Allen Park — Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes hasn’t had a ton of success in his first two trips through free agency, but his best move has unquestionably been the one he didn’t make.
After weighing the franchise tag and a long-term contract for wide receiver Kenny Golladay, Holmes ultimately decided the price tag was too rich for a team entering a rebuild, letting the receiver walk to sign a four-year, $72 million pact with the New York Giants, which included $40 million in guarantees.
Less than two years later, it’s in the conversation for worst contract in NFL history. Appearing in 14 games last season, Golladay caught 37 passes — fewer than half of his 76 targets — for 534 yards and zero touchdowns. His yardage total ranked 83rd in the NFL, behind 18 tight ends, and it marked the first time in his career he’d been held out of the end zone.
And things have gotten worse this year, significantly worse. It’s nearly impossible to imagine the situation going more poorly.
Limited to five games due to a knee injury, Golladay has seen eight throws in his direction and has as many drops (two) as receptions. In his return to action last week, after putting a ball on the ground, he was benched in favor of Isaiah Hodgins, who entered the day with four career receptions.
The Giants reportedly tried to trade Golladay this offseason, but found no one willing to take on the remainder of his $13 million salary this season. And it’s inconceivable to believe the team won’t cut its losses this offseason, eating the remaining $14.7 million in dead money to rid themselves of former general manager Dave Gettleman’s mistake.
This weekend should be a reunion for the Lions and Golladay, but there’s a good chance he won’t play. He’s on the injury report once again, this time with a hamstring, which is something he battled during his time in Detroit. But even if he were healthy, last week’s benching might have been enough to result in him being inactive on Sunday.
One player who will be on the field is Lions safety Kerby Joseph. That’s notable because he’s who the Lions drafted in the third round with the compensatory selection they received for losing Golladay in free agency. And while the sample size is small, with just six starts under his belt, Joseph is trending toward being a long-term piece in Detroit’s rebuild. If nothing else, there’s zero question he’s had a greater on-field impact than the veteran receiver, creating four takeaway for the Lions in those six starts. Heck, with two interceptions, Joseph has caught just as many passes as Golladay in 2022.
And, even though it took a minute, the Lions have also managed to restock their receiving corps with better options. That includes Amon-Ra St. Brown, who set the franchise’s rookie records for receptions and receiving yards last season.
Golladay, a third-round pick out of Northern Illinois, gave the Lions some good years. He topped 1,000 yards twice, led the league with 11 touchdown catches in 2019 and was on pace for a strong year before a hip injury sidelined him in the final nine games prior to hitting free agency. At 29 years old, those are tracking to be his best years.
Despite those accolades, Holmes decided to part ways. And that move, as much as any other, including the selections of St. Brown or Kerby, has been critical to keeping the early stages of the Lions’ rebuild on track.