New faces: DE Trey Flowers, CB Justin Coleman, TE Jesse James, WR Danny Amendola, RB C.J. Anderson, TE T.J. Hockenson, LB Jahlani Tavai, CB Rashaan Melvin, WR Jermaine Kearse, G Oday Aboushi, S Will Harris
They’re gone: DE Ezekiel Ansah, G T.J. Lang, S Glover Quin, RB LeGarrette Blount, CB Nevin Lawson, DT Kerry Hyder, FB Nick Bellore, TE Luke Willson, TE Levine Toilolo, TE Michael Roberts
2019 snapshot: The Lions didn’t hold back in free agency, handing massive contracts to Flowers (five years, $90 million) and Coleman (four years, $36 million) plus an ample deal for James (four years, $22.6 million) and a one-year flier on Amendola ($4.5 million). Each could prove to be upgrades, but it’s hard to imagine any outperforming his contract, so there isn’t much upside.
The rest of Detroit’s offseason was about reshaping the offense, as coordinator Jim Bob Cooter was allowed to walk, with Darrell Bevell arriving to replace him. Matt Patricia and Bevell have been adamant about building through the running game, an uncommon approach in today’s NFL, but Hockenson will certainly help the cause. He should contribute from Day 1 as a receiver and blocker, giving Detroit schematic flexibility and options in the run game and off play-action. Anderson should join Kerryon Johnson to form a quality backfield duo. An injury in the third preseason game to Frank Ragnow will not help early in the season.
Even if offensive issues are solved, the defense still has holes. Tavai is the sort of multi-faceted linebacker Patricia loves, but the Lions don’t have any true edge pass rusher (Flowers is best off working inside). Another outside cornerback must step up opposite Darius Slay, who is looking for a new contract. On the plus side, Damon Harrison got his new deal, after he solved the Lions’ woes in run defense upon arriving last year.
Get to know … S Tracy Walker.
Quin was released and then retired, leaving the Lions to turn the page to their second-year safety Walker. Packed with potential, athleticism and range to wow, the Lions are expecting splash plays from Walker in the secondary. They’ll also be working on Walker to remain disciplined and limit his risk-taking, which could lead to big plays the other way.
Worth the investment?
–The Lions were big spenders in the offseason, but will they be able to cash out in the win column? Oddsmakers aren’t so sure. The consensus over-under win total is 7 after they went 6-10 a year ago.
Bottom Line: The Lions added talent and have a clear plan, but a run-first offense and free agent spending sprees rarely breed success in today’s NFL.