The Detroit Lions, who have already lost Matthew Stafford and (almost certainly) Marvin Jones, have more than likely just lost Kenny Golladay as well. On Tuesday afternoon the Lions chose not to use their franchise tag on Kenny Golladay, and the Pro Bowl receiver is set to hit free agency when the legal tampering period opens up on Monday. The Lions are going to lose a lot of talented players this year, and it’s scary.
Things are going to be very different in Detroit in 2021 and going forward. On the outside it might look like a mass exodus from a long struggling franchise. It may look that way in Detroit, too, if you choose to look at it that way.
But the Lions are doing everything right. The window is currently closed. The Lions chances to win it all with the group you all know and love are gone. It’s over. I know that sucks, but it’s something that everyone will have to deal with. With that information well in hand, it’s time to rebuild.
Franchise tagging Kenny Golladay or signing him to a long-term deal directly hinders the Lions ability to do that, and frankly, it leaves behind a relic of the Lions’ past failures. With a completely new front office and coaching staff, the Lions are likely to build a brand new offense that’s more predicated on speed and athleticism. Golladay and his lack of ability to create separation does not fit that mold.
Judging by some of the players the Rams have drafted to be a part of their offense during the Brad Holmes era, it would seem that athleticism is a lot more important to this group than it was to Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia. Sam Manchester of the New York Times has a great article from 2018 about which NFL teams prioritize speed the most, and he found that the Rams had the fastest receiving corps in the NFL. With that in mind, look for the Lions to target guys that flat roll on the field.
And if you think Holmes is worried about his receiving corps right now, think again. Last week, he mentioned just how quickly a receiving corps can turn around.
“I know that you probably look at the roster now and say, ‘Well, who are you going to add? It looks thin at that position,’” Holmes said. “I will say through my experience, even back with the Rams, I want to say it was probably 2017 that our receiver room flipped pretty quickly within a year. The Rams were able to add some quality pieces pretty quickly. To be able to follow a similar kind of a blueprint or path or having the experience of seeing how that works and being involved in that process, it’s something that I feel confident, Dan and I feel confident about us being able to take a similar process.”
In 2017, Sean McVay took over a Rams team that had Kenny Britt, Brian Quick and Tavon Austin as their primary receivers. That offseason, the Rams drafted Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds, signed Robert Woods and traded for Sammy Watkins. Just like that, they had a new, completely improved receiving corps.
With the extra money the Lions save by letting Golladay walk, they can now build the team around speed and athleticism and fill their receiver room with their guys. With the seventh pick in the draft, the Lions will find themselves in perfect position to score one of the draft’s best receivers in Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle or Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith. Even if they pass in the first round, the depth in this year’s class offers plenty of Day 2 options.
They can also try their hand in free agency with guys like Josh Reynolds (9.1 RAS), Sammy Watkins (8.45 RAS) or Curtis Samuel (7.46 RAS). Don’t forget the Lions already have a potential starter in Quintez Cephus, and they’ve already signed Tyrell Williams (9.89 RAS), who will be expected to do some of things the Lions had in Marvin Jones.
While there’s some immediate positives here for the Lions after losing Golladay, it’s the future that looks even brighter. If and when Golladay signs with a new team, the Lions could be set up with a third-round compensatory pick in next year’s draft. That’ll give them two third-rounds picks to go with their two first round picks.
The fact of the matter is this, the Lions may be really bad in 2021. Hell, they may be really bad in 2022 as well. But they’re on the right track for the future. Moving on from Golladay makes so much of that possible. There’s cause for excitement, if you ask me.