edge rusher, safety.
Positional value: Edge rusher, cornerback, tight end, safety.
Is Landon Collins on the Lions FA radar? Or do you think they’re sticking with Diggs & Walker?
The Giants are reportedly not franchising the talented safety, but I don't anticipate the Lions making a serious play for Collins in free agency. All indications are the team likes what they have in the tandem you mentioned, and while there's a leap of faith being made with Walker, the Lions have invested in his development and aren't likely to spend big money to relegate the second-year defensive back to a part-time role.