The Detroit Lions will have 26 free agents to make a decision on this off season. This includes five exclusive rights free agents, four restricted free agents, and 17 unrestricted. The biggest decision Quinn will have to make is what they want to do with Ziggy Ansah. Outside of Ziggy, there are still plenty of guys that they will consider bringing back. With plenty of cap space, they’ll be able to do quite a bit actually.
Exclusive Rights FA:
Kerry Hyder Jr., Jake Rudock, Kasey Redfern, Christian Ringo, and Rodney Coe
Of the Lions Exclusive Rights Free Agents, it’s fairly clear what’ll happen. Kerry Hyder Jr. missed all of 2017 with an injury. However , the year before he was very productive in a rotational role. He has the ability to play DE or move inside and play DT. If the Lions feel confident in his health, he will be back with the team. Rudock will be back as well, though it’s possible that some competition is brought in for him, similar to Kaaya.
Kasey Redfern punted well for Detroit until he suffered an ACL injury after taking a hit. If he recovers, he should be good enough to compete for a punter job elsewhere. Coe and Ringo are both Defensive Tackles. Ringo actually played solid when given a chance, and he will likely be brought back for a depth spot. Coe hasn’t really gotten a chance to show he’s worth keeping, so Detroit will almost certainly not be retaining him.
TJ Jones, Zach Zenner, Brandon Copeland, and Zac Kerin
Of Detroit’s Restricted Free Agents, TJ Jones is the only lock to be back. He was very reliable and will likely be Detroit’s #4 WR. Zach Zenner’s time in Detroit seems to be over. Theo and Ameer were already ahead of him and Tion Green emerged and played better than expected. Now with Detroit saying they expect to add another RB to the room, Zenner is on the outside looking in.
Copeland is an interesting player because of his versatility. He can play both DE and OLB, which could be valuable to Matt Patricia. If I had to guess, he’ll be back. Zac Kerin was signed off waivers and got injured, spending the rest of his season on the IR. It’s hard to imagine him returning to the Lions next season.
Won’t Return: Greg Robinson, Mike James, Travis Swanson, Don Barclay
Detroit gave up a 6th round pick for a chance to check out someone who was just a few years ago considered to be a can’t miss Offensive Tackle with Hall of Fame potential. Greg Robinson has not lived up to his hype. Not even close. He racks up penalties, looks over matched, and seems unfocused. Detroit took a calculated risk trying him out, and they’ll be moving on from him now.
Mike James was on the IR all year and likely won’t have a role to play next season either. He will probably get another look elsewhere, but with Theo and Ameer guaranteed to return, and Tion playing well, not to mention the possibility of signing or drafted another RB, James just doesn’t have a spot.
Travis Swanson has had concussion issues the last couple of seasons. He was also outplayed by Graham Glasgow, who looks to be the future going forward at Center. Swanson just doesn’t look to be in Detroit’s plans at all for a number of reasons.
Barclay didn’t play much, but when he did, he wasn’t good. Detroit has better options that they will explore at the guard position. Offensive line depth is important, and Barclay just isn’t enough.
Unlikely to Return:
Dwight Freeney and Jordan Hill
Dwight Freeney is a future Hall of Famer. I would be interested in keeping him around but it looks like he’s headed towards retirement. Keeping him though could be very beneficial, as he could help develop the younger pass rushers. He would also provide solid pass rushing depth.
Jordan Hill was brought in to compete for a depth role but he went out with an injury. It seems like he’ll be on the outside looking in, but he could be brought back for another chance to compete for a spot. With Patricia coming in I would expect a shuffling of a lot of the fringe roster guys.
Haloti Ngata, Darren Fells, DJ Hayden, Tavon Wilson, Nick Bellore, Paul Worrilow
Ngata could also be headed towards retirement but he says he still wants to play. He was playing well before he got hurt, and if Detroit can resign him for relatively cheap then he will be back.
Darren Fells started out playing well but faded down the stretch. Even so, he was a solid backup TE. Michael Roberts doesn’t seem to be ready to be the backup just yet so I’d expect someone else to play that role. Fells has solid hands, is a big target, and is typically a good blocker
DJ Hayden was brought in to compete for a job, and he did pretty well as a depth piece. He held up and didn’t allow a single touchdown. Hayden will be fairly cheap to resign and Detroit probably will. Unless they think Tabor is ahead of schedule, the depth Hayden provides will be needed.
Tavon Wilson was a New England Patriot not long ago and Patricia will likely decide if he wants Wilson or not. He wasn’t great when playing, but wasn’t bad either. Though with the emergence of Diggs as the SS, Wilson would be a depth option. With Killebrew’s potential, it’s possible that they let Wilson go elsewhere.
Nick Bellore could be back just because of how versatile he is. He can play linebacker, fullback, and is a solid special teams contributor. I think at this point, Detroit will probably look to add a true fullback, but if they don’t, Bellore would probably return to play that role.
Paul Worrilow won’t be a starter in Detroit next year with JRM playing well towards the end of the season. However, he could still be a solid depth option. He’s a versatile veteran linebacker who’ll be easy to retain. Worrilow could be pushed out though by Patricia wanting to bring in players who’d fit a 3-4 better than Worrilow does.
Ziggy Ansah, Tahir Whitehead, Don Carey, Nevin Lawson
Ziggy had a very inconsistent year in Detroit. He tallied 12 total sacks, but nine of them came in three games. That means he had only three in the other 13 games. A franchise tag will pay Ziggy north of 17 million next season. I think that’s the most likely scenario, but I would hope Quinn can get Ziggy to sign an incentive laden deal instead of tagging him.
Detroit’s best linebacker will almost surely be back. Tahir had 110 tackles and looked much better playing OLB than he did as a MLB. He won’t break the bank, he’ll be a good fit with Patricia, and he’s a solid player. I would say Tahir is even more likely to return than Ziggy is.
Don Carey is a special teams ace and provides depth at safety. The Lions had one of the best special teams units this season and it’s hard to imagine them making many, if any changes to that core group. Don Carey will be a cheap guy to resign and he’s a true professional and a great teammate.
Nevin Lawson is an adequate #2 corner. Detroit might look to upgrade that by targeting someone like Kyle Fuller or even Malcolm Butler. Though I would think Lawson will likely return and be the starter until Detroit feels that Tabor is ready to take over for him. Which could be sooner rather than later as he was quite productive when on the field.
Definitely Returning: Death, taxes, and Don Muhlbach.
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