| 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
The free agent negotiating period opens March 15 and the Detroit Lions have holes to fill on both sides of the ball. Here is the second in a series of position-by-position breakdowns on the top players available in free agency and what the Lions might do at each position.
Wide receivers/tight ends
On the Lions’ roster for 2021: WR — Quintez Cephus, Tyrell Williams*, Geronimo Allison, Victor Bolden, Tom Kennedy. TE — T.J. Hockenson, Jesse James, Hunter Bryant, Alize Mack, Hunter Thedford.
(* — deal reportedly agreed upon but not yet official)
Pending Lions free agents: WR — Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, Jamal Agnew, Mohamed Sanu. TE — None.
Top free agents: WR — Golladay; Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears; Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. TE — Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers; Jonnu Smith, Tennessee Titans; Gerald Everett, Los Angeles Rams.
Others who may interest Lions: WR — Josh Reynolds, Los Angeles Rams; Jaydon Mickens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Breshad Perriman, New York Jets. TE — Dan Arnold, Arizona Cardinals; Jared Cook, New Orleans Saints.
Market watch: This is a typically underwhelming class of free agents overall, but there are three No. 1 receivers potentially available and a handful other pass catchers with impressive credentials who should find their services in demand. The Lions are still assessing whether to bring Golladay back for a fifth season, likely on the franchise tag, and their decision there will have a domino effect on where other receivers land in free agency. Like Golladay, who has been the Lions’ best receiver when healthy the past three years, Robinson and Godwin are candidates for the tag. If all three are tagged, that would leave players like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Corey Davis and Sammy Watkins as the best receivers on the market.
The Lions kicked off their free agent spending by agreeing to a one-year deal with Williams, who previously played for offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn with the Los Angeles Chargers. They need more reinforcements at the position, however, and that will be the case even if Golladay returns. Cephus is the only player currently under contract who caught a pass in 2020, and he remains a developing talent heading into Year 2. Both Reynolds and Watkins played with new Lions quarterback Jared Goff with the Rams, while Mickens doubles as a return man and has a history with new Lions receivers coach Antwaan Randle El.
There aren’t as many high-upside tight ends available given the nature of the position, but Henry, who also played for Lynn in L.A., is coming off a 60-catch season and should eclipse $10 million per year. That’s too pricey for the Lions’ taste, but if they move on from James, there are plenty of solid backups available. Lions coach Dan Campbell played tight end and spoke this week of the mismatch value the position creates. If the Lions can fit it in their budget, they should find a complement to Hockenson somewhere.
Aside from Golladay, who is a candidate to be tagged and traded, most other Lions receivers seem unlikely to return. Jones still has plenty of good football left in his soon-to-be 31-year-old body, but he wants to play for a contender at this stage of his career. Amendola hinted at retirement after the season. Perhaps Agnew could be back because of his return ability.