Predicting what Detroit Lions do with each of their 2021 free agents

Detroit Free Press

Carlos Monarrez
 
| Detroit Free Press

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Before NFL free agency starts in March, the Detroit Lions will have a lot of decisions to make about which players they want to keep.

Here’s our list of which players stay or go, starting with the offense.

Players’ listed ages are based on what age a player turns this year.

Age: 36.

Stats: In 16 games, 604 rushing yards and seven touchdowns plus 12 catches for 101 yards.

Buzz: With D’Andre Swift poised to take over as the full-time starter, it’s hard to imagine Peterson coming back purely as backup. His production declined, but he was still a steady and sure-handed contributor.

Stay or go: Go.

Age: 25.

Stats: In 16 games, one carry for no yards and two catches for eight yards.

Buzz: The former linebacker found a spot on the roster as a fullback and proved an effective blocker. He’s also been a big contributor on special teams. But Nick Bawden still has a year left on his rookie deal and offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn might want to add a fullback with more offensive upside.

Stay or go: Go.

[ Lions’ Matthew Stafford trade talks to begin; 6 players to watch at Senior Bowl ]

Age: 36.

Stats: In 14 games, 602 yards and no touchdowns.

Buzz: He struggled to gain separation, which is key for a slot receiver. Even though his production dropped, his 13.1 yards per reception was by far the highest of his career. If Amendola doesn’t sign with another team, he’s had a great career for a short player who wasn’t given much of a chance and was once cut on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.”

Stay or go: Go.

Age: 28.

Stats: In five games, 338 yards and two touchdowns.

Buzz: A hip injury cost Golladay most of the season, which was a let down on the heels of his 2019 Pro Bowl year, when he led the NFL with 11 touchdown catches. He’s a lock to return on the franchise tag at about $15.5 million if the Lions can’t work out a long-term deal. He said in December he would accept his inability to do anything about the tag. But it may be hard to forget the veiled threat about his contract on social media and the like on an Instagram post about his head coach’s firing.

Stay or go: Stay.

Age: 31.

Stats: In 16 games, 978 yards and nine touchdowns.

Great timing for Jones, who got extra attention with Golladay injured and had one of his best seasons while playing in a contract year. Jones isn’t a true No. 1 receiver, but that won’t stop another team from paying him like one — and that price will be too high for the Lions to match. Toward the end of the season, Jones talked like he had one foot out the door. He’s the surest bet among the Lions’ free agents to leave.

Stay or go: Go.

Lions take Ohio State QB Justin Fields in Mel Kiper Jr.’s first NFL mock draft ]

Age: 32.

Stats: In seven games, 16 catches for 178 yards and one touchdown.

Buzz: Sanu was just a short-term rental in November to help make up for injuries to other Lions receivers.

Stay or go: Go.

Age: 26.

Stats: In 14 games, averaged 12.7 yards on punts with one touchdown and a career-high 28.0 yards on kickoff returns. He also switched from cornerback to receiver and had 13 catches for 89 yards.

Buzz: Agnew has never reapproached the heights he reached as a rookie fifth-round pick, when he led NFL punters with a 15.4 average and two touchdown returns on his way to being selected an All-Pro. He had a good season, and the Lions should try to re-sign him. But he’s almost certain to get better offers elsewhere.

Stay or go: Go.

Lions take Ohio State QB Justin Fields in Mel Kiper Jr.’s first NFL mock draft ]

Age: 30.

Buzz: In 16 games, had eight starts and five penalties (tied for second-most among Lions’ offensive linemen).

Notes: Played just about average as a backup and rotational guy. The Lions should be able to find a younger and cheaper replacement.

Stay or go: Go.

Age: 26.

Buzz: In 16 games, had one start and two penalties.

Notes: Nelson was everybody’s favorite transformation project and he stepped up big when he had to replace injured right tackle Tyrell Crosby and somehow thwarted Khalil Mack in a December win over Chicago. Offensive line coach Hank Fraley is returning and since Nelson was his project, it’s logical that he should want to keep the investment in the process going.

Stay or go: Stay.

Age: 34.

Stats: In seven games, 3.5 sacks. He also had 2.5 sacks in seven games with the Dallas Cowboys before he was traded.

Buzz: The Lions acquired Griffen right before the trade deadline in October to bolster a struggling defensive line. Griffen was just a midseason rental.

Stay or go: Go.

Age: 26.

Stats: In 16 games, 10 sacks with 18 quarterback hits, 44 tackles, three forced fumbles and one safety.

Buzz: Okwara just had a fantastic breakout season and was the one shining star on a terrible defense. He not only made plays and had great production, but rewatching the tape will show all the little unnoticed things he did to help the defense. It might be tempting for him to want to stick around to play with his brother, Julian. But the Lions can’t match the lucrative deal he’ll get on the open market.

Stay or go: Go.

Age: 27.

Stats: In 14 games, 46 tackles with 0.5 sack and two forced fumbles.

Buzz: Davis, the 21st overall pick in 2017, was the biggest draft bust of Bob Quinn’s career behind only Teez Tabor. The Lions declined Davis’ fifth-year option in the spring and he became only a part-time player, starting just four games. Dan Campbell recently praised Davis and tried to avoid blaming previous coaches for his struggles, but it’s fair to note that Davis had three linebacker coaches in four seasons. There’s simply too much baggage in Detroit for Davis to stick around.

Stay or go: Go.

Age: 28.

Stats: In 16 games, one sack and 52 tackles with one forced fumble.

Buzz: His production was decent as a dependable tackler, but it wasn’t good enough for a new regime to keep him around with a reinvestment.

Stay or go: Go.

Age: 26.

Stats: In 16 games, 10 tackles.

Buzz: He’s been one of the Lions’ best special-teams players. If Brayden Coombs was still the coordinator, it would be a no-brainer to bring him back. The Lions and new coordinator Dave Fipp should think hard about holding on to a key piece of their strong coverage units.

Stay or go: Stay.

Age: 26.

Stats: In nine games, had 12 tackles and one pass defended.

Buzz: Ford was a special-teams player and a lower-tier backup who had a target painted on him every time he played in coverage.

Stay or go: Go.

Age: 28.

Stats: In eight games, four tackles.

Buzz: Played only half the season; went on injured reserve with a knee injury. He was a special-teams player who came over from Cincinnati because he was familiar with Coombs.

Stay or go: Go.

Age: 31.

Stats: In 11 games, six passes defended and 39 tackles.

Buzz: Another one-year rental. Roberts was nothing more than a backup who ended up playing more than he should have because of injuries.

Stay or go: Go.

Age: 30.

Stats: In 16 games, two interceptions, five passes defended and 73 tackles.

Buzz: In his first season as a full-time starter, Harmon had good production but didn’t make enough game-changing plays. He was a trade acquisition that specifically fit Patricia’s defense and now that there’s a new coach around, it’s hard to imagine the Lions keeping an adequate but aging safety.

Stay or go: Go.

Age: 28.

Stats: In 15 games, 12 tackles.

Buzz: The special-teams ace played only one defensive snap all season. He’s central to the Lions’ coverage units and still young enough to keep around for a couple more seasons. He’s also a favorite of the Ford family, so that should help the new brass make their decision.

Stay or go: Stay.

Age: 37.

Stats: In 16 games, converted 75% of his field goals and 92.7% of his extra points.

Buzz: Prater, unexpectedly, had one of the worst years of his career. His field-goal conversion rate was his worst since his first year as Denver’s starting kicker in 2008. Even though his accuracy plummeted, his leg remained strong enough to convert a 59-yarder and handle occasional kickoffs. Prater picked a bad time to have a bad year, but his body of work should be enough to keep him around for another couple years.

Stay or go: Stay.

P Jack Fox (exclusive rights)

Age: 25.

Stats: In 16 games, a net average of 44.8 yards with 26 punts inside the 20 and just seven touchbacks.

Buzz: Fox had a fantastic debut in his first year, which started with him winning a close training camp battle with Arryn Siposs. With all the turmoil and drama around the Lions this season, it was all the more impressive that Fox shut it out and set a franchise record in net average on his way to the Pro Bowl.

Stay or go: Stay.

Age: 40.

Stats: In 16 games, one tackle.

Buzz: There hasn’t been enough drop off from the “old man” to justify changes at this point, especially if the Lions hope to help Prater regain his form.

Stay or go: Stay.

Contact Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez@freepress.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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