Free agency awaits Detroit Lions’ Tracy Walker but he wants ‘to be part of this tradition’

Detroit Free Press

If Tracy Walker played his final game with the Detroit Lions last week, he went out with a bang.

Walker, who will be an unrestricted free agent in March, was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week after making 14 tackles and a game-clinching interception in the Lions’ 37-30 win over the Green Bay Packers.

Walker has expressed a desire to remain with the Lions in 2022, but was pragmatic when talking about his future last week.

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“Like I said, I want to be a part of this tradition that’s been started here, but at the end of the day, that’s not up to me, honestly,” he said. “I’m here just to do what I do best and do my job. That’s for the upstairs and for my agents to decide, so as far as that, I let them handle that and I control what I control and that’s by making plays on the field.”

A third-round pick in 2018, Walker has had an up-and-down Lions career.

He had a promising rookie season, when he played in all 16 games as a reserve and took over as a full-time starter in 2019.

Last season, Walker’s play deteriorated as he dealt with personal tragedy — his cousin, Ahmaud Arbery, was murdered while jogging through his Georgia neighborhood — and he landed in former coach Matt Patricia’s doghouse.

Playing for new coaches and in a new scheme this season, Walker re-emerged as a reliable defender. He led the Lions with a career-high 108 tackles despite missing two games with COVID-19 and projects as one of the top safeties on the market this spring.

Walker said playing in a scheme he likes and for coaches he respects, such as Lions coach Dan Campbell, defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and secondary coach Aubrey Pleasant, will play “a huge role” in any offseason decision he has to make.

“I feel like with these coaches, they believe in the players,” Walker said. “They understand what it’s like to be a player first off and so they’re open ears. Sometimes we might not always be right as players, but they’re still open to hear it and that’s the biggest thing for me. Like I said, that was the biggest difference, honestly, and so I respect these coaches for that, like I said, giving me a voice. And allowing me to voice my opinions and hearing me out regardless of if I’m right or wrong. And that’s the difference between these coaches and that’s why I respect them the way I do.”

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The Lions have 16 unrestricted free agents on their current roster, including defensive starters Walker, Charles Harris, Nick Williams and Alex Anzalone.

Asked in his end-of-season news conference Tuesday about Walker and Harris, who led the Lions with a career-high 7.5 sacks this season, general manager Brad Holmes expressed a desire to re-sign both.

“Those guys did a great job for us and those guys had stuff to prove,” Holmes said. “Tracy had already been with us, obviously, but a new scheme, a new regime, new coaching staff, and he responded well, he really did. I thought he played good football for us and he really bought into everything that we’re doing, so was really happy for him.

“And then, you mentioned Charles Harris, a guy who it’s arguably — he’s had his best year, in my opinion, and 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. But those guys were fits, they fit what we’re about, and those guys played well for us. And so, again, I know we have a lot of time to spend from this point on, so I have plenty of time to get on with that part of it.”

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

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