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NFL One Year Rebuild: Detroit Lions

In the one year rebuild series, I will outline what some of the least successful football teams in the NFL need to do to take their team to the next level. Some teams can go from on this list to the postseason, but the majority of the time it is more than a one year job. 

To specify on what exactly I will be covering, I will give my ideal fits for a team’s first three rounds of the NFL Draft as well as a couple free agent signings that would be beneficial for the franchise.

Background:

The Lions started the season 3-3-1 and seemed to be heading in the right direction, but an injury to Pro Bowl quarterback Matthew Stafford derailed all expectations and the team ended up losing their last nine games.

Head Coach Matt Patricia and General Manager Bob Quinn have been given one more year to turn the Lions into a playoff contender. With the third overall pick and more than $40 million in cap space, the Lions could be set to make a splash.  

NFL Draft First Round Jeff Okudah CB Ohio State:

Mark J. Terrill/AP Photo

The third overall pick is where the draft starts to take shape. I personally think the Lions trade this pick and TWSNET’s, own Chris Wilson has the Lions selecting Clemson linebacker Isiah Simmons in his mock draft, but if they keep the pick, I think the Lions select Jeff Okudah. 

Okudah is the best corner in this draft and would be a great partner opposite Darius Slay who is entering the last year of his contract. Okudah and Slay project to be an elite tandem, while giving the Lions security at the position for the future. 

NFL Draft Second Round Help Offensive Line:

The Lions have a decent offensive line, but improvements are needed especially when you consider they are relying on an injury prone quarterback to lead them to the playoffs. An offensive linemen may be a reach at this spot, but the Lions are not a bad team and should be drafting for need. 

Many offensive linemen saw their stock rise come senior bowl week. The Lions should be focusing on the interior of their offensive line, and Cesar Ruiz from Michigan is a potential fit here.

Both of the Lions starting offensive tackles are potential cap casualties, so if they release one watch, out for possibly Josh Jones from Houston or Austin Jackson from USC.

If the Lions don’t address the offensive line, look for them to make a move at defensive tackle or linebacker with Raekwon Davis from Alabama or Troy Dye from Oregon coming to mind. 

NFL Draft Third Round Complement Kerryon Johnson:

Rick Scuteri/AP Photo

This draft is very deep at the skill positions including running back. In the past three drafts, we have not seen more than six running backs taken in the first 66 picks. That means the Lions could find a very nice running back to pair with Johnson at 67.

I personally love Zack Moss from Utah as he’s a tough running and down hill back that has shown flashes in the passing game similar to Derrick Henry.

Two other names to watch are Clyde Edwards-Helaire from LSU and Cam Akers from Florida State at this spot. Running back value is hard to evaluate, so don’t be shocked if someone like J.K. Dobbins slips to the third round. 

Free Agency: 

David Eulitt/Getty Images

The Lions are expected to have almost $46 million in cap space, per Over the Cap, which is a decent amount of money to improve the team, but there are always ways to open up more cap space.

The potential release or trade of Darius Slay or Taylor Decker would give the Lions an extra $10 million in cap space a piece. Meanwhile, the release of Damon Harrison, Marvin Jones or Ricky Wagner could save the Lions more than $6 million per player and the release of Devon Kennard would save the team just under $6 million. 

For the Lions to stay competitive, they must re-sign Graham Glasgow. The former third round pick has been a crucial piece of the offensive line. Glasgow has been the model of consistency playing at least 15 games every year, and while in the league, he has been amongst the best at his position. According to Pro Football Focus, Glasgow was the 12th best guard in the league last season. 

The Lions biggest need heading into free agency is defensive tackle. Damon Harrison is aging and didn’t look like the elite presence he once was last season, and A’Shawn Robinson is set to hit free agency. Bringing back Mike Daniels could be an option, but the Lions would be better off looking elsewhere.

The best option would be Chris Jones of Kansas City. Jones has been one of the most dominant defensive players in football with the Chiefs and coming off a Super Bowl victory, he could be looking for a pay day that the Lions should be willing to give.

Two other options are D.J. Reader, who is a very good and reliable player from the Texans, or Javon Hargrave from the Steelers who has 10.5 sacks in the past two seasons. Any of these players next to Damon Harrison would give the Lions a fearsome interior duo.

The popular linebacker picks for free agency are Corey Littleton and Blake Martinez. The Rams have put themselves in cap hell, and the Packers have younger and cheaper options that would save them money to let Martinez go.

Littleton is an elite three down linebacker, while Martinez is known as a tackling machine. Both players would be fantastic options for the Lions if Bob Quinn thinks paying a linebacker is worthwhile. 

If those players are too expensive, Martinez’s backup B.J. Goodson is a good and under the radar option for the team. Goodson was a fourth round pick of the Giants and would join former teammates Damon Harrison, Romeo Okwara Devon Kennard on the defense. The Lions need help at linebacker and Goodson would be a cheap option to potentially replace Jarrad Davis. 

The Lions last major need is a target in the slot. The team could bring back Danny Amendola, who quietly had a career revitalization, but considering he will turn 35 in November. they may look in other directions.

The draft could also be an option here, but Randall Cobb should be a player to watch. Cobb had over 800 yards last season, and the Lions know his talent considering how productive he was on the rival Packers for nearly a decade. 

The Lions winning their division or even making the playoffs is hard for me to imagine considering the talent of the NFC North, but with a good off season and a healthy Matthew Stafford, they could be playing meaningful games in December, which is what the Ford family said it required for Patricia and Quinn to keep their jobs.

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