Pro Football Focus has picked a favorite and least favorite free agency move for each NFL team, and it chose a least favorite for the Detroit Lions becauese it had to.
After the notable waves of free agency, it’s hard (if not impossible) to find a grade that’s not in the ‘A’ range for what the Detroit Lions have done. Most notably they overhauled their secondary (Cameron Sutton, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Emmanuel Moseley) and markedly upgraded at running back (David Montgomery).
Of course there are moves Lions fans would like to have seen them make, and that can be said for every team.
Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus has listed out his favorite and least favorite free agency move for all 32 teams, or most of them anyway. The favorite for the Lions is obvious.
Favorite: Overhauling secondary
Cameron Sutton quietly continued to excel in a Pittsburgh coverage unit that was otherwise very exploitable this season, with 2022 being just his second season as a full-time starter on the outside. Sutton earned a 71.0 coverage grade and allowed just 411 receiving yards — the ninth fewest among cornerbacks with at least 400 coverage snaps on the season.
The Lions needed to find an outside cornerback in free agency this offseason, and Sutton provides exactly that. Pittsburgh’s scheme in 2022 played man coverage at about the same rate as Detroit did, and so the schematic fit makes sense for both sides.
Pro Football Focus picks least favorite move for the Detroit Lions, but only because it had to pick one
As for Spielberger’s least favorite move by the Lions in free agency….
Least favorite: Losing wide receiver D.J. Chark Jr.
Detroit has reunited with Marvin Jones Jr., who is still a great contested catch threat downfield at 33 years of age, but they will be losing a big-bodied speed element on the outside in Chark. If 2022 first-rounder Jameson Williams can come along, it ultimately may not matter. Detroit had a great offseason, though they could stand to add a little more talent on the interior of their defensive line. Fortunately, they have an arsenal of quality draft picks to do just that.
As much as Chark was a big factor in the success of the Lions’ offense once he was healthy late last season, his loss is easily covered by the expectation Williams will break out in his second season, bringing Jones back and maybe even drafting a wide receiver.
But the premise of the list pretty much says a least favorite move for the Lions had to be chosen. That Spielberger is a documented Chark-lover probably made it the easy choice for him.
The Carolina Panthers getting Chark on only a one-year, $5 million deal is a lamentable point for whatever Lions’ fans think they should’ve kept him if the price was that low.
And on the flipside, Spielberger has signing Chark as his favorite free agency move for the Panthers.
Favorite: Signing wide receiver D.J. Chark Jr. on a one-year, $5 million deal
Chark is a true field stretcher at 6-foot-4 with a 4.34-second 40-yard dash, and he will be just 26 years old in Week 1. He missed time in 2022 and opted to go with another one-year flier, and Carolina was a perfect place to do so. If Chark produces all year like he did the last six weeks in Detroit, he should cash in. He posted strong numbers to close out the year:
73.8 receiving grade
388 receiving yards (17th among wide receivers)
10 explosive rec. (12th)
18.5 yards per reception (5th)
An easier move to tab as the least-favorite one for the Lions in free agency is the three-year deal for linebacker Alex Anzalone. It’s really a two-year deal as a practical matter, but a talent upgrade seemed easy to find on the market if the Lions had wanted it.