With the NFL Draft in the rearview mirror, the Detroit Lions’ offseason is starting to simmer down. The team will continue to make new additions and potential trades, but the bulk of player movement is officially over.
Lions’ GM Brad Holmes was active on the free agent market and made numerous trades during the draft. Detroit overhauled its secondary and added key pieces to a defense that struggled in 2022. On offense, the team reloaded for a repeat performance of this past season.
Here are three of the Detroit Lions most impactful moves of the offseason.
Detroit Lions sign Cam Sutton to three-year $33 million contract
Cam Sutton spent the past two seasons as one of the NFL’s most underrated cornerbacks. The 28-year-old entered the NFL undersized and lacked elite athletic traits for the position. The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted him in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft and developed him into a versatile corner.
Sutton spent the bulk of his early career as a backup, amassing just eight starts in his first four seasons. After the departure of Mike Hilton, Sutton took over as the Steelers’ starting slot corner in 2021. In 2022, he became the team’s No. 1 cornerback on the depth chart.
Sutton offers the flexibility to play on the boundary or in the slot. In two seasons as a full-time starter, Sutton has racked up five interceptions. In 2022, Sutton ranked ninth in the league in receiving yards allowed among corners with at least 400 coverage snaps.
The Lions’ secondary ranked near the bottom of the NFL in total defense, points allowed and passing yards allowed. Sutton’s versatility and skillset should go a long way toward upgrading the team’s pass coverage.
Detroit Lions reshape their backfield
After posting a franchise record 17 rushing touchdowns and enjoying a 1,000-yard season, the Lions parted ways with starting running back, Jamaal Williams, this offseason. The team dealt backup D’Andre Swift to the Philadelphia Eagles during the draft. Coming in to replace them are David Montgomery and Jahmry Gibbs.
Montgomery signed with Detroit on a three-year, $18 million contract. The former Chicago Bear offers good size and power to replace the departing Williams. Montgomery is a former 1,000-yard rusher who could see such heights again in a workhorse role.
The Lions drafted Gibbs with the 12th overall pick in the NFL Draft. The Alabama product is a twitchy athlete who will be a dangerous threat in the passing game. Gibbs runs clean routes and possesses good speed, change of direction and acceleration.
Montgomery fills a role as a between-the-tackles runner while Gibbs supplements him as an outside runner and receiving threat. Head coach Dan Campbell’s experience with the New Orleans Saints backfields could have impacted this direction for the team. Campbell saw firsthand what the two-headed monster of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara can do. Montgomery and Gibbs provide a similar outlook. Neither player is at the same level of Ingram and Kamara, but with their skillsets, the Lions could boast one of the NFL’s best backfields in 2023.
Detroit Lions draft Brian Branch in the second round
After trading up to the 45th pick in the draft, the Lions landed a steal in Alabama safety Brian Branch. The former Crimson Tide played in the star playmaker role in college. Branch lined up as a single high safety, as a box safety and in the slot. Wherever Alabama thought he could be best positioned to make a play on any given down, he was placed.
Branch joins a Lions team that added plenty of depth to its secondary. Both corners Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley offer slot versatility. C.J. Gardner-Johnson can play in multiple positions as well. With Branch added to the mix, the Lions can throw out exotic safety packages and formations that will confuse opposing offenses.
Branch has room to add muscle to his frame. He weighs in at 190 pounds. With NFL training, he can get that weight up to the more prototypical safety size. As he stands now, bigger and stronger tight ends or receivers may be able to muscle him around in coverage and in the run game. However, size is the only semi-reasonable concern for Branch. He is a well-rounded football player who the Detroit Lions can throw in multiple roles.
In both running and passing situations, in the slot, as a safety or in the box, Branch will be in a position to make plays for the Detroit Lions this upcoming season.
For more from the author, Thomas Chavez, check him out on Twitter here: @tlchavez43
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