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Where Lions roster stands after draft, free agency; what players are still available

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

With the two primary roster-building events of the NFL offseason, free agency and the draft, in the rear view, we have a pretty good sense of what the Detroit Lions will look like when the team next takes the field. 

But the team is still sitting on some cap space and general manager Bob Quinn is always on the hunt for an upgrade. With that in mind, here's a position-by-position look at the roster, some of the top players still available at those positions and a projection on the team's willingness to spend more resources to those spots. 


Key additions: Chase Daniel

Key subtractions: Jeff Driskel

Best still available: Cam Newton, Joe Flacco, Mike Glennon, Blake Bortles

Chances the team adds meaningful depth: 0 percent

Analysis: The Lions exited the draft with the same quarterback setup as they entered the event, much to the chagrin of the vocal minority that wanted the franchise to roll the dice on Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa.

But it just wasn't ever going to happen.

First, with their jobs on the line, the team's brass couldn't afford to use their top-five pick on a prospect who wasn't going to help the team this year. Second, it's flawed logic to address any concerns about Matthew Stafford's durability with a prospect who has equal, if not greater durability concerns.

In all, 13 quarterbacks were drafted and the Lions passed on them all. Going into the draft, Jalen Hurts looked like an intriguing option, based on coordinator Darrell Bevell's success working with a young dual threat in Russell Wilson, but the Oklahoma standout came off the board in the second round, earlier than many expected. 

As for the remaining market, there's a former MVP and Super Bowl MVP sitting out there, but the Lions made the early call to go with a longtime backup in Chase Daniel. Outside of an injury, the situation is unlikely to change prior to the season. 

Unless the Lions make the playoffs this season, we'll likely have conversations about Stafford's future again next offseason. With a $33 million cap hit, compared to $19 million in dead money remaining on the deal, changing course becomes financially tenable. 

D'Andre Swift

Running back

Key additions: D'Andre Swift, Jason Huntley

Key subtractions: J.D. McKissic

Best still available: Davonta Freeman, Carlos Hyde, Lamar Miller, LeSean McCoy, Chris Thompson 

Chances the team adds meaningful depth: 10 percent

Analysis: Detroit proved serious about getting its ground game on track, using an early second-round pick on Swift, who was viewed by many analysts as the best running back in this class. 

Swift has three-down ability. With a sturdy, compact frame, he can run between the tackles, but he also has enough speed to threaten the edge. As a receiving option, he runs smooth routes coming out of the backfield or motioned to the slot, complemented by reliable hands. So unlike the previous two years, if Kerryon Johnson were to suffer another injury, the play-calling options aren't limited

Similarly, that overlap with Johnson's skill set was the appeal with Freeman, who the Lions made a run at before the trade deadline last year. Swift negates the need to further address the position in free agency. 

As for Huntley, given the pass-catching prowess, he's a logical replacement for McKissic, who signed with Washington as a free agent. The fifth-rounder out of New Mexico State is also a threat to Ty Johnson's roster spot. 

Wide receiver

Key additions: Geronimo Allison, Quintez Cephus

Key subtractions: None

Best still available: Taylor Gabriel, Demaryius Thomas, Paul Richardson, Jaron Brown, Jarius Wright

Chances the team adds meaningful depth: 10 percent

Analysis: Following the selection of Cephus, we can no longer say the Lions don't have a receiver under contract beyond this season. That said, the Wisconsin rookie also isn't who you want leading the corps in 2021. That's why one of the biggest remaining items on Quinn's to-do list this offseason is signing Kenny Golladay to the extension the third-year receiver has earned.

Cephus comes to Detroit with a pro-ready skill set having played both outside and in the slot for the Badgers. His ability to routinely make contested catches will be his best friend against a higher level of competition in the NFL. 

With the shortened offseason, the more-experienced Allison might be able to hold off the rookie challenger for the No. 4 receiver job to start the year, but the team's long-term vision is clear. 

Much like quarterback and running back, adding another receiver this offseason seems unlikely. 

Luke Stocker

Tight end

Key additions: Hunter Bryant*

Key subtractions: Logan Thomas

Best still available: Delanie Walker, Charles Clay, Jordan Reed, Luke Stocker, Geoff Swaim

Chances the team adds meaningful depth: 30 percent

Analysis: After committing major resources to the position last year, Quinn stuck with the status quo at tight end this offseason. 

The team is banking on T.J. Hockenson taking a big step forward this year, both as a blocker and a pass-catcher. The 21.5 receiving yards he averaged the 11 games after an impressive debut just isn't going to cut it. 

More should also be expected out of Jesse James, last year's free-agent disappointment. After 16 receptions (and zero touchdowns) in 16 games, with subpar blocking, he won't see the third year of his deal if he can't turn things around. 

As for offseason additions, it looked as if the team might be in the market for a block-first option, especially after letting Logan Thomas walk in free agency, but they didn't add one in free agency or the draft. 

Instead, they're expected to sign Bryant as an undrafted free agent. A quality receiving option in college, it was surprising he wasn't selected, but there was reportedly an injury issue that concerned teams. If healthy, he'll compete with last year's seventh-round pick, Isaac Nauta, for a job. 

If the Lions do decide to revisit adding a blocker, Stocker remains available. A former fourth-round pick, he's capable of helping any run game. 

Offensive line

Key additions: Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Jonah Jackson, Logan Stenberg, Joshua Garnett

Key subtractions: Rick Wagner, Graham Glasgow

Best still available: Jason Peters, Kelvin Beachum, Demar Dotson, Josh Kline, Michael Schofield, Cordy Glenn, Justin Britt, Ronald Leary 

Chances the team adds meaningful depth: 20 percent

Analysis: After the draft, the Lions look set at offensive line. While it's still unclear exactly who will be replacing Glasgow in the starting lineup, the team has lined up quite a few contenders. 

The presumptive leader for the job is third-round pick Jonah Jackson, who the Lions moved up 10 spots to snag on the draft's second day. But again, lack of offseason reps might hinder the rookie's ability to jump veterans Kenny Wiggins and Oday Aboushi and win the shortened competition. 

At left guard, Joe Dahl is the incumbent. He should be able to maintain his starting position, but fourth-round pick Logan Stenberg, along with Wiggins, will make Dahl earn it. 

The Lions are also set at tackle, where Taylor Decker and Vaitai are the projected starters and Tyrell Crosby provides solid depth as the swing option. There was room to add a developmental fourth option in the draft, but the team passed on that opportunity. 

Everson Griffen

Edge defender

Key additions: Jamie Collins, Julian Okwara

Key subtractions: Devon Kennard

Best still available: Jadeveon Clowney, Everson Griffen, Markus Golden, Jabaal Sheard, Vinny Curry, Ziggy Ansah

Chances the team adds meaningful depth: 30 percent

Analysis: What, if anything, the Lions do the remainder of the offseason with their defensive front will be the most interesting roster conversation. On the edges, the team has made minor improvements to a struggling pass rush, but not enough to quell longstanding concerns. 

The first swing at bolstering pressure off the edges came when the Lions swapped out Kennard with Collins. The latter is unquestionably more versatile, offering far more in coverage than his predecessor. And even though both players finished with 7.0 sacks last season, Collins did it with considerably fewer pass-rush snaps, highlighting superior efficiency at affecting the quarterback. 

In the draft, the addition of Julian Okwara, younger brother of Romeo, further addresses the defense's glaring weakness. There's a ceiling on what can be reasonably expected from a mid-round rookie, but after averaging a pressure every 6.3 pass-rush snaps at Notre Dame last season, there's reason for optimism. 

Finally, according to Quinn in a radio interview this week, the Lions are looking for more from Austin Bryant, last year's fourth-round pick. He was a background piece last season, spending most of it rehabbing an offseason injury, but he did have 17.0 sacks his final two seasons at Clemson. 

Still, there's definitely room for improvement and plenty of proven options on the market. The Lions have the cap space to swing for the fences, but taking that cut on Clowney runs counter to the team's normal spending habits. Griffen likely offers better bang for the buck, but given he rushed primarily from the right side in Minnesota, suggesting there's a bit too much overlap with how the Lions use Trey Flowers. 

Defensive tackle

Key additions: Danny Shelton, Nick Williams, John Penisini, Jashon Cornell

Key subtractions: Damon Harrison, A'Shawn Robinson, Mike Daniels

Best still available: Marcell Dareus, Harrison, Daniels, Xavier Williams, Corey Liuget, Adam Gotsis

Chances the team adds meaningful depth: 35 percent

Analysis: Heading into last offseason, the interior of the defensive line looked to be Detroit's strength, but that never materialized. A fearsome foursome on paper, Harrison, Robinson, Daniels and Da'Shawn Hand never saw the field the same week due to a revolving door of injuries, which often sapped effectiveness even when each was cleared to play. 

So Quinn went to work revamping the group this offseason. Hand is the lone holdover and the Lions are hopeful he can put his durability issues behind him in his third season.

In free agency, the GM paid reasonable prices for a unique mix of talent. Shelton, a former first-rounder coming off his best season, definitely fits the space-eating nose tackle role in the scheme. Williams, on the other hand, is 30 years old and has only one season of meaningful production, coming out of nowhere to tally 6.0 sacks with Chicago in 2019. 

The Lions had a chance to grab Derrick Brown in the first round of the draft, but went with a cornerback instead. The team didn't address the need for an interior lineman until the end of the draft, grabbing another run-stuffer in Penisini and a scratch-off lottery ticket in Cornell, who was a former No. 1 prospect as a high schooler. 

Counting on Hand to rebound and Williams to sustain is a big risk, and without them, the Lions will struggle to get push from the inside. That's an understated element of the team's pass-rush woes. 

Unfortunately, the market doesn't offer many immediate solutions. Arguably, Harrison and Daniels are the top options available. Up next is Dareus, who absolutely fits the scheme, but has seen his pass-rush production slip in recent years and is coming off a brutal core injury, which would make him a risky option. 


Key additions: Jamie Collins, Reggie Ragland, Elijah Lee

Key subtractions: Steve Longa

Best still available: Daron Lee, Nigel Bradham, Alec Ogletree

Chances the team adds meaningful depth: 10 percent

Analysis: Odds are the Lions have already done all the shopping they intend to do at linebacker. We already mentioned Collins on the edge, but he's going to offer equal contributions off the ball. Additionally, the team bolstered its depth with Lee and Ragland, who both have starting experience. 

Those additions are added to a mix of Jarrad Davis, Christian Jones and Jahlani Tavai, who all saw extensive playing time in the defense last season.

Davis is presumably entering a prove-it season in his fourth year, but even if it doesn't work out, Tavai should be able to slide over and take on middle linebacking responsibilities in 2021.  

Jeff Okudah


Key additions: Jeff Okudah, Desmond Trufant, Darryl Roberts, Tony McRae

Key subtractions: Darius Slay, Rashaan Melvin

Best still available: Logan Ryan, Darqueze Dennard, Prince Amukamara, Eli Apple, Aqib Talib

Chances the team adds meaningful depth: 20 percent

Analysis: The Lions aggressively addressed the cornerback position this offseason, capping the changes by selecting Okudah No. 3 overall. It marked the first time in more than two decades the team drafted a corner in the first round or any team took one with a top-three pick. 

Okudah is expected to start immediately. He'll do so opposite Desmond Trufant, a free-agent addition. The former first-rounder has a Pro Bowl selection on the resume and is coming off an injury-shortened season where he intercepted a career-high four passes in nine games. 

You can never have too much depth at cornerback, and in terms of backups on the outside, the Lions return last year's fifth-round pick Amani Oruwariye and added Roberts, who started 20 games the past two seasons with the Jets. 

In the nickel, Justin Coleman returns and will start. Return man Jamal Agnew projects as the top backup, but McRae, a special teams standout, will push for that job. 


Key additions: Duron Harmon, Jayron Kearse

Key subtractions: Tavon Wilson

Best still available: Eric Reid, Reshad Jones, Clayton Geathers

Chances the team adds meaningful depth: 5 percent

Analysis: After trading away Quandre Diggs in the middle of last season, the Lions took the draft pick they got back from Seattle and flipped it for Harmon, who is better in coverage and should pair nicely with Tracy Walker. 

The addition of Harmon pushes Will Harris to the bench, where he can take his lumps developing on the practice field and not against the Green Bay Packers on a Sunday.

The rest of the depth chart is loaded with top-tier special teams contributors, from the returning Miles Killebrew and C.J. Moore to Kearse, a free-agent addition from Minnesota who has taken snaps at a variety of spots in the secondary, including slot corner.