Starting Tuesday, the Detroit Lions can designate one of their various franchise tag options to retain a pending free agent. The Lions have until Tuesday, March 9 to do so.
There appear to be two leading candidates to get the tag this offseason. Those pending free agents being wide receiver Kenny Golladay and defensive end Romeo Okwara. Both could avoid getting the tag if they agree to sign contract extensions. Or the team could simply decide to move on.
Complicating matters is the fact the Lions just hired an entirely new regime in Detroit. And it’s unknown how new general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell feel about their pending free agent class. And if their future plans include either Golladay or Okwara.
But rather than simply losing both to the open market, one NFL insider is suggesting the Lions could choose to use their franchise tag in order to spark a trade. According to Gregg Rosenthal, Around the NFL editor for NFL.com, Golladay could be potentially retained using the franchise tag with the intent of moving him.
” … this is a potential tag-and-trade scenario. It doesn’t make a ton of sense for the rebuilding Lions to pay Golladay nearly $16 million for 2021, only to lose him next season. But it makes even less sense to see one of their few homegrown stars leave for nothing more than a potential compensatory draft pick.”
Losing both Golladay and Okwara in free agency will likely result in high draft compensation in 2022. But with that compensation maxing out at a third-round selection, Detroit might figure they can get more (or at least get it quicker) by tagging and trading either of them.
One thing that might hurt the Lions looking for a trade partner for Golladay is the number of veteran receivers scheduled to hit the open market soon plus the upcoming draft class. When you consider Golladay missed 11 games last year due to an early hamstring injury and later due to a hip injury, that could easily give any potential trade partners pause with plenty of other attractive options available to them.
The easy argument is for the Lions to try and retain both players. Every wide receiver who started a game for Detroit last season outside of Quintez Cephus is scheduled to become a free agent next month. So keeping a Pro Bowl wideout like Golladay who led the NFL with 11 receiving touchdowns in 2019 makes absolute sense for the Lions, even if it’s only for one more season.
As for Okwara, premier pass rushers are a rare commodity in the NFL. So the team losing the one defender who has actually led the team in sacks for two of the past three seasons seems unwise. Okwara has totaled 19.0 sacks over his first three seasons in the Motor City and is only 25-year old.
While the Detroit Lions are heading in an exciting new direction, there are players who were part of last year’s roster that are worth building around. We’ll soon find out if this new regime believes Kenny Golladay and Romeo Okwara should be among them.