The Detroit Lions have been hard at work during free agency and the offseason reshaping their team for 2022, and now that the market is beginning to settle and things have taken shape, folks can begin to ponder how the team has done thus far with all of the moves they have made.
Detroit has been busy adding players to the mix, mostly focusing on re-signings and underrated players thus far. Everyone they have brought on the team can fill a new role for the Lions in terms of improving depth or the outlook in the locker room. To that end, it’s been a successful offseason already in Detroit in the early stages of the league year.
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So how should some of these moves be graded, including the most recent move of adding a young safety with plenty of upside to the mix? Here’s a look at the breakdown of the biggest moves the team has made thus far in free agency. Check back periodically as this list will be refreshed as new moves are announced the rest of the offseason.
Tracy Walker, Safety (Re-Signing)
The Lions like the way Walker is developing, and after setting some personal bests for the 2021 season with 108 tackles, it’s not tough to see why that is the case. Walker is a team leader in the secondary and on defense, and the kind of guy who can establish a strong locker room presence for the team. Bringing him back was only head-scratching from the standpoint that the Lions need to put someone next to him, but there is ample opportunity for them to do that the rest of the offseason. Walker himself is solid and is motivated to be a Lion while also learning in the team’s defense.
Keeping him around on a team-friendly three-year, $25 million dollar contract isn’t the worst outcome for the Lions in free agency, and it beat the alternative of seeing Walker leave and having to rebuild the entire position from scratch this offseason. Detroit has enough problems on defense without opening that hole, so Walker coming back is sneaky important for Detroit.
Josh Reynolds, Wide Receiver (Re-Signing)
Detroit kicked off their free agency period by making sure that Reynolds never hit the market, and that feels like a big move considering some of the wild contracts that were handed out to other players at his position during the first hours of the legal tampering period this week. After signing last year as a midseason free agent, Reynolds helped unlock the Detroit offense himself by posting 306 yards and 2 touchdowns in a short amount of time with the Lions. Here’s a look at his best work with the team so far:
Reynolds coming back on a cheap two-year, $12 million dollar deal helps the Lions with wideout depth and gives Jared Goff a big-bodied target he has chemistry with. This move seemed like a no-brainer for the Lions and credit them for getting it done.
C.J. Moore, Safety (Re-Signing)
Moore doesn’t play a huge role in terms of starting at safety, but he is a player that can chip in on special teams and has proven to be elite there. Players don’t come along everyday that can do those things, so it’s good to have Moore in the mix again to add to the team’s overall depth. Moore can also provide depth at safety for the roster and could be called upon to step in there if the team needs him.
Overall, keeping Moore is a smart move for the Lions who need a player that can excel on special team and play a strong role on that side of the ball.
Alex Anzalone, Linebacker (Re-Signing)
It felt like Anzalone would be heading out of town this offseason, but the Lions elected to bring him back and it was also not a terrible move to do so. Anzalone knows Aaron Glenn’s defense well and fills a major need and major void given the trouble the team has had at linebacker. Detroit has needs at that side of the ball, but could have done worse than bringing back Anzalone, a player who established career highs with 78 tackles to go along with 1 sack and 1 interception in 2021.
Like several of his other hometown free agents coming back, Anzalone fills an immediate need and gives the team some class while doing so. This move is an easy win for the Lions for depth’s sake in 2022.
Evan Brown, Offensive Line (Re-Signing)
The re-signing of Brown won’t get a lot of love nationally or even close to home, but it was a savvy one for the Lions considering how well he played last year when Frank Ragnow was hurt at center. Brown didn’t look overmatched and as a result, earned a role. for 2022 as a depth piece in Detroit. The Lions can use him at center, but could experiment with him at guard if the need should arise given his experience there. All told, a good move to keep an important piece of the team’s line around for the future.
D.J. Chark, Wide Receiver
The Lions needed a big-bodied pass catching wideout in the worst way and Chark fills that hole for them. Along with Josh Reynolds, Chark can be a guy that stretches the field for Detroit and finds a way to make big plays. His contract is also very team friendly, being that it comes on a one-year, $12 million dollar agreement the likes of which Detroit will only allow $4 million against the cap for 2022. That allows the team to still spend while also filling out one of their bigger needs. A look at Chark shows all the good he can do on the field:
With a 1,000 yard season and Pro Bowl under his belt, Chark has been there and done that in the league before. If he stays healthy, there is no reason he can’t do it again in Detroit.
Charles Harris, Defensive End (Re-Signing)
Bringing Detroit’s best pass rusher from 2021 back was a near no-brainer for the Lions. Harris earned his keep in a big way with 7.5 sacks last season, and also looked like a team leader who loved his new city. Keeping Harris on his new two-year, $14 million dollar deal is also a major win. Here’s a look at what Harris was able to accomplish in his first season with Detroit:
The Lions can still make more additions to their line this offseason both in free agency and the draft, but keeping Harris was a virtual must for the team, especially after the release of Trey Flowers. Now they have accomplished that feat, they can work on rounding out their entire line the rest of the offseason.
Kalif Raymond, Wide Receiver (Re-Signing)
The Lions liked what they had in Raymond from not only a pass catching standpoint but also a special teams standpoint given he served as the team’s punt returner. With 4 touchdowns and 500 yards receiving, Raymond came on strong and developed a good rapport with Jared Goff. To that end, bringing him back was another easy decision for the Lions considering the production he has shown early in his career since coming to the Motor City.
Raymond will be able to fill an immediate need for the Lions in terms of pass catching and special teams, and also has shown to love Detroit so far. Keeping him is just as important as several of the other players the team was linked to and ended up keeping for free agency.
Garrett Griffin, TE
The Lions needed a veteran tight end, and elected to go with one that is familiar to them and Dan Campbell in the form of Griffin, who played in New Orleans. Even though there is an obvious culture fit, the Lions should have gone much bigger at the position and spent a bit more money on a player who can catch more passes. As good as he is run blocking Griffin only has 34 yards to his credit in the NFL catching the ball and is largely unproven as a weapon. In the event T.J. Hockenson needs a blow or gets hurt, it’s hard to envision him being a major difference maker.
Detroit needed a bit more from this signing, so the move feels underwhelming to bring Griffin into the mix before even looking at a top name.
Chris Board, LB
The Lions made a wise move to buy-in on Board after Jalen Reeves-Maybin’s departure. The linebacker can play a similar role for the team given his prowess on special teams and his ability to play a bigger role on defense. The expectation would be for the Lions to give Board a chance to step up and make some plays on that side of the ball. He’s also close to a perfect culture fit for the team, which is huge given the fact that the Lions are trying to build up a new roster for 2022 and beyond that can compete. This signing won’t generate a ton of national hype, but it was a quietly elite one for the Lions.
Mike Hughes, CB
Like Board, Hughes is a good character fit for Detroit and a player who has shown a nose for the ball in the past. To that end, this is a great addition for a secondary that most folks could admit needed a little more beef this offseason even before the draft. Hughes has been injured a few times early in his career and has suffered injuries, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be classified a good pickup for Detroit. He can come in and compete for snaps in an improved backfield. This is the kind of low-risk, high-reward move that could pay off in a big way for the team moving forward.
Jarrad Davis, LB
Detroit’s most recent signing of Davis isn’t going to incite any parade planning, but it is a solid football move for a team that badly needed such a boost. The Lions have struggled at linebacker, and while Davis was a big part of those struggles under the other staff, Detroit likely believes they can bring him back in and find something new in his game in order to compete at a higher level. If the Lions plan on letting Davis be a playmaker without trying him in coverage, this marriage can work again if he is healthy. It doesn’t deserve a high grade, but it deserves more credit than a lot of people are giving it at the moment.
DeShon Elliott, S, Baltimore Ravens
The Lions needed to pick up a safety at some point in this process, and Elliott represented the best possible fit for the money right now. At age 24, he is young enough that he can carve out a role for the future in Detroit, and he also has experience given he started in 2020 and 2021 around some injuries. Elliott is a fearless player who is a big hitter and a gritty stud. He also fits from a leadership standpoint. Perhaps the only worry about this signing is health given Elliott’s injury history in three out of his four years on the field. With a small one-year contract, though, the ball is in Elliott’s court with regards to that and risk is moved off of the Lions. The team could afford to take a small gamble here and did. If it pays off, they may have found a player that can develop into a cornerstone for their defense given Elliott has played well in a short time in the league for an elite defense. All told, a perfect signing for a team like Detroit to make.
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