The Detroit Lions have 20 players that are pending free agents after the 2016-17 season. Not all of these players will be wearing honolulu blue next season, so the Lions are going to have to make a few tough decisions about who to keep. The Lions are primed to make a splash with over $37 million in cap space.
Position: Outside linebacker, Age: 27, Experience: 5
When the Lions traded away Kyle Van Noy to the Patriots in Week 8 the Lions were in a mad dash to find his replacement. Their answer happened to be a familiar face, Josh Bynes. The Lions picked up Bynes in Week 8 and he played in the final nine games this season, racking up 38 total tackles and four pass deflections. Those stats don’t jump off the page, but he averaged four tackles a game, plus a deflected pass every other game. That means Bynes had an impact when he played. With depth at linebacker being thin, Bynes is a perfect player to be on this roster for the future.
Prediction: Two years, $1.2 million a year with Detroit
Position: Defensive end, Age: 27, Experience: 4
Devin Taylor may be the most intriguing free agent to watch for the Lions. He had a solid season for the Lions. Taylor had a better statistical year than his counterpart, Ezekiel Ansah, with 28 total tackles, 4.5 sacks and one forced fumble. Taylor was second on the team in sacks, behind only Kerry Hyder. Hyder’s success may work against Taylor though. The Lions brass may feel comfortable letting Taylor walk in order to get Hyder more snaps and have their one-two punch edge presence be Hyder and Ansah. If the price is right, the Lions could be in a good position to resign Taylor to stockpile three great defensive ends in rotation. Ultimately, there aren’t many big names out in the defensive end free agency pool, and the Lions will likely get outbid by another more desperate team.
Prediction: Four Years, $6.5 million a year with Carolina
Position: Wide receiver, Age: 36, Experience: 13
Anquan Boldin, along with Marvin Jones, were brought in last offseason to try and mend the hole that was left behind by Calvin Johnson when he retired. Boldin quickly became one of Matthew Stafford’s favorite targets in the redzone. Boldin was on the receiving end of eight of Stafford’s 24 passing touchdowns. His explosiveness is gone and he is no longer a No. 1 receiver, but his age and knowledge make him effective. Boldin still has the ability to use his big body to get open, and his ability to catch the football hasn’t dipped. The only way the Lions don’t bring him back is if he retires, which is a real possibility.
Prediction: One year, $2.5 million with Detroit (if he doesn’t retire)
Position: Guard, Age: 25, Experience: 4
This signing is an absolute no-brainer. This former third-round pick has exceeded all expectations. Warford has been a staple at guard since his rookie season, where he didn’t allow a single sack. The offensive line is one of the weakest parts of this team, and that’s obvious when looking at the rushing stats. Despite the weak offensive line play as a whole, Warford has been viewed as one of the best guards in football. Expect the Lions to do all they can to hold on to their star guard, no matter what the cost.
Prediction: Five years, $6.5 million a year with Detroit
Position: Right Tackle, Age: 28, Experience 5
The Detroit Lions drafted Taylor Decker, a tackle out of Ohio State, in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Decker was named the starting left tackle almost immediately, moving their 2012 first round draft pick to the right side. Riley Reiff’s replacement was drafted while he was still on the team, which should show people how much Reiff has struggled in his professional career. Reiff’s biggest upside for the Lions is his durability. He has only missed three games in five years, but that won’t be enough for the Lions to hang on to him. Tackles are highly sought commodities in free agency, and teams often over-bid for them. Expect the same thing to happen here. Don’t expect the Lions to get caught in a bidding war for Reiff; his time in Detroit is over.
Prediction: Four years, $6 million a year with the New York Giants
If everything predicted happens, this will leave the Lions with around $26 million leftover to spend in free agency. However, with a Matthew Stafford mega-deal looming, along with money needed to be spent on their draft class, don’t expect the Lions to make a huge splash this offseason.