The Detroit Lions are too obvious on a list of teams primed to make a jump this offseason, with only their placement on the list to possibly take issue with.
It’s well-worn story by now, but it’s worth the brief recap. The Detroit Lions won eight of their last 10 games this season, and had a winning season for the first time since 2017. If they’d gotten the help they needed earlier in Week 18, no thanks to some league-acknowledged awful officiating in that Rams-Seahawks game, they would have made the playoffs.
It’s easy to see the Lions as a team on the rise. Going into the offseason they are well-positioned against the salary cap, along with two top-20 draft picks and four picks in the top-60 of April’s draft. Whereas offseason needs in Detroit has been a lengthy list the last couple offseasons, the needs are not as widespread this year.
Brad Gagnon of Bleacher Report has made a list of “Six NFL Teams Positioned To Make Major Leaps in 2023 Offseason”.
The Lions obviously made the list, but where do they rank?
Detroit Lions rank well, but could be higher?, on list of offseason leap teams
Assuming an order of ranking, the Lions are No. 2 on Gagnon’s list.
Another team that could take advantage of the state of the NFC North is a Detroit Lions squad that missed the playoffs but posted a winning record and ranked in the top 10 in terms of DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) at Football Outsiders in 2022.
So we’re talking about a borderline playoff-caliber team that—thanks to the Matthew Stafford trade—owns two of the top 18 picks in the draft and also is projected by Spotrac to have the league’s 10th-best salary-cap situation this offseason.
With all of that money, the only arguably critical player who they have to re-sign is wide receiver D.J. Chark. But with loads of cap space and draft capital, they can easily do that or replace Chark (Allen Lazard?) while still improving substantially in other spots (Daron Payne and/or Jamel Dean could really help the league’s 32nd-ranked defense from ’22).
The Lions have less ground to make up than the Bears, and momentum, finances and draft potential are all on their side in a major way this winter and spring.
Gagnon references another team in the NFC North and then reveals it as the Chicago Bears, who sit No. 1 on the list.
The Bears have the No. 1 pick in the draft, which could yield them quite a bounty if/when they trade it. They also currently have the most cap space in the league by a good margin. So their placement atop the list of teams in line for an offseason leap is natural, with unrivaled ability to add talent to the roster.
Do the Lions have a case to be No. 1 though? It’s hard to compete with the Bears based on their situation, but the Lions also don’t have as far to go to be a really, really good team in 2023. A handful of moves that work out in the right areas could legitimately push them toward the top of the NFC next season.