The Detroit Lions have a huge need on the defensive side of the ball, and Pro Football Focus’ recommended free agent target is along that line.
The Detroit Lions notably played better defensively late in the 2022 season, not coincidentally in line with the team winning eight of its last 10 games. That improvement was rooted in being opportunistic, (mostly) stifling opposing run games and getting after the passer better.
But name a pass defense metric, and the Lions were probably at or near the bottom of the league in it this season.
Passing yards allowed per game: 30th
Yards per pass attempt allowed: 31st
Adjusted yards per pass attempt allowed: 31st
Yards per completion allowed: 32nd
Passer rating allowed: 25th
Interceptions: 20th (12; three by cornerbacks)
Passes defensed: 25th
Completion percentage: 13th
After a breakout campaign in 2021, cornerback Amani Oruwariye fell off a cliff this past season. Jerry Jacobs was fine after he came back from his torn ACL from December of 2021. Will Harris was a liability as a slot corner. After a promising start and showing his mettle as a run defender, Jeff Okudah’s play dropped off late in the season.
To sum it all up, it’s possible none of the Lions starting cornerbacks come Week 1 next season are on the roster right now. Oruwariye, Harris and Mike Hughes are free agents, and particularly Oruwariye and Harris should be as good as gone. Okudah may be be allowed to play out his rookie contract without having his fifth year option for 2024 picked up. Jacobs will also be around, but his role heading into next season is up in the air.
Pro Football Focus has Detroit Lions addressing biggest need with recommended free agent target
Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus has come out with a list offering one defensive free agent each NFL team should target. The positional recommendation for the Lions is obvious.
Detroit Lions: CB Cameron Sutton
In the secondary, the Lions were nearly devoid of talent, going so far as to move safety Will Harris to cornerback. They need to add reinforcements to the secondary, and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn was a defensive backs coach in New Orleans before joining Dan Campbell in Detroit.
Sutton earned a career-best 72.2 grade as a full-time starter in 2022, allowing just 0.76 yards per coverage snap, good for 11th among cornerbacks with at least 200 coverage snaps on the season. He offers inside/outside versatility as well, though he’s been a starter on the outside the last two seasons.
Sutton was a third-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2017. After starting seven games over his first four seasons, he started 31 games for them over the last two seasons. This past season he made a real leap, with a 47.9 completion percentage allowed and 65.3 passer rating allowed to go with the aforementioned PFF numbers.
In 16 games during the 2022 season, Sutton had 43 tackles (35 solo) with three interceptions and 15 pass breakups (tied for sixth in the league).
Sutton is not the biggest corner (5-foot-11, 188 pounds). But as noted with his stats above from this season, he more than held up as a starting outside corner in a very good Steelers’ defense.
Spotrac has Sutton’s market value at $7.6 million per year, on a projected three-year deal. That should be well within the Lions’ free agency budget this offseason, and GM Brad Holmes should have him on the list of cornerback free agent targets if he wasn’t there already.