On Wednesday the Detroit Lions reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with former Las Vegas Raiders receiver Tyrell Williams. Williams has a link to Anthony Lynn, who was his head coach with the Chargers for two seasons. This signing had me thinking of two different scenarios. One of which could drastically change the landscape of the Lions roster and the other changes nothing at all. Allow me to present them.
Williams signing signals the end of Kenny Golladay’s run in Detroit
Hear me out. Here’s what has me thinking this. At this point, I believe the Lions will not be picking a quarterback in the draft in April. This leaves the Lions open to select a receiver with the seventh pick.
We also know the Lions appear to be building the team in a new modern way, prioritizing from the outside (receivers and corners) over the inside (linemen). That also seems to signal that the Lions could be quite frugal in these efforts and that the rebuild might take longer than some thought.
Here’s where Kenny Golladay gets involved. While it’s true that Golladay will probably be a little more of a bargain after missing so much time in 2020, he’s still likely to be expensive. If the Lions decide to bring him back on a long-term deal, they’ll likely be paying at least $16 million per year. This would not make Golladay the highest paid receiver in the league, but it would put him in the thick of that second tier. That’s a conservative hypothesis. Golladay could wind up getting north of $20 million. Even if the Lions decide to franchise tag him, it will still cost the team an estimated $16.4 million. The point here is that the Lions are going to tie up a lot of money if they keep Kenny Golladay.
Tyrell Williams is the first step to curing that issue. Williams is a very similar receiver to Golladay in terms of size and the way they’re being utilized. Make no mistake, Golladay is the better receiver here, but with Williams, you get a guy who is productive at a much cheaper clip. Plus Williams can do something that Golladay struggles to do, get separation. Golladay has been dead last in separation the last two seasons while Williams has been about right in the middle.
Average yards of separation (per @NextGenStats)
Tyrell Williams: 2.6
Kenny Golladay: 1.9
Marvin Jones: 2.1
— Jeremy Reisman (@DetroitOnLion) March 3, 2021
Really, though, it’s all about the money. Williams is a short-term answer to what the Lions would hope is a short-term problem. This team is not likely to be competitive for a while and the offense is likely to go through some major schematic changes.
Williams isn’t here to be the number one guy. He’s here to be the big receiver after the Lions draft their new number one receiver of the future in April. Heck, the Lions could—and probably will—find another free agent wide receiver in free agency, and Josh Reynolds still makes a ton of sense.
I’m not saying that Williams is here to take over. I’m saying he’s the first part of the bridge the Lions are trying to build. And he’s a much cheaper part, too.
It means nothing
There’s the other completely possible scenario where Williams was just a cheap signing that has connection to Lynn, and it’s nothing more than that. In this scenario Kenny Golladay sticks around, and the Lions hope to simply get production out of Williams on a one-year rental. Williams’ cheap deal allows them to explore all short and long-term options with Golladay, and it changes nothing about their draft strategy, either.
But keeping Golladay combined with this signing will be a costly effort. But it lends to the idea that the Lions are in fact retooling over rebuilding and may they want to flip this thing faster.
Lions general manager Brad Holmes did say earlier this week that we would start getting some answers on roster moves very soon and that Golladay was at the forefront of the Lions mind. Answers are about to start shaking out for the Lions and their plans for the future.