| 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, Feb. 22, 2021.
Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez, Detroit Free Press
The Detroit Lions continue to rid their defense of free agents brought in under the old regime.
The team released linebacker Christian Jones among a slew of roster moves Monday. They also re-signed cornerback Mike Ford and cut center Russell Bodine.
Jones is the second defensive starter the Lions have decided to move on from in recent days. His release frees up about $2.5 million in space for a team that has limited room to work heading into free agency next week.
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Last week, the Lions informed cornerback Desmond Trufant they plan to release him before the new league year starts March 17.
Trufant played just six games for the Lions last season because of a recurring hamstring injury and was set to make $9.5 million in base salary this fall, with $3.5 million of that guaranteed. His release frees up roughly $6 million in cap space.
NFL Network reported last week that the Lions also plan to restructure linebacker Jamie Collins’ contract to free up cap room. The restructure has not yet been filed with the NFL Players Association.
Jones started 13 games for the Lions last fall and has been a fixture in the lineup since he signed as a free agent in 2018. He played as the Lions’ primary left outside linebacker last season after playing mostly as a middle linebacker in his first two years in Detroit.
Jones had no sacks and no interceptions in 2020, the first year of a puzzling contract extension he received in 2019.
Fellow linebackers Jarrad Davis, Reggie Ragland, Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Miles Killebrew also will be free agents next week, setting the stage for what could be a large-scale rebuild at the position.
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Collins and Jahlani Tavai are the Lions’ most experienced linebackers, and the team signed Anthony Pittman to a futures deal and claimed Shaun Dion Hamilton off waivers from Washington this offseason.
Edge rushers Julian Okwara and Austin Bryant can play defensive end or linebacker.
Ford, who would have been a restricted free agent next week, has played primarily on special teams in his three seasons with the Lions. Bodine opted out of the 2020 season for COVID-19 reasons.