With the 2020 NFL season in the Detroit Lions rearview mirror, after the general manager and coaching chips fall; it’s time to look forward to building out the roster. The Lions have 18 players from their 53-man roster that are heading towards free agency. These rankings are based off of the needs of the team, paired with their age and projected cap value.
The Top 2
- Kenny Golladay, WR
Potentially an unpopular pick for Lions fans, however he is one of the best players on the team. Golladay, hampered by injuries this season only played in five games. A two-game stretch where he didn’t find himself on the injury report came in weeks 6 and 7. The outcome? 10 receptions for 219 yards. Coming off a 2019 outing that saw 65 receptions for 1,119 yards and a league leading 11 touchdowns; mostly with David Blough, the Lions third-string QB. Pro Football Focus has Golladay ranked as the fourth best free agent, and will certainly turn some heads.
The sample-size of 2020 stats paired with his previous seasons output and upside put Golladay in line for a big payday; will the new front office in Detroit be willing to pay him or look to spend their money elsewhere? Spotrac’s market value for Golladay is at $19 million per season, earning a contract worth 5-years for $95 million. If the two cannot work out a long-term deal, the franchise tag remains an option at $13.9 million. At only 27 years old, Golladay’s prime is still ahead of him, the Lions cannot forget that.
2. Romeo Okwara, EDGE
The team leader in sacks (10) was one of the few bright spots on defense for the Lions throughout the season. For a basis of comparison, the next in line for sacks was Everson Griffen (3.5) who only played in seven games for the Lions this season. Okwara will find himself in line for a payday coming off the best season in his career as well. Okwara should almost find himself in a 1a-1b situation of importance for the Lions in the coming offseason. If the Lions don’t use the franchise tag on Golladay, you can almost rest assured that Okwara will be the recipient of the tag, which comes in at $17.3 million; and that is worth a little more than his projected market value of $10 million per year.
Keep an eye on in free agency
3. Marvin Jones Jr., WR
Jones is in an interesting position as he heads into his 10th season. As Golladay sat out for most of the season, Jones saw an uptick in workload as he became Matthew Stafford’s primary target. 2020 saw Jones have the most receptions in a single season of his career (76) and finish just shy of his second 1,000 yard receiving season with 978 yards. In the final game of the regular season Jones also moved into 3rd all-time in receiving touchdowns in Lions history.
— Detroit Lions on Tap (@LionsOnTap) January 3, 2021
On the record saying that he’s excited for free agency, has put unrest in Lions fans minds who believe he should be the primary focus over Golladay. Jones figures to land a solid payday as well, for a solid veteran receiver -think along the Emmanuel Sanders lines- earning around $10 million per year; I would not be shocked if his new salary found it’s way into the $12-$13 million range. If the Lions don’t get a long-term deal with Golladay, their primary focus should be on keeping Jones in Honolulu Blue.
4. Jamal Agnew, WR/KR
Never underappreciate the value of a great return man. Yes, Agnew’s transition to becoming a wide receiver is a work-in-progress however the Lions have to look at this a few different ways. Golladay, Jones and Danny Amendola are all unrestricted free agents, assuming that nothing goes right for the team in negotiations, they cannot afford to lose Agnew as well. In his four years with the Lions, Agnew has returned 5 touchdowns – 4 punts, 1 kickoff – the most in the NFL since he came into the league in 2017.
Value in free agency
5. Everson Griffen, EDGE
Griffen over Matt Prater? Yes. However, it’s not a slight at Prater as it seems that the veteran kicker will remain with the Lions regardless. That takes us to the 33-year old Griffen, whose biggest asset is his leadership. Finishing second in sacks on the team with 3.5 in the seven games he played in for the Lions is nothing to shrug off either. Keeping him around a fully healthy Lions defensive line would be a welcomed sight to see.