| Detroit Free Press
Detroit Lions offseason: How will they handle franchise tag, free agency?
Free Press sports writers Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez preview the big decisions the Detroit Lions need to make this offseason.
Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez, Detroit Free Press
“I don’t think there’s any debate that Kenny has shown the ability to be a No. 1 receiver in this league,” Holmes said. “And with that skill set that everybody knows that he has, we all know that he has and being at where we’re at from a roster standpoint, there’s also been no debate that Kenny’s been at the forefront of our mind in terms of making sure that we make the best possible decision for not only the Lions but for Kenny. So I wish I had a more direct answer to you to tell you exactly what we’re going to do, but out of respect for the process, I’ll keep that in house.”
Golladay is a prime candidate for the tag as the salary-cap-strapped Lions head towards free agency.
Golladay and the Lions had contentious talks about a long-term contract last fall that ended without a resolution, and Holmes declined to say if the team is actively trying to sign its best receiver to an extension currently.
The franchise tag for a receiver is expected to cost about $16 million, which is below market compared to deals that several top players signed before the coronavirus pandemic slowed business last offseason.
Golladay, 27, is believed to want a deal worth north of $18 million annually.
He played five games last season because of hip and hamstring injuries, but is one of the most feared receivers in the NFL when healthy. In 2019, Golladay led the league with 11 touchdown catches and had a career-high 1,190 yards receiving on 65 catches.
The Lions are extremely thin at the receiver position entering free agency. Both Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola will be unrestricted free agents in a few weeks, and neither is expected to return. Quintez Cephus, who caught 20 passes for 349 yards as a rookie, is the only receiver with a reception in 2020 who is currently under contract for 2021.
NFL teams have until 4 p.m. March 9 to use the franchise tag.
“We want to make the best decision for the Lions and sometimes those decisions take a little bit longer,” Holmes said. “And the great thing is that we have a process in place that we believe in that we’ve been firm in. When we really start the planning stages of the process, that process can go all the way up to when you have to make the decision.”
Though the Lions would have to clear cap space in order to tag Golladay — something head coach Dan Campbell indicated they will be doing later this week — Holmes said their decision to use the tag is not dependent on what the final salary cap number is.
The NFL informed teams in February the cap will be at least $180 million, down from last year’s $198.2 million number. Teams are hoping the final number is closer to $185 million.
“We’re not going to rush (a decision), so whether it is the franchise tag on a Romeo (Okwara) or a Kenny, whoever it is, we definitely have a process in place that we believe in that we’re trusting,” Holmes said. “That’s probably the best thing about it, is that we have a process that we’re trusting and we’re sticking to it. And if it makes sure that it meets the Detroit Lions timeline and that’s really the thing that matters the most.”
Okwara, the Lions’ No. 2 free agent, had a career-high 10 sacks last season but might not command a contract at the tag level for defensive ends — a projected $16 million — on the open market.
“I would love to be franchised. That would be nice. That’s a pretty good little chunk right now,” Campbell said. “But I don’t want to get that far into it, I really don’t. I’m sorry. Look, all these things will be coming down the road before the 17th, obviously, and look, we’ve had dialogue, we’ve talked back and forth. Brad and I have talked about this and we’ve gone every scenario you can go down, believe it or not. Just on everybody.”