The Lions are set to hit free agency with the rest of the NFL on March 7th (with actual signings starting on March 9) and they have a lot of holes to fill.
They need an entire new right side of their offensive line, depth on the defensive line, help on the edge rushing the passer, depth & improvement at Linebacker & Cornerback as well.
Overall, the team needs to improve on depth, as injuries proved in 2016 that when a few key players go down, the Lions have a difficult time overcoming those injuries.
Here is a list of 10 players the Lions should target, some are the cream of the free agent crop, others would be less splashy signings, but have the potential to provide a nice boost & could help a team that limped into the playoffs in 2016 the chance to actually win a division title & a playoff game:
- Dont’a Hightower, LB, NE : A premier playmaker on a premier defense at possibly the biggest defensive need for the Lions. General Manager Bob Quinn has a history with Hightower as well, as he was a part of the draft room that selected Hightower. But, he is going to be expensive, possibly eating up most of the Lions cap room to get him to come to Detroit.
- A.J. Bouye, CB, HOU: This is another premier player that will come at a high cost, if the Lions want to get involved. But, if the Lions want to quickly have one of the best defensive backfields in the NFL & the best CB pair, they could make a splash, sign Bouye to pair him with Darius Slay & hope the rest of the defense can improve by not having to worry about teams passing to either of their top 2 targets on Sundays.
- T.J. Lang, G, GB: Lang is a Michigan native and went to EMU before spending his entire career in Green Bay. He turns 30 this fall, but was still rated as one of the top Guards in the NFL according to ProFootballFocus & could provide the experience that Quinn said he is looking for on the Offensive Line.
- Duron Harmon, S, NE: Another former Patriot & another DB that the Lions could target. Pairing Harmon with Golver Quin could greatly improve the defense overall, but Harmon is likely to have many suitors and will also, not come cheap.
- Johnathan Hankins, DT, NYG: Hankins is a big run stopper on the Giants line that ranked near the top of the NFL. He will have plenty of teams interested but should not cost as much as those ahead of him on this list. A Hankins signing could suggest that Quinn is looking to upgrade multiple positions over 2016 with out breaking the bank, allowing for the team to weather the storm of injuries much better.
- Paul Worrilow, LB, ATL: Worrilow would be another pick up that goes under the radar, but in the right system (Teryl Austin’s) he could see his production return to the 2013-15 levels when he averaged almost 80 tackles per year.
- Ronald Leary, G, Dal: Leary is looking to move on from Dallas where, despite good ratings from ProFootballFocus, he was overshadowed & being overtaken at LG. Leary would be a nice upgrade over Larry Warford or Laken Tomlinson at either Guard spot & improve the run game immediately.
- Mike Remmers, RT, Car: Remmers has moved from the left to the right side of the line & is unspectacular, but he could be brought in to compete with Corey Robinson at the RT position & provide nice depth at both positions in case of injury.
- Prince Amukamara, CB, Jax: A familiar name to those that wanted the Lions to draft him in the first round in 2011, Amukamara had a rough time in NY for the Giants, but bounced back nicely last year in Jacksonville & would be a very nice compliment to Slay & much less money than most of the CBs on the market this year.
- Zach Brown, LB, Buf: Brown had a rough first few years in Tennessee before moving on to Buffalo last year where he was second in the league in tackles. Like Amukamara, he was able to bounce back & finally produce after high expectations out of college.
Now here are 5 players the Lions should do everything to avoid in free agency, despite the name recognition, they do not offer much on the field anymore or have too much baggage to make it worthwhile:
- Adrian Peterson, RB, Min: Even if we ignore the off field stuff, he is a step slower and in the age range where RBs (especially physical RBs) start to break down very quickly. I’d be shocked if he made any impact anywhere for the rest of this career.
- Nick Mangold, C, NYJ: He was a mainstay at Center for the Jets for years, but as the Jets go into tank-mode, they have moved on from many veterans. While Mangold probably still has something to offer, the Lions need to stick with Travis Swanson at Center & use the right side openings to find the veterans they are looking for.
- Darrelle Revis, CB, NYJ: another casualty of the Jets desire to be awful, but Revis was a shell of his former self in 2016. No need to bring him in.
- Pierre Garcon, WR, Was: While the Lions could use another WR, Garcon is not quite the machine that Anquan Bolden was & cannot replace the production that is left behind if the Lions don’t bring him back.
- Mario Williams, DE, MIA: Williams was once the crown jewel of Free Agency (in 2012) he’s been a very good player, but his best days are behind him & despite help needed in getting to the QB, Willaims is not that player anymore.