Dissecting what Detroit Lions might do at NFL trade deadline

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
| Detroit Free Press

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The NFL trade deadline is less than a week away, so I should have known a good deal of the questions for this week’s mailbag would revolve around potential trades the Detroit Lions can make – both players they can acquire to help their playoff chances, and ones they might be willing to part with for the right price.

I think this week’s move for Everson Griffen is probably the only trade the Lions have in them, but never say never with general manager Bob Quinn. He has made five deadline deals in his five seasons in Detroit, and won’t stop working the phones between now and 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Among the players you asked about: Dontari Poe, who was released by the Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday, Quinnen Williams and Stephon Gilmore.

Gilmore is the premier player of that group, and he’s signed through 2021, but won’t come cheap (a first-round pick?) and will need a new contract before long. The Lions have Desmond Trufant and Justin Coleman on the mend from injuries, and I don’t see them risking their future on a 30-year-old cornerback.

Williams, last year’s No. 3 overall pick, is an interesting name, but New York Jets coach Adam Gase said Wednesday he’s not going anywhere. Even if he was, the Lions have had success with their new defensive line rotation and do not have a huge need at tackle.

Williams is young enough that he’s worth trading for, for the right price. But the Lions used their 2021 sixth-round pick (with the possibility it becomes a five) to add Griffen, don’t have a seventh-round pick from last year’s Quandre Diggs trade, and are not going to leave themselves too short-handed by dealing away excessive picks.

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As for Lions who could potentially be on the move, Jarrad Davis, Kerryon Johnson and Marvin Jones have been in the rumor mill and could potentially help recoup a late-round pick.

Jones and Davis are pending free agents, and all three are supporting players, so if the right trade comes along, Quinn would have to consider it (especially if the Lions lose to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday). The Lions are playing to win now, though, and moving Jones, in particular, seems risky given his role as the No. 2 receiver and the lack of other options the Lions have if Kenny Golladay’s hamstring flares up again.

On to the rest of your questions, which have been edited for clarity.

Are the Giants calling us about Kenny Golladay? – @WallyWright23

Figured I’d address this trade rumor separately. My friend Jordan Raanan said on his “Breaking Big Blue” podcast the New York Giants reached out about Golladay. I would assume most other NFL teams have as well.

But one team reaching out to another does not mean a player is on the trading block, and Golladay is not going anywhere. He’s the second most important player on the Lions, behind Matthew Stafford, and while contract negotiations have dragged on longer than anyone anticipated, the Lions will franchise him for 2021 if they don’t get a deal done.

Kenny Golladay might start getting the attention he deserves ]

It makes sense for teams to ask about him. He’s a pending free agent and a beast of a receiver. But the Lions are trying to win now and Golladay is a huge part of those plans.

►Why does Patricia feel comfortable sacrificing future draft picks in order to win now when they are 3-3? – @licknavigne

First, it’s Quinn making the deals, not coach Matt Patricia. Second, dealing a sixth-round pick is much different than dealing a first. And third, what would you have them do, cash in the chips on the season?

No matter how good you think this Lions team is, 3-3 puts them firmly in the wildcard hunt, and their upcoming schedule gives them a chance to get on a roll. Yes, Patricia and perhaps Quinn, too, have their futures on the line in this home stretch, but trading a Day 3 draft pick for a veteran defensive end who should step immediately into the rotation is not mortgaging the future.

Birkett: Here’s what Everson Griffen brings to the Lions’ defense ]

Side note: Though the Lions have never played the compensatory pick game under Quinn, because he’s a free agent, Griffen could net the Lions a 2022 draft pick depending on his new contract next spring.

►Dave, we need to discuss how good Amani Oruwariye has been this year and how great of a value pick he was out of PSU. – @YvorLukash

Absolutely. Oruwariye has been the Lions’ best cornerback, really the only steady player they’ve had at the position given the injuries to Desmond Trufant and Justin Coleman. Stealing him in the fifth round in 2019 should not be overlooked.

Rookie Jeff Okudah has had a spotty debut, but the duo gives the Lions two big, young cornerbacks to dream on. I liked Oruwariye coming out of the draft and gave him the highest mark of any Lions draft pick when I did my post-draft grades, but he has exceeded my expectations.

As a side note, let the record reflect Quinn has done well in the middle rounds of the draft. Golladay was a third-rounder in 2017. Graham Glasgow was a third-rounder a year earlier. Tracy Walker (Round 3) and Tyrell Crosby (Round 5) have outplayed their 2018 draft position. And if you’re buying the Travis Fulgham hype in Philadelphia (which I am leery of), he went 38 picks after Oruwariye

►Is Matthew Stafford better than Matt Ryan officially or no? – @PatSarverRuns

Since I am the official ranker of quarterbacks named Matt, the proper order is: 1. Matthew Stafford, 2. Matt Ryan, 3. Matt Barkley, 4. Matt Schaub, 5. Matt Moore. Stafford also qualities for the “John” rankings, and he tops that list as well.

In all seriousness, Ryan was a league MVP a few years ago, so there was a time I would have put him ahead of his good friend. But Stafford is the better player right now, and it’s not just because of his heroics last week. Stafford has the better arm and more mobility, and his clutch gene is still working fine.

Ryan is a top-half of the NFL quarterback, but he’s three years older than Stafford, so if I’m taking a quarterback for one game, one season or the rest of their careers, I’m going with the Lions’ QB.

►Hi Dave, the quarterback carousel next offseason seems like it could be really wild, including veterans and draft picks. How do you see it playing out, and how do you think the Lions may be involved? Thanks! – @FriedrichsJk

Way too early to know anything other than the Jets will take Trevor Lawrence with the first pick of the draft, but you’re right, it could be another wild year for quarterbacks. If there are three top-10 worthy signal callers, as early draft projections indicate, that could limit the veteran quarterback market for the second straight year.

Ryan is a guy who could be on the move, depending on where Atlanta picks and how deep they take their rebuild, and a young quarterback like Sam Darnold could be available depending on where their teams draft.

If I was running the Chicago Bears, I’d kick the tires on Darnold, who I think has plenty of talent but has been put in a no-win situation. I doubt the Jets would trade him to the New England Patriots, but coach Bill Belichick probably has a move up his sleeve at the position, too.

As for Stafford and the Lions, it’s impossible to rule anything out given the uncertainty of the future, but if the Lions are not in a position to take a quarterback high in the draft – and it seems unlikely they will be – I’d guess Stafford is running the show for the Lions in 2021.

►What is viewership this year compared to last year? – @detroitfan217

TV ratings have been down across the board for sports this year as there are more important things going on in the world and people have found new ways to spend their time during the pandemic. But for the Week of Oct. 12, the last week posted on Nielsen.com, the NFL had the five highest-watched programs, after town halls with Joe Biden and Donald Trump. For the year, Sunday Night Football remains the highest-rated TV series, and February’s Super Bowl the highest-rated show.

The NFL is unique in its ability to draw eyeballs, and remains in line for huge network and streaming contracts in a few years. The league appeals to young viewers, and advertisers like that it spans the two biggest shopping periods of the year: back-to-school and the holiday season.

►I am 66. Can you give me the year in which the Lions win the Super Bowl? I am trying to decide whether to exercise and eat well, or just accept that I won’t be around. – @AlbertsLawrence

Don’t do it for the Lions, do it for your family. But if you can hang on till 2039, the year after I retire, you’ll be OK.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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