Detroit Lions free agency: Pro Football Focus ranking highlights two key decisions

SideLion Report

Two Detroit Lions made Pro Football Focus’ ranking of the 2022 free agent class, highlighting two key decisions for the team.

The Detroit Lions were conservative in free agency last offseason, as a team might be in the first offseason of a rebuild. Things may be a little different this offseason, with general manager Brad Holmes citing entering the “player acquisition phase.”

The Lions are in solid position basically a month out from free agency, in the top half of the league in cap space. They will have decisions to make who to re-sign, but a significant dip or two to address needs on the open market may be on the radar.

In may feel like overkill, but Pro Football Focus has ranked the top 200 prospective NFL free agents for 2022. Two Lions made the list.

PFF’s ranking of 2022 free agents points to 2 key decisions for the Lions

Down at No. 107 on the list, there’s Charles Harris.

107. EDGE CHARLES HARRIS, DETROIT LIONS

Charles Harris had a breakout stretch with the Detroit Lions in a similar fashion to Lions edge defender Romeo Okwara, who cashed in on a strong three-year, $37 million ($12.33M per year) deal in the 2021 offseason. Harris’ 78.7 pass-rush grade and 52 quarterback pressures trailed Okwara’s 84.5 and 61, but the former first-rounder may have played his way into a decent deal putting up strong numbers in his first season with over 500 snaps and with an injured Detroit Lions defensive line around him.

Strengths:
– Spin move
– Winning to the outside as a pass-rusher

Weaknesses:
– One year of good production
– Run defense
– Finishing plays

Scheme Fit/Role:
NO. 3 PASS-RUSHER: Even with a breakout 2021 season, Harris is best if relied upon as a third rusher as part of a rotation. He does his best working rushing off the edge from wide alignments.

Recent Injury History:
Harris missed time in 2019 with a wrist injury and battled an ankle injury in 2020. Last season, Harris played a career-high 871 snaps.

Contract Projection: Three years, $27 million ($9M per year), $15 million total guaranteed

Bottom Line:
Harris broke out with a 78.6 pass-rush grade in 2021, accumulating 39% of his five-year career pressure total in just one year. He’s at his best as a third rusher, but there may be a low-end No. 2 pass-rushing job that makes sense as he looks to prove last season wasn’t a fluke.

The No. 1 concern with Harris is he may be a one-year wonder, which the Lions have to weigh in the big picture of their plans. It’s possible he just finally found a fit, and he can sustain what he did in 2021 going forward. PFF’s contract projection for Harris, in terms of annual average, is close to Spotrac’s.

At No. 169, we have Tracy Walker.

169. S TRACY WALKER, DETROIT LIONS

The former third-round pick has flashed the ability to be both a proficient deep-third free safety and run defender over the course of his rookie contract. Walker’s 231 total tackles over the last three seasons rank third among safeties, which includes 17 for loss or no gain — a top-10 mark.

Strengths:
– Coverage from deep alignments
– Reliable run defender and tackler

Weaknesses:
– Has struggled in coverage when coming down into the box
– Little success singled up on tight ends in coverage

Scheme Fit/Role:
FREE SAFETY: Walker has been at his worst in Detroit when they’ve asked him to come down into the box and match up with tight ends. However, he has earned above-average coverage grades from deeper alignments, whether in split-safety or single-high coverages.

Recent Injury History:
Walker missed several games with illness in 2021 and one game with a foot injury in 2020. He also missed three games with a knee injury in 2019.

Contract Projection: Two years, $9 million ($4.5M per year), $5.25 million total guaranteed

Bottom Line:
The only truly disappointing season of Walker’s four years in Detroit was a 2020 campaign where the Lions played him more around the line of scrimmage. The results when he’s been able to play from deeper alignments and in the slot have been much better. That’s where he could potentially step in as a starter elsewhere.

Walker missed two games in 2021 on the COVID-19 list, not “several.” He had a rebound/breakout season in 15 games, with 108 total tackles and six pass breakups. Cashing in more takeways (just one interception in 2021) is an order, but it generally seems the Lions and Walker want to stay together. The Lions could aim higher for a free safety, to Jessie Bate or Marcus Williams, but PFF’s projected price point for Walker would allow for room to address other needs.

The franchise tag, with estimates around $13 million for safeties this year, is a more viable option to keep Walker than it is to keep Harris. In any case, the standing of the two guys on Pro Football Focus’ ranking points to two tentpole offseason decisions the Lions have to make.

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