Lions GM Brad Holmes on Jameson Williams: ‘He can be a game-changer for us’

Detroit News

Allen Park — Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes joined 97.1 The Ticket’s morning show on Tuesday to discuss the team’s 2022 draft class. Here are some notes from that appearance.

► Holmes was asked about the decision to trade up to draft Jameson Williams when so many of the league’s top receivers have historically been taken outside the first round. The general manager noted that the rapidly rising costs associated with the position played into the team’s thinking.

“Those guys that are going in the second round (or later), there is a big-picture viewpoint with their contracts,” Holmes said. “Those guys are really players, then after year three or whatever it is, those guys want to get paid. Their contracts, those contracts are swelling at an alarming amount.

“I would say it’s good to have that fifth-year option on a guy like that, when you look at the totality of it,” Holmes continued. “With Jameson, specifically, he was a guy where there was total buy-in, total conviction. I was just in love with him. I said, ‘Look, this is a guy that we want to get and I think he can be a game-changer for us.'”

This past offseason, we witnessed the annual salaries of elite receivers climb sharply. Three of them moved in trades in recent weeks — Davante Adams, Tyreke Hill and A.J. Brown — and netted new deals worth between $25 million and $30 million annually.

It’s far too early to project what the fifth-year option on Jameson Williams’ contract would cost the Lions when it is eligible to be exercised, but that figure ranged between $13.4 million and $18.4 million for receivers in 2022, based on the number of Pro Bowl selections the player earned their first three seasons.

► As with Williams, Holmes also talked about conviction and buy-in with second-round pick Josh Paschal. The GM admitted he went into the draft fully intent on landing the Kentucky edge rusher.

“The entire building was just in love with the player,” Holmes said. “The first time that I watched him on film, I just saw the film and I was like, ‘This guy is unbelievable.’ Just in terms of his versatility and his explosiveness. He’s high-motor. He fits all the intangibles that we look for, but then when you learn more about the human being, that was just the icing on top. It was like okay, he was one of those guys, and I told (coach) Dan (Campbell), I said, ‘If we don’t come off with this guy, I’m going to be mad.'”

► When discussing Paschal, Holmes acknowledged the team’s emphasis on bolstering the pass rush this offseason, specifically highlighting the prospect’s ability to generate pressure from inside alignments.

“…we wanted to upgrade interior pass rush as well,” Holmes said. “I think Josh can help us with that. Then, who we acquired last year, I think Levi (Onwuzurike) and Alim (McNeill), they have the ability with the tweaks that we’ve made defensively to get upfield. Those guys have inside-rush (ability). I do think we helped out in that area.”

In an interview with the team’s official website this week, defensive line coach Todd Wash elaborated on some of those changes up front, which will be more focused on attacking in 2022.

“We were a read front last year,” Wash said. “Now we’re attacking. We’re getting off the ball and playing at the heels of the offensive line. It’s going to have us be more physical and aggressive up front.”

► Holmes carefully avoided offering specifics on the players the Lions didn’t choose. When asked why the team selected Aidan Hutchinson over Kayvon Thibodeaux with the No. 2 pick, Holmes acknowledged those decisions are tough, but Hutchinson was ultimately “the direction we were going to go.”

As to who the team would have taken at No. 2 if Jacksonville had taken Hutchinson first overall, Holmes would only say the Lions had contingency plans in place.

The GM was also asked about the perceived fall of Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean, often projected as a first-rounder in mock drafts prior to the Philadelphia Eagles being able to snag him with the No. 83 pick in the third round.

“Nakobe Dean is a great football player,” Holmes said. “Obviously, we were very high on him. The draft, there’s always a narrative on where a player was supposed to go. When that narrative is built, when that player gets acquired, because that narrative wasn’t met, it’s a letdown. That really shouldn’t be the case. … I would say he’s going to be a good player going forward.”

► Back to the move up for Williams, Holmes implied he had no other target in mind when he was making inquiries to teams in that range before the draft.

“He was the prime target,” Holmes said. “He was the No. 1 target and (the trade) was obviously contingent. Working with (Vikings general manager) Kwesi (Adofo-Mensah) and Minnesota, he understood that. We knew that (Williams) had to be there in order to pull it off.”

► The Lions obviously didn’t draft a quarterback. Holmes had said after the second round that the QBs had been selected in the range he expected based on his staff’s evaluations.

But while this offseason ultimately focused on surrounding current starter Jared Goff with a better arsenal, the GM plans on continuing to evaluate the team’s quarterbacks year-to-year.

“I’ve always said Jared played a lot of good football down the stretch, late for us last year,” Holmes said. “He battled through adversity for us and going into this year, (coach) Dan (Campbell) and I said, ‘Hey, look, let’s make sure he’s set up for success.’ So he’s a quarterback that we know that we can win with, and that’s why we want to make sure he’s surrounded and put in the best position to succeed. Then, we’ll just see where it goes from there.”

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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