Dave Birkett | Detroit Free Press
The free agent negotiating period opens Monday and the Detroit Lions have holes to fill on both sides of the ball. Here is the eighth 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.
On the Lions’ roster for 2021: P: Jack Fox; K: Matthew Wright.
Pending Lions free agents: K: Matt Prater; LS: Don Muhlbach.
Top free agents: K: Prater; Ryan Succop, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Stephen Gostkowski, Tennessee Titans. P: Thomas Morstead, New Orleans Saints; Kevin Huber, Cincinnati Bengals; Jordan Berry, Pittsburgh Steelers. LS: Muhlbach; Morgan Cox, Baltimore Ravens; Jake McQuaide, Los Angeles Rams.
Others who may interest Lions: K: Ryan Tice. LS: Casey Kreiter, New York Giants.
Market watch: A number of veteran specialists signed extensions in recent weeks, thinning out what would have been a decent free agent market. Kickers Younghoe Koo and Cairo Santos re-signed with the Atlanta Falcons and Chicago Bears, respectively, and punter Britton Colquitt restructured his deal to avoid being a cap casualty in Minnesota.
The Lions tendered a contract to Pro Bowl punter Jack Fox, meaning the exclusive rights free agent will stay in Detroit for 2021. That’s no surprise considering the year he had, but the Lions do have some other decisions to make in the kicking game. Muhlbach is a free agent for what seems like the millionth straight year, and signs point to him returning to Detroit after practice squad long snapper Steven Wirtel signed a futures deal with the Los Angeles Rams. Prater, who uncharacteristically missed seven field goals and three extra points last season, could be back, too, though the Lions are high on Wright.
Offensive line: Lions looking for depth at OT
Defensive backs: Options abound at slot CB
Wide receiver: Kenny Golladay is best in loaded WR class
Wright initially joined the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 2019. He was cut that summer, but returned last season as an injury replacement for Chris Boswell, when he made all four of his field goal attempts and was 7 for 7 on extra points in three games. A few days shy of his 25th birthday, Wright could be this year’s version of Fox, an inexpensive but reliable leg who gets his chance and runs with it. The Lions will have a competition at kicker, and if Prater is not back, it makes more sense for them to add a young replacement — Tice, the former Central Michigan kicker, should be one of the top performers at the heavily-attended Coach Zauner free agent combine this weekend — than to spend money on a sketchy veteran free agent.