The peak of NFL free agency has come and gone, and it was crystal clear what approach the Detroit Lions took. They did not sign the big fish and splash a lot of cash. They used their money wisely to sign players that could make an immediate impact at a much-lower cost. These moves position the Lions nicely to spend big during the 2023 free agency period if they wanted to.
While the signings Detroit made in 2022 can be at least stop-gaps for this upcoming season, the market looks promising for the Lions to make additional signings to fully complete the roster.
The NFL landscape is always changing, but teams are already looking ahead and preparing for free agency in 2023. So should we.
Here are four free agent targets for the Lions next offseason (figures from Spotrac):
1. S Jessie Bates III
The Cincinnati Bengals put the franchise tag on Bates for the 2022 season. However, they have yet to reach a long-term contract with the July 15 deadline looming. There may even be a possibility Bates holds out and decides to not play on the franchise tag, leaving Cincy in a sticky situation.
Detroit recently locked up one of their safeties in Tracy Walker III, giving him a 3 year/$25 million contract. I would still expect the Lions to make a run at another safety in the 2023 free agency class, and Bates would certainly be the best available. The market value for Bates would be around a 5 year/$80 million contract, making him one of, if not the highest paid safety in the league.
The Lions have passed on big name safeties before, but Bates would be worth it. The Lions do need someone opposite of Walker to ensure the backend of the secondary. Detroit drafted rookie Kerby Joseph out of Illinois in the third round, but I would definitely take a long look at Bates if he is left without a long-term deal in Cincinnati.
2. LB Tremaine Edmunds
Edmunds is a player worth monitoring during the 2022 season. The 24-year old and former first-round pick is already a two-time Pro Bowler, but the Buffalo Bills have not been urgent in giving him a long-term contract. Last season was the worst of his career, finishing with lows in tackles and assists, in addition to zero sacks. The Bills view 2022 as a prove it year for Edmunds.
Edmunds is a great talent, yet the Bills might be strapped for cash after giving sizable contracts to QB Josh Allen, LBs Von Miller and Matt Milano, and WR Stefon Diggs. Edmunds would get a lot of buzz on the free agent market and could get an estimated contract of 4 years/$55 million. There is a real chance the Bills do not bring him back, especially if he does not impress in 2022.
Despite drafting LB Malcolm Rodriguez in 2022 and LB Derrick Barnes in 2021, signing Edmunds would add another smart and physical player on the Lions defensive side of the ball.
3. CB Amari Oruwariye AND WR D.J. Chark
Out of all the soon-to-be free agents on the Lions in 2023, bringing back Oruwariye and Chark should be a priority. Oruwariye is coming off the best year of his career, finishing third in the NFL in interceptions (6). It was a Pro Bowl-caliber year for the young corner, but he was snubbed from the honor. If Amani O can have a similar year of production, he deserves to be brought back.
Although Chark has yet to play a game with the Lions, I expect him to have a very solid year. He took a lesser deal (1 year/$10 million) to prove himself with an upcoming team with an improved culture. His ability to stretch the field is valuable for this team. He also seems comfortable with the offense in practice already. The expectations are that he will be fully healthy going into the season after only playing four games in 2021. Chark earned a Pro Bowl selection in 2019 with the Jacksonville Jaguars after eclipsing 1,000 receiving yards. He also ended the year with 8 touchdowns. A good year for Chark will certainly earn him a solid contract, with his market value being 4 years/$47 million.
Despite what the market might dictate now for these players a year from now, anything can happen. A breakout year or an injury could skyrocket or tank a player’s value instantly. These numbers are merely projections, but these players deserve the attention this season. The Lions will have their hands full next offseason continuing to built this roster into a contender. These players would make great additions.