Lions Free Agency Primer

After an ultimately disappointing year, the Detroit Lions have some important decisions to make regarding their pending free agents. General Manager Bob Quinn stated yesterday in his press conference that, “about 30 percent of the roster will be different next year.” This means somewhere between 15 and 20 current Lions will not be returning for the 2018 season.

Let’s take a look at the top Lions players whose contracts have expired and whether each player should be re-signed based on their market value versus their potential contributions to the team. All cap data and market value figures are taken from and The Lions will begin free agency with roughly $52 million in cap space.

Ezekiel Ansah, DE

Market Value: $9.5 million per year

Ziggy has shown over the past two weeks what he can do when he is fully healthy. There are few pass rushers in the league with the combination of size, speed, and strength that Ansah possesses. If the Lions agree with me and believe Ansah should return, the team has two options: pay market value on a long-term deal, or use the $17 million franchise tag. If Ziggy hits free agency, his price tag could skyrocket with the extra cash teams have and the bare defensive end market.

Verdict: Sign Ansah to a three year, $30 million contract.

Remaining cap space: $42 million

Tahir Whitehead, OLB

Market Value: $8 million per year

An inside linebacker last season, Whitehead moved outside to accommodate the arrival of rookie Jarrad Davis. Whitehead is an intelligent player and a very good run defender. However, he sometimes fails to wrap up when tackling and is not particularly good in coverage. Whitehead is a useful player, but his market value is simply too high.

Verdict: Do not sign Whitehead.

Haloti Ngata, DT

Market Value: $5 million per year

Ngata is still one of the premier run-stuffing defensive tackles in the NFL despite his age. In a vacuum, I would likely recommend re-signing the veteran, but the fact of the matter is that there are four outstanding defensive tackles available in the first round of this year’s draft: Vita Vea, Maurice Hurst, Christian Wilkins, and Da’Ron Payne. Signing an aging player coming off a season-ending injury is less appealing than drafting one of these potential stars.

Verdict: Do not sign Ngata.

Nevin Lawson, CB

Market Value: $4 million per year

After the 2016 season, Lawson appeared to be entrenched as the No. 2 corner opposite superstar Darius Slay. Unfortunately, Lawson regressed this season and lost playing time to D.J. Hayden and rookie Teez Tabor. It would make no sense to re-sign Lawson, as it could only serve to stunt Tabor’s development.

Verdict: Do not sign Lawson.

Travis Swanson, C

Market Value: $4 million per year

As stated by Logan Lamorandier in his end of the year grades article, the offensive line was a huge disappointment for Detroit this season. Swanson was the main culprit due to a combination of poor play and repeated concussions. Due to inconsistency, injury history and his successor already on the roster, Swanson is not a player to consider re-signing.

Verdict: Do not sign Swanson.

Verdicts on Remaining Players

Sign: S Don Carey, LS Don Muhlbach, ILB Nick Bellore, WR T.J. Jones, DE Brandon Copeland, DE Kerry Hyder, RB Zach Zenner, QB Jake Rudock

Do not sign: LT Greg Robinson, CB D.J. Hayden, OLB Paul Worrilow, S Tavon Wilson, DE Dwight Freeney, TE Darren Fells, DT Jordan Hill, G Don Barclay, G Zac Kerin, WR Jace Billingsley, P Kasey Redfern, DT Christian Ringo, DT Rodney Coe

Remaining cap space: $32 million

Potential Targets in Free Agency

  • Drew Stanton, QB (Market Value: $3 million per year)
  • Carlos Hyde, RB (Market Value: $6.2 million per year)
  • Aaron Lynch, DE (Market Value: $2 million per year)
  • Zach Brown, OLB (Market Value: $5 million per year)
  • Prince Amukamara, CB (Market Value: $6 million per year)


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One thought on “Lions Free Agency Primer

  • January 4, 2018 at 11:58 am

    We have the best quarterback in the league, get him some protection

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