Allen Park — The Detroit Lions have more than a dozen players set to be unrestricted free agents this offseason. While it’s unlikely they’ll want to or be able to retain them all, general manager Brad Holmes sounds like a guy who hopes to have safety Tracy Walker and outside linebacker Charles Harris back in the fold in 2022.
“Those guys were fits, they fit what we’re about, and those guys played well for us,” Holmes said.
Walker bounced back in a big way after a down season in 2020, exceeding his breakout 2019 campaign with 108 tackles. He also recorded his first interception since that season.
“Tracy had already been with us obviously, but a new scheme, a new regime, new coaching staff, and he responded well,” Holmes said. “He really did. I thought he played good football for us and he really bought into everything that we’re doing. I was really happy for him.”
A third-round pick in 2018, Walker is hitting the open market for the first time, looking to cash in on his ability and potential. Throughout the year, he’s declined to say much about his future, but after last Sunday’s season finale, he acknowledged his relationship with the team’s current coaching staff will play a role in his pending decision.
“That plays a huge role, for sure,” Walker said. “If you don’t agree with your coaches and your coaching staff, man, that can be so detrimental to your team. I feel like with these coaches, they believe in the players. They understand what it’s like to be a player, first off, so they’re open ears. Sometimes we might not be right as players, but they’re still open to hear it.
“That’s the biggest thing for me,” Walker said. “That was the biggest difference (from last year), honestly. I respect these coaches for that, giving me a voice, and allowing me to voice my opinions, and hearing me out, regardless if I’m right or wrong. And that’s the difference between these coaches. That’s why I respect them the way I do.”
Harris, meanwhile, came to Detroit after struggling to find his footing in the league. A former first-round draft pick, he flamed out in Miami and only had modest success as a reserve during a one-year stint in Atlanta before signing with a prove-it deal with the Lions.
He responded with a career-high 65 tackles and 7.5 sacks, more than doubling his total from the previous four seasons.
“He had his best year in my opinion,” Holmes said. “(He’s) a guy that was just in a better place. Just speaking with him, he just loved it here, so we’ll just see where it goes.”
The Lions don’t have many potential cap casualties, but the one that stands out like a sore thumb is outside linebacker Trey Flowers. After being slowed down by injuries the past two seasons, the former prized free-agent addition’s release would clear more than $10 million in space off Detroit’s books.
Asked what the future holds for Flowers, Holmes dodged the question, choosing instead to praise the player’s character.
“In Trey, you’re talking about the ultimate glue guy, the ultimate leader,” Holmes said. “He’s what we’re all about in terms of grit and being just a football player. So, it was unfortunate when he had to deal with what he had to deal with. But again, those (contract) discussions are going to be for down the road.”
Flowers signed a five-year, $90 million contract with the Lions in 2019. He tallied 51 tackles and seven sacks that season, in line with his production in previous season. But he was limited to seven games with a broken forearm in 2020. This year, a balky knee again limited to seven games. He tallied 3.5 sacks between those two seasons.