Why the Lions are making all the right moves in free agency


Trent Balley, Detroit Sports Columnist

Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn made it very clear that the team would be aggressive in free agency this spring. Therefore, one could say they saw these moves coming. Except that person would be lying, because nobody, not even the most faithful of Lions fans, saw THIS big of a splash from Detroit so early.

On Monday, the first day that free agency negotiation opened up, the Lions reached agreements with wide receiver Danny Amendola, defensive back Justin Coleman, defensive end Trey Flowers and tight end Jesse James. You might see a name or two of the four that you don’t love, but the Lions have actually done exactly what they should have, and every signing makes great sense.

WR DANNY AMENDOLA: 1 year, $4.5 million

The 33-year-old slot receiver has had his fair share of success, with two Super Bowl rings on his fingers. Ever since the Lions shipped Golden Tate away midseason in 2018, they’ve been without a consistent slot receiver to fill the role. Until now. Amendola will provide sure hands and a fairly expansive route tree from the slot.

Last season with the Miami Dolphins, Amendola caught 59 passes while averaging just under 10 yards per grab. Furthermore, he did so with the likes of Ryan Tannehill and Brock Osweiler throwing to him. Slide Matthew Stafford into the quarterback role and we’re looking at another effective year, and possibly even a step up for the veteran slot presence.

CB JUSTIN COLEMAN: 4 years, $36 million

Perhaps the Lions’ most apparent Achilles heel in 2018 was the secondary. Pro-Bowl number one corner Darius Slay played exceptionally, but with little success coming on the other side of the field. In fact, former starter Nevin Lawson was released by Detroit earlier this week.

Justin Coleman will play nickelback in a switch that completely hands the Glover Quin keys to Quandre Diggs as the anchoring safety. It seems as though the Lions will continue to pursue a second starting corner to play opposite Slay, whether it be in free agency or through the draft. However, the addition of Coleman will be a great one for Matt Patricia’s defense, as it allows current players to play more in their natural positions.

DE TREY FLOWERS: 5 years, $90 million

When was the last time the Lions signed the top free agent on the market? Flowers was arguably that, coming off a championship season with the Patriots. His 7.5 sacks for the season didn’t jump off the paper, but his production went far beyond that. Edge rusher was a dire need for the Lions, and now they’ve got their hands on the best edge rusher available.

Needless to say, Flowers’ time in New England under Patricia will help him pick up the scheme rather quickly. The Lions have Flowers locked up for five years, and with other promising young defensive linemen like Da’Shawn Hand, A’Shawn Robinson and Romeo Okwara, who just received a 3-year contract extension himself, the Lions’ defensive line future is bright. This is not to mention Damon “Snacks” Harrison up the middle. Watch out, NFC North quarterbacks.

TE JESSE JAMES: 4 years, $25 million

Finally, Jesse James at tight end. You don’t have to love this signing, but can I interest you in 30 catches for 423 yards? James provided a great weapon for the Pittsburgh Steelers last season, as his 6-foot-7 frame is a tough matchup for any team. The Lions were inexplicably weak at tight end in 2018, with Levine Toilolo getting the most catches with 21. Stafford will surely appreciate the presence of James at tight end. Furthermore, running back Kerryon Johnson will appreciate his blocking ability.

All in all, it appears that the Lions are revving up the engine for an explosive defensive season. It’s well documented that Patricia is a defensive head coach, and he’s ready to make things happen for Detroit. Time will tell if the moves will pay off, but the Detroit Lions are undoubtedly better today than they were a week ago.