The Detroit Lions need help in the secondary, and a veteran free agent corner has been tabbed as someone they should pursue.
The Detroit Lions finished the 2021 season with the NFL’s 24th-ranked defense (244.7 yards allowed per game), but in many other metrics (deep or otherwise) they were even worse. The 11 interceptions they had, in the bottom half of the league, looks a little more dismal after accounting for cornerback Amani Oruwariye’s six picks on his own. No one else had more than one, and two of those (Tracy Walker and C.J. Moore) came in Week 18.
The Lions will clearly be looking for help in the secondary this offseason, in free agency and the draft. The Senior Bowl in a couple weeks will give the coaching staff a look at some pretty good corners and safeties.
If Walker leaves in free agency, the need at safety will be ratcheted up. At the right price, an experienced cornerback would be a nice addition.
Veteran cornerback tabbed as free agent Lions should pursue
Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus has created a list of one free agent each NFL team should pursue this offseason.
For the Lions he has suggested cornerback Bryce Callahan, most recently of the Denver Broncos.
2021 Player Grade/Rank: 60.0 (88th)
2021 Team Position Grade/Rank: 52.9 (30th)
You could throw a dart at the Lions’ depth chart and would most likely land on a position they need to upgrade, but more reinforcements in the secondary could be a cost-effective way to be more competitive while the rebuild and search for the next franchise quarterback continues.
The Lions were asking safeties to play cornerback by the end of the season, and while defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn is as good a developer of secondary talent as the league has to offer, he’s not a magician. Callahan has been one of the league’s best slot cornerbacks for years and can play outside in a pinch. He struggled to stay healthy in 2021 but had three straight seasons with coverage grades above 75.0 before this season. He’d be a strong veteran presence on a young defense.
Spielberger pointed to Callahan struggling to stay healthy in 2021 (six missed games), almost as if it’s a new thing. But he missed six games for the Broncos in 2020, and he missed all of 2019 with a foot injury which dated back to his final season with the Chicago Bears in 2018. In four seasons with Chicago, he played nine, 11, 12 and 13 games.
Callahan has been a good player when he’s on the field, and the Lions need more good players. But there was a hint the Broncos could trade or even cut him as the 2021 season started. Now crossing into his 30s, the lower body injuries he has had say durability will remain an issue.
If the best ability is availability, the Lions should be able to look for a fairly inexpensive veteran cornerback in free agency and easily find one who has less injury history than Callahan.