Justin Rogers: A 2024 roadmap for the Detroit Lions' offseason

Full article: A 2024 roadmap for the Detroit Lions offseason

After falling just shy of the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance — looking like they truly belonged each step of the way — the Lions’ challenge is establishing staying power near the top of the NFL’s standings. It’s something that eluded them in the 1990s, the last time they knocked on the Super Bowl’s door, and they similarly proved unable to sustain their success in 2012 and 2015, missing the playoffs after rare, double-digit-win seasons.

On paper, these Lions are better positioned to continue in their winning ways. They’re young, the team’s talented core is largely under contract, they have a healthy cap situation and they’re maintaining continuity with the coaching staff. With good health and the right offseason moves, it’s a recipe for success.

He reviews roster cuts with a focus on Tracy Walker, Commish, and Levi.

As for restricted free agents, the Lions have six: Long snapper Scott Daly , cornerback Khalil Dorsey , cornerback Jerry Jacobs , defensive tackle Benito Jones , linebacker Anthony Pittman and tight end Brock Wright .

Rogers doesn’t believe the team will need to use a RFA tender for any of the above six RFA qualified players. They should be able to get them back for less than a typical RFA.

Exclusive-rights free agents. Those are players with fewer than three years of service time. The Lions have another six in this category: Guard Kayode Awosika , defensive end James Houston , running back Zonovan Knight , cornerback Chase Lucas , running back Craig Reynolds and tight end Shane Zylstra .

Roger’s believes all should be back

And, as it turns out, there aren’t many conversations the Lions will need to have regarding potential cap casualties.

The list is topped by safety Tracy Walker, who is set to enter the final season of a three-year deal he signed in 2022. The former defensive captain is scheduled to carry a bloated $12.8 million cap hit in 2024. That’s obviously untenable for a player the team made a healthy scratch for all three of its postseason games.

A negotiated pay cut is always an option. The team has worked out several of those under GM Brad Holmes, but the 29-year-old Walker still views himself as an NFL starter, so that avenue feels unlikely. If the sides part ways, the Lions would remain responsible for more than $7 million in dead cap, but the move would free $5.5 million in space.

Up next is defensive lineman John Cominsky. His cap hit is set to jump from $2.3 million last season to $6.2 million this year. With only $1.7 million in dead money, the Lions stand to clear $4.6 million from his release.

That’s a good chunk of money, but far from an easy choice. Cominsky is versatile, durable and he epitomizes the franchise’s blue-collar, grit-centric identity under coach Dan Campbell. On the other hand, Cominsky’s performance dipped last season, with fewer solo tackles, fewer tackles for loss and fewer quarterback pressures, despite a similar workload.

Finally, there’s defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike. Entering the final year of his rookie contract, the former second-round pick carries a nearly $2.6 million cap figure and offers almost $1.8 million in savings with his release. After missing all of the 2022 campaign due to a back injury, he played sparingly in 16 games last year, but flashed some pass-rush potential with 10 pressures on 88 rushes.

Given what the team has invested, there’s a good chance he’s retained through the offseason program to determine whether he can build on last year’s small successes. Still, we’ve seen plenty of instances with durability risks where teams choose to cut the cord prematurely rather than get left on the hook for the full salary if there’s a recurrence of injury.

Walker = no brainer
Commish= tough call
Levi O = probably gets another chance

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I think Justin Rodgers reads the board lol I had this earlier in the season not the Tracy Walker cut because he was starting and I didn’t realize his cap was that high.

But I had them cutting Buggs, commish and Levi. Saving a nice chunk on that dline to retool it.

I think Levi plays out his contract he got better late in the year.

I won’t be surprised to see both Levi and Commish here in 2024.

He also has the Lions resigning:

Offensive lineman Graham Glasgow — Two years, $12 million, $5.5 guaranteed
Wide receiver Josh Reynolds — Two years, $8 million, $4 guaranteed
Linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin — Two years, $6 million, $3.75 guaranteed
Cornerback Emmanuel Moseley — One year, $2 million, up to $4.5 million in incentives, $1 million guaranteed
After consecutive ACL injuries, there are all kinds of risks associated with Moseley. Still, there’s a reason Holmes targeted him as a free agent last season. The former 49ers defensive back plays with the physicality Detroit wants in the back end, and he’s also a tremendous leader off the field. That resonated through his continued contributions after suffering a season-ending injury two snaps into his Detroit debut.

Obviously, a prove-it deal makes a lot of sense, especially one with playing time and performance incentives that reward him if he rediscovers the player he once was. Assuming he stays healthy, the worst case is he’s quality, low-cost depth at a position where you can never have enough.

Cornerback Kindle Vildor — One year, $1.5 million, $500,000 guaranteed
Offensive tackle Dan Skipper — One year, $1.125 million

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With regards to the FA market Rogers discounts most of the big names as wanting to much money. Here are some suggestions he makes:

Holmes, meanwhile, did take some bigger swings, at least compared to his first two years on the job, landing Gardner-Johnson, cornerback Cam Sutton and running back David Montgomery. The GM didn’t back up the Brink’s truck, but he paid market value for quality players at positions of need.

And given where the Lions are, in terms of competing for division titles and beyond, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a similar approach to free agency in 2024.

So, where could the Lions look to add starting-caliber talent this year? How about either guard, cornerback, defensive tackle or edge rusher?

At guard, if you’re looking at a potential Jackson replacement, Dalton Risner could be a fit. He’s not a mauler in the run game, but he’s been an excellent pass blocker during his five seasons. Another option might be 332-pounder Damien Lewis, a former third-round pick, who has steadily improved and will be 27 years old at the start of next season.

DJ Reader might also be too far outside of Detroit’s budget, even after suffering a season-ending quad tear, but it’s fun to think about how well the soon-to-be 30-year-old interior lineman would pair with McNeill. In terms of a lower-cost, pass-rush-first interior lineman, Sheldon Rankins is intriguing, and there’s familiarity with Campbell and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn from their overlapping time in New Orleans.

As for edge rushers, it’s tough to find good value on the market. Some have already suggested Danielle Hunter as an option for the Lions, but after five double-digit sack seasons in Minnesota, including a career-high 16.5 last season, he’s likely to command between $15-20 million.

Jonathan Greenard might be more be a more reasonable, top-end target after his breakout season in Houston last year. In 2023, he transformed into an all-around contributor, scoring 12.5 sacks and performing equally well against the run. He’d make for a formidable tandem across from Aidan Hutchinson.

To be clear, reasonable is still $13-15 million per season.

Cheaper yet could be Leonard Floyd, who Holmes knows from their time together in Los Angeles. A cap casualty for the Rams, Floyd was OK playing on a prove-it deal in Buffalo last year, so there’s a chance to get value for a player with nearly 60 career sacks.

And at cornerback, the best case for adding a starting-caliber talent would come via an aging veteran who can still go, such as Steven Nelson or Stephon Gilmore — which would unite him with his brother in Detroit. Otherwise, you’re looking at potentially overpaying for a No. 2, like they did with Sutton last year. Arguably the best from that crop would be Kenny Moore, who is an undersized, inside-outside option, but the type of physical tackler the Lions love in their secondary.

So, we should be seeing a Goff extension in the very near future, so as to get his cap numbers this and next year down. This will trigger extensions and thus give Brad a true number for FA spending, ours and outside.
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