Rogers: Lions still in prime position to trade down in first round
Allen Park — Bucking the global slowdown relating to the coronavirus pandemic, the Detroit Lions have had a busy week, signing free agents, making big trades and generally reshaping a roster for the 2020 season.
While the majority of the moves won't become official until the team can work out the restrictions on physicals set forth by the league, the Lions have reached agreements with a new offensive tackle, linebacker, cornerback two defensive tackles and a safety in the past four days.
They also traded for safety Duron Harmon, shipped out three-time Pro Bowl corner Darius Slay and cut linebacker and captain Devon Kennard. Needless to say, things are going to look pretty different whenever life returns to normal and the Lions hit the practice field.
And that's not even including the upcoming draft, where the Lions now are slated to pick nine times, including four of the first 85 selections.
And we need to talk about the No. 3 pick for a second, because after everything, both with Detroit's roster decisions and the other movement around the league, the team is primed to trade down and still get the player all signs point to them targeting, Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah.
Hear me out.
Quarterbacks are typically what drive trades at the top of a draft and the current favorite to be selected at No. 3, according to oddsmakers at Bet Online, is Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa.
That's not because there's an expectation the Lions draft him. That remains a long shot because the franchise's coach and general manager can't afford to make a long-term investment that lacks potential for an immediate impact with their jobs on the line.
No, the assumption is someone else is coming up to grab Detroit's pick.
The options for a trade partner targeting a QB have certainly narrowed in recent days. Carolina, at pick No. 7, agreed to a deal with free agent Teddy Bridgewater, while Tampa Bay and Indianapolis, originally at slots 13 and 14, are expected to add Tom Brady and Philip Rivers to their rosters, respectively. The Colts actually traded their pick, sending it to San Francisco for defensive lineman DeForest Buckner.
But the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers, sitting at Nos. 5 and 6, are primed to compete for Tagovailoa if they don't want to settle for the next best option, whether that's Justin Herbert or Jordan Love.
As it currently stands, the Dolphins are set to roll into 2020 with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, while the Chargers, after striking out in the Brady sweepstakes, will turn to Tyrod Taylor. Both are capable starters, but long-term solutions, they are not.
Here's where it gets interesting for the Lions, assuming they're truly eyeing Okudah as the long-term replacement for Slay. The teams directly behind them on the draft board, the Giants and Dolphins, both invested heavily in a cornerback in free agency.
The Giants are giving James Bradberry $45 million over three years ($32 million guaranteed) to pair with last year's first-round pick DeAndre Baker, while the Dolphins are set to award the largest contract to a cornerback in NFL history after agreeing to a five-year, $82.5 million pact with Byron Jones. Plus, they have Xavien Howard, another high-paid talent on the opposite side.
All that to say those two teams aren't in the market for another corner, leaving no logical threats to the Lions for Okudah if they move down, barring another team making an unlikely trade up into the top five for the talented defender.
A final scenario that could play out is either the Dolphins or Chargers move up to No. 2 to ensure their quarterback, allowing Ohio State defensive end Chase Young to slide to Detroit.
Of course, nothing is guaranteed, but the dominoes are setting up for things to go the Lions way in April.