5 free agents for the Lions to avoid

Free agency is a great opportunity for NFL teams to bolster their rosters. But poor decisions in free agency can ruin them just as easily.

This is something Detroit Lions GM Brad Holmes knows well. Here’s what Holmes said at the combine that spotlights his cautious approach to free agency.

“I told you guys at the end of the season, we’ll always be selective and strategic in free agency, and you’ve gotta be really careful in free agency,” Holmes stated. “But when I said that, it’s all about still finding the right guys. It’s not about how much money you have to spend. Regardless of how many resources you have, always being selective and strategic in that process. We’re just trying to find the right guys. I think we’ve done that in the past. A lot of the free agents we signed, they’ve had some really good years, and we gotta make some hard decisions here.”

Here are five free agents who just don’t seem like good ideas for the Lions. It could be the (anticipated) price tag, culture fit, or perhaps a poor schematic match.

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Beckham is a poor fit for a few reasons. Foremost is his inability to stay on the field. He missed all of the 2022 season after tearing his ACL while playing for the Rams in the Super Bowl. It’s the same ACL he tore the prior season in Cleveland after seven games. OBJ has missed at least four games every season except one since 2016 with a litany of injuries that also impact his availability on the practice field; Beckham did not participate in a single contact practice in his two-plus years in Cleveland.

He’s been a spectacular player, a receiver capable of doing things few others can–when he’s on the field. And Beckham wants to be paid as such, with rumors of the flamboyant wideout seeking $20 million per season. That’s a massive commitment for a guy with massive durability issues. Even half that salary is too rich for Detroit.

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Davenport is someone who gets some mention with the Lions due to his Saints connections with head coach Dan Campbell and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn. A former first-rounder who has some pass-rush juice in a familiar defensive scheme, Davenport makes sense on the surface.

A deeper dig reveals a player that might not be any better than two current Lions, Charles Harris and Romeo Okwara. Last year, Davenport bagged just half a sack in 15 games, playing almost 500 snaps. Much like Okwara, he had a monster 2021 campaign (nine sacks in 11 games). That’s really the only season where the 2018 first-rounder looked worthy of that level of selection.

Could Davenport prove better than Okwara or Josh Paschal or Harris or James Houston? Possibly. It behooves the Lions not to pay Davenport as much as Okwara ($11 million in 2023) to find out.

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Clowney is the bright shiny object for some fans. The former No. 1 overall pick still has cache based on his highlight-worthy plays made in the past.

Alas, it’s the distant past. Clowney, now 30, has 14 sacks in the last four seasons, playing in 47 games across three teams. The last two of those were spent in Cleveland getting almost exclusively single blocking while offenses focused on Myles Garrett on the other side. Clowney is a good run defender who can also kick inside and be effective, but in free agency, you pay for sacks at his position.

The kicker is Clowney’s durability. He’s missed at least four games with his surgically repaired knee every year since 2018. Pass.

(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

Gaines is another player with easy-to-connect dots with Detroit; he was a fourth-round pick by the Rams while Lions GM Brad Holmes was the director of collegiate scouting for Los Angeles. He’s a 312-pound nose tackle with a lot of experience and some ability to rush the passer from the inside, with four sacks in each of the last two seasons.

Gaines, who turns 27 in May, has proven durable and certainly offers a potential upgrade along the Lions’ thin defensive line. But he’s just not a great schematic fit. The Lions defense wants the nose tackle to play the run first and foremost, but that’s not what Gaines does well. He has bottom-third Pro Football Focus grades in both run defense and tackling in two of the last three seasons.

If the Lions are going to pay for a nose tackle, there are better options that solidify the run defense a lot better than Gaines would.


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Mayfield was drafted No. 1 overall in 2018 by John Dorsey, now a senior assistant in the Lions front office. He’s had a truly fascinating career. Mayfield the NFL rookie passing TD record and two years later, he led the Browns to their first playoff win since 1994, in Pittsburgh with head coach Kevin Stefanski missing the game because of COVID-19. He’s also famously clashed with Stefanski and coaches Hue Jackson and Freddie Kitchens before him, playing poorly (while injured) enough in 2021 to get exiled from QB-desperate Cleveland.

Mayfield accepted the backup QB role in Los Angeles in 2022 after flopping in Carolina. He played well enough for the Rams after Matthew Stafford’s injury, but not well enough to convince anyone he’s worth a lucrative contract. There are many veteran backup QB options out there this offseason who can provide the same level of play a Mayfield without nearly as much drama or volatility.

2023-03-12 14:50:00