Allen Park — The day before Arden Key signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes was asked if the team was still in the mix for the veteran defensive lineman.
And while Holmes acknowledged the door wasn’t closed on the possibility as Key weighed his options, the real point of emphasis made by the GM was the Lions weren’t done looking to add pieces via free agency.
“I’ll say, just with free agency in general, we’re not done,” Holmes said. “You always want to get it all done that first week, the big headlines, but there’s still some guys out there that we can add still that can help our football team.”
After re-signing several of their own free agents, and bringing in a handful of outside additions headlined by wide receiver DJ Chark, the Lions are in good shape with their salary cap. The team is currently sitting on more than $18 million in space, which ranks among the top 10 across the league.
But that figure is also deceptive. It doesn’t factor in the draft picks the team will be adding at the end of the month. The No. 2 selection alone is projected to have a 2022 cap hit north of $7.5 million.
Using available estimates, the Lions have closer to $9 million in cap space and will need to leave some of that as a rainy-day buffer. That effectively leaves Holmes with $3-4 million to work with as he continues to scour the market. That’s exactly the range of Key’s new deal. The defender signed a one-year contract worth $4 million with the Jaguars.
The fact Key didn’t sign with Detroit suggests that’s more than the Lions were looking to spend on the player, and potentially any player left of the market. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the options still out there that could help the Lions.
► Safety DeShon Elliott: A former All-American at Texas, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Elliott was a sixth-round pick for the Ravens in 2018. Injuries have cost him significant time three of his four seasons, which is likely why he’s still available. But as a 16-game starter in 2020, he showed plenty of ability, particularly in coverage, shedding the narrative he was best suited to be a box safety as a pro.
In Detroit, Elliott could serve as a short-term upgrade and potential bridge for a rookie addition, while re-establishing his value after suffering a season-ending pectoral injury in 2021.
► Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson: A former first-round pick, Richardson has bounced around a bit since his initial, four-year run with the New York Jets came to an end after the 2016 season. The 31-year-old is coming off a second stint with the Minnesota Vikings, where he continued to prove he’s an effective interior lineman, particularly as a pass-rusher. He’s averaged more than 40 quarterback pressures the past three seasons.
► Offensive tackle Mike Remmers: If there’s a roster area the Lions are in good shape, it’s the offensive line. Still, the team could stand to upgrade its offensive tackle depth behind starters Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell.
Remmers has a ton of experience with more than 90 starts on his resume. He served as the swing tackle in Kansas City last year, a year after seeing playing time at four spots along the team’s offensive line.
► Defensive lineman Rasheem Green: Stylistically, Green is a similar player to Key. At 6-foot-4, 279 pounds, he has a tweener frame for a defensive lineman, splitting his time between edge and defensive tackle alignments with the Seahawks last season. He doesn’t have an obvious strength, but does bring some juice to the pass rush. Playing a career-high 846 defensive snaps in 2021, he responded with a personal-best 6.5 sacks and 34 total pressures.
► Tight end MyCole Pruitt: The Lions made a modest addition to their tight end room this offseason, signing former Saint Garrett Griffin to a one-year deal, but there’s still room for more competition. Pruitt has never been a big pass-catcher — setting career-highs with 14 receptions, 145 yards and three touchdowns last season — but he’s an outstanding blocker.
Unfortunately, Pruitt is currently recovering from a brutal ankle injury suffered in the season finale last year. Any signing would obviously be contingent on a positive medical evaluation.