What we learned about Detroit Lions’ Dan Campbell, Brad Holmes from roster cuts

Detroit Free Press

Brad Holmes had his first big whiff as Detroit Lions general manager, and that cannot be ignored.

When the Lions signed Breshad Perriman to a one-year contract this offseason, they did so fully expecting him to be their No. 2 receiver this fall.

Perriman struggled in his five months as a Lion. He battled a hip injury in training camp. He never showed the ability to separate from defenders. And he left after being cut Monday, beat out by an ex-lacrosse player (and a half dozen others) but $2 million richer from the guaranteed money on his contract.

No one who’s followed the Lions this summer can be surprised by Perriman’s release. It was that obvious a move, even for a team as dilapidated at receiver as the Lions.

But putting aside the natural instinct to knock Holmes’ evaluation skills — this was a known journeyman, after all, and $2 million is a pittance by NFL standards — Perriman’s release reveals something more important about the way this new Lions regime will go about business.

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To their credit, the Lions did not compound the mistake of signing Perriman by staying with him when it became obvious he no longer fit. They will be beholden to money and draft status and past performance like every team in the NFL, but not at the expense of the greater good.

In non-football terms, their marriage was over and they saw no benefit of faking it for the kids.

“Ultimately, we said that we were always going to find the right guys for us,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “And they were going to compete and if they were the best man for the job as much as possible (they would get it). Money does play into some of that, but for us we’re trying to stay true to who we said we’re going to be, Brad and myself, as we build this.”

Perriman never was considered part of the Lions’ long-term future, which is why it’s tough to be too upset about either his signing or release.

Same goes for Tyrell Crosby and Mike Ford, the other biggest names waived by the Lions on Monday, though it’s similarly fair to have questions about both moves.

Crosby was one of the Lions’ steadiest linemen last fall. He started 11 games at right tackle and was in line to man the position this year until Penei Sewell fell to the Lions with the No. 7 pick in April’s draft.

The Lions viewed Sewell as a clear upgrade from Crosby and the final piece to what they hope will be a monster of an offensive line. He was an obvious choice at seven, once they eliminated quarterback from the mix.

But drafting Sewell started the chain of events that led to Crosby’s departure Monday.

HELP WANTED: Lions cut Tyrell Crosby, will scout waiver wire for help on offensive line

Crosby, in an effort to force a trade to a team that would use him as a starter, skipped voluntary workouts this spring, which angered Campbell and Holmes.

The Lions believed that decision contributed to the hamstring injury Crosby suffered this summer.

Crosby’s rehab took longer than expected, which complicated feelings across the board. And when the Lions rushed Crosby onto the field before he was ready for last week’s preseason finale against the Indianapolis Colts, he allowed the sack that broke Tim Boyle’s thumb and further put him in the team’s crosshairs.

The Lions gave Crosby’s agent permission to seek a trade this weekend, but that was a non-starter given his health. Ultimately, the team decided to pull the plug Monday and go in a different, more unproven direction up front.

From where I sit, it appears as if the Lions gave up on Crosby too soon, and for some of the wrong reasons. Offensive line depth is difficult to come by in the NFL and Crosby was a better option at swing tackle than anyone else on the Lions’ current roster.

Ford, similarly, seemed like a depth piece worth holding onto, not at cornerback, necessarily, but on special teams, where he was the Lions’ best gunner.

Both players were in the final year of their contracts, and thus did not fit the Lions’ multi-year timetable for contending. The Lions, for what it’s worth, did not fit into Crosby’s future plans, either.

As much as they want to win and as badly as it will pain them to lose, this year is about something different for the Lions.

Holmes and Campbell have a plan in place for their roster, and the moves they make this week trimming to 53 players are the foundation to the plan.

So yeah, it’s not great that Holmes whiffed on Perriman and that Campbell couldn’t stand for his backup tackle not competing (for a job he never was going to win) on the field.

But if you trust the vision they have for the Lions, then it’s OK to trust the moves they make this week, too.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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