A dozen free agents who could still help the Detroit Lions
Allen Park — The Detroit Lions moved swiftly through the first wave of free agency, agreeing to terms with eight targets in the first week. That included some big-ticket additions, such as offensive lineman Halapoulivaati Vaitai and linebacker Jamie Collins, as well as some shorter, smaller deals with guys who should contribute on special teams.
Even after the spending spree, the Lions are in a position to continue shopping. The team has more than $30 million in cap space remaining, and even with much of that earmarked for the draft class, the eventual expansion of cap responsibilities once the regular season starts and a potential extension for wide receiver Kenny Golladay, the team could comfortably spare another $6-8 million on free-agent additions.
Remember, $7 million goes a long ways. That's less than the first-year cap hits for Vaitai, Collins or last year's top signing, Trey Flowers. So with that in mind, here are a dozen players still available who could help the Lions.
► Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney
OK, let’s get this out of the way, Clowney would help just about any team. The ultra-athletic edge rusher has some durability issues, and the sack total wasn't there during his one-year stint in Seattle. Still, he was still a disruptive force, generating 48 pressures in 13 games and another 10 in two postseason games. He won't come cheap, but the longer he's out there, the more likely the price tag comes down.
► Cornerback Prince Amukamara
The Lions passed over Amukamara in the 2011 draft in favor of Nick Fairley, but after Chicago cut ties with the corner, it’s a opportunity to bolster the secondary with a steady perimeter defender, who has allowed 61.7 percent of passes his direction to be completed during his career. He’s also an outstanding tackler for his position.
► Running back Carlos Hyde
If the Lions are skeptical about Bo Scarbrough’s long-term viability as a high-volume option in the backfield, Hyde brings an established history as a productive north-south runner. He’s coming off an excellent season, averaging 4.4 yards per carry and topping 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. Although he wasn’t used much in the receiving game by the Texans, the ability is on the resume. He hauled in 59 passes one season with the 49ers.
► Defensive end Everson Griffen
The Vikings are going a different direction, but the 32-year-old edge defender showed he’s still got productive football left in the tank. A longtime problem for Detroit’s offensive line, Griffen has had 60 or more quarterback pressures three of the past four seasons. The biggest issue to fitting in with the Lions is both he and Trey Flowers primarily line up on the right side.
► Cornerback Ronald Darby
If you’re looking for bargain, Darby could fit the bill. Familiarity with new Lions defensive coordinator Cory Undlin, who served as Darby’s defensive backs coach in Philadelphia, would ease the transition in a shortened offseason. He certainly had a rough go of it last season, returning from a 2018 ACL injury, but it could be worth making a low-risk investment banking on a rebound.
► Guard Michael Schofield III
The interior offensive line market has been picked over pretty good at this point. Schofield, the former Michigan Wolverine, is arguably the best guard remaining. He’s developed into a disciplined player with above-average ability as a pass protector. The run blocking leaves plenty to be desires, but the all-around studs at the position are all signed and the Lions were never looking to spend big on a guard, anyway.
► Defensive tackle Shelby Harris
There’s some similarities between Harris and Nick Williams, another defensive tackle the Lions signed. Both can play multiple techniques inside, have primarily been known as run-stuffers during their careers, but have maximized their sack production when they get into the backfield. The biggest difference is Harris has put it on film for a few consecutive seasons.
► Running back Devontae Booker
After rushing for more than 2,700 yards his final two seasons in college, Booker hasn’t fully clicked on the pro level. He’s been durable, but only managed 3.8 yards per carry in four seasons with Denver. In very limited work the past two years, the average jumped to 5.0 yards per attempt, plus he averaged 33 catches his first three seasons. At 25 years old, he could be worth a flier.
► Defensive end Markus Golden
With shorter than average arms for the position, Golden doesn’t really fit the mold of an edge defender in Detroit’s scheme. That said, it’s tough to ignore the spurts of pass-rush productivity during his career. With his 2017 ACL injury fully in the rear-view window, he excelled during his one season with the New York Giants, racking up 10.0 sacks and 64 quarterback pressures.
► Defensive lineman Derek Wolfe
There are a lot of Broncos on this list, but that only seems right after Denver has been loading up on Detroit’s free agents (Graham Glasgow, Jeff Driskel and Sam Martin). Wolfe has inside-outside versatility up front and has been an excellent run defender throughout his career, but only offers modest contributions as a pass rusher.
► Tight end MyCole Pruitt
The Lions lost Logan Thomas to Washington in free agency and could stand to add a block-first tight end to the roster. Pruitt earned over 400 snaps as a run blocker in Tennessee the past two seasons, while performing well with his pass protection assignments, as well.
► Defensive end Vinny Curry
Curry flopped in his last exodus from Philadelphia, but with Undlin having intimate knowledge of the player and his skill set, maybe the pass-rushing prowess could be ported over to Detroit. In 2019, he impressively managed to disrupt the quarterback once every 6.3 rush attempts.