Detroit Lions’ hits and misses in 2021 NFL free agency so far

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Lions had an interesting and active first week of NFL free agency. Some moves were obvious and some were shockers.

Here’s a breakdown of the hits and misses for the Lions’ most notable moves and non-moves so far.

Signing Romeo Okwara: Hit

This might even be a home run after signing him to a three-year, $39 million deal. Call me a sentimental fool, but I love it when teams hold on to the players they nurtured and helped succeed. Last year’s team sack leader should be a significant contributor, and he’s a great guy to boot. Perfect for a rebuilding locker room.

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Not re-signing Kenny Golladay: Miss

It’s nearly the opposite of the Okwara situation, with the Lions letting an elite player walk for what likely will turn out to be a compensatory third-round pick. Maybe the money was a sticking point, maybe he wasn’t the perfect culture fit. But a team should find a way to keep a Pro Bowl 1,000-yard receiver in his prime.

CARLOS EXPLAINS: Lions made wrong call on Golladay, but are right on Okwara

Signing Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman: Miss

These are the ostensible replacements for Golladay and Marvin Jones. If you want to know what a rebuild looks like, this is it: Cheaper contracts for serviceable players. If the Lions weren’t going to spend big on Golladay, then modest, one-year contracts make sense at this point, even if they’re uninspiring.

Acquiring Michael Brockers: Hit

This might be one of the Lions’ bigger splurges after Okwara. It’s not a free agent signing since the Lions had to trade a 2023 seventh-rounder for the Rams defensive tackle before they reportedly signed him to a three-year, $24-million deal. I’m not crazy about Brockers’ age — he turns 31 in December. But he, Okwara, Trey Flowers and John Penisini give the defensive line hope.

Signing Jamaal Williams: Hit

He’s a versatile running back at a reasonable cost of up to $7.5 million over two years. He should add a power component to the run game the Lions don’t have.

Not signing John Johnson: Miss

The Lions reportedly had interest in the free-agent Rams safety who signed with the Cleveland Browns. He’s young and productive and would have been a tone-setter familiar with general manager Brad Holmes. Can’t blame Johnson for wanting to join a playoff team on the rise. But you have to wonder how much of an indictment this is about Johnson’s belief in what Holmes and the Lions are doing — especially when free-agent Rams slot cornerback Troy Hill, another possible Lions fit, followed Johnson to Cleveland.

Not re-signing Matt Prater: Hit

The long-distance specialist who turns 37 this year picked a bad time to have a down year. I get why a new regime didn’t want to offer him a new contract and let him sign with the Arizona Cardinals. I think he’ll bounce back fine. But Prater’s replacement, Randy Bullock, is five years younger and has been more accurate over the past four years.

Releasing Chase Daniel: Hit

The secret to longevity as an NFL career backup QB is never letting anyone see you play. Daniel made that fateful mistake when he played the majority of the Lions’ 47-7 curb stomping by the Buccaneers and passed for 86 yards. Daniel was signed specifically to avoid this kind of embarrassment and his release created $2.3 million in cap space.

Not re-signing Jarrad Davis, releasing Jesse James: Hit

Respectively, they were two of the biggest draft and free-agent disappointments in a long time for the Lions. Letting Davis go in free agency and not being tempted to salvage something out of his standing as a first-round pick shows good judgment. James was a massive disappointment since the Lions signed him to a four-year, $28.5 million deal in 2019.

Releasing Justin Coleman and Desmond Trufant: Hit

The two cornerbacks’ high salaries and low production made them expendable. Trufant struggled with injuries and was due $9.5 million in base salary this year. Coleman was due $8.95 million. The Lions will free up at least $11 million in cap space with both cuts. The question is, who’s going to help out Jeff Okudah?

Re-signing Don Muhlbach: Hit

Did you notice anything the longtime long-snapper did last season? Neither did I. Perfect season. Welcome back for an 18th season, Mule.

Contact Carlos Monarrez at and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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