Lions moves: 3 free agents to watch in Cowboys vs Buccaneers
The Detroit Lions should have a keen eye on these potential free agents in the Buccaneers vs. Cowboys Wild Card matchup tonight. Despite narrowly missing out on the playoffs this season, the future looks bright for the Lions. As they aim to make a strong push for the NFC North title in 2023, Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes will be watching tonights Wild Card matchup closely.
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The Lions enter the offseason in the top half of the league in terms of 2023 cap space. They have around $18 million available to make strategic moves, as of today. General Manager Brad Holmes has made it clear that the team will maintain a conservative approach to free agency. He is focusing on filling specific needs on the roster. However, with a narrow focus, the Lions may consider making some aggressive, yet calculated moves on the open market.
These three players have the potential to make a significant impact on the Lions’ roster and could be key pieces in the team’s push for the NFC North title next season.
3. Cowboys QB Cooper Rush
It may seem silly to start this list with a player that most likely won’t see the field tonight. But hear me out. Keep an eye on Dallas Cowboys BACKUP quarterback, Cooper Rush. The second-stringer will only play on Monday night if Dak Prescott is unable to play due to injury. Despite this, it is worth noting that the Detroit Lions are prioritizing the backup quarterback spot this offseason and are looking for a more reliable option than their previous backups. Rush has a proven track record as a backup for the Cowboys, with a 5-1 record as a starter in Prescott’s place over the last two seasons. He has given the Cowboys one of the better backup quarterback situations in the league.
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“Going into this past year…we went down to the umpteenth hour trying to figure out what we were gonna do at number two,” Detroit Lions GM, Brad Holmes said recently. “I’ve let it be known internally that we’re not gonna be in that position again heading into this year. So we have to get that settled. I thought Nate Sudfeld did a nice job with us, so we’ll figure that out. But, I am gonna make it a point of emphasis and make sure that…we’re finally in a position to address that quarterback room behind Jared, we have been in that position in the past. But, we’re gonna make that a point of emphasis this year.”
As a Michigan native, it’s unclear if Rush would look to leave Dallas, but it’s also hard to see another team making him their unquestioned starter. If the Lions are serious about improving their backup quarterback spot, Rush should be high on their list of free agent targets.
2. Cowboys RB Tony Pollard
The Detroit Lions are in the market for a running back this offseason, as they look to find a replacement for Justin Jackson. The Lions may consider signing a free agent or even drafting a future lead back on Day 1 or 2 of the draft.
One player the Lions should consider is Dallas Cowboys running back, Tony Pollard. Pollard had a breakout year, with 1,007 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on the ground over 193 carries. He also had 39 receptions for 371 yards and three more touchdowns as a pass catcher. Among 38 running backs who had 150 or more touches this season, Pollard had the best yards per touch average. He’s also known to be a big play waiting to happen.
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Jamaal Williams, who had a successful season with 1,000 rushing yards and a franchise record of 17 rushing touchdowns, is also a free agent. On the other hand, D’Andre Swift is entering the last year of his rookie contract and it’s uncertain if he will be offered an extension or if there will be talks of trading him.
While Ezekiel Elliott remains the Cowboys’ primary option for short yardage and goal line, Pollard has shown he is not just a scatback. He’s listed at 6-foot tall and 209 pounds and 6 of his 9 rushing touchdowns came in the red zone. If Williams leaves in free agency, Pollard would be an exciting upgrade alongside Swift as a dual-threat lead back, if only for one year.
1. Buccaneers CB Jamel Dean
As the Detroit Lions look towards the 2023 season, they have several questions in their cornerback room. Amani Oruwariye, Will Harris, and Mike Hughes are all set to become free agents, and there is a possibility that all three may not return. Additionally, Jeff Okudah’s future with the team is uncertain as the Lions consider his fifth-year option.
To address these issues, the Lions may consider dipping into free agency to bolster their cornerback depth chart. One player they should keep an eye on tonight is Buccaneers cornerback Jamel Dean. Dean will be spending a lot of time covering CeeDee Lamb, a tough task for even the best CB’s.
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Dean, a third-round pick out of Auburn in 2019, has been a prominent piece of the Buccaneers’ secondary. In 15 games this season, he recorded 57 tackles (45 solo), two interceptions, and eight pass breakups. Despite battling a toe injury late in the season, he posted a passer rating against of just 86.0. In 2021, he had an opponent passer rating of just 50.0, a mark fit for a shutdown corner.
Pro Football Focus has ranked Dean as the No. 6 player in their early top-50 ranking of 2023 free agents. He has good size at 6-foot-1, 206 pounds, and is known for his aggressiveness, athleticism, and physicality. These traits make him a perfect fit for the Lions as they rebuild their cornerback depth chart. Playing in the same secondary as Kerby Joseph, most wide receivers were fear any route over the middle. He won’t turn 27 until October of next season, making him a potential long-term piece for the team.
The Lions will likely draft a cornerback or two in April. However, a dip into free agency for Dean would be well-warranted. The three-year, $44.5 million deal Buccaneers’ cornerback Carlton Davis got last year could serve as a benchmark for Dean’s deal. Spotrac projects his market value at $8.7 million per year, also on a three-year deal.
Get excited to watch these potential free agents!
As the Lions gear up for 2023, Monday night’s Wild Card game between the Buccaneers and Cowboys presents a valuable opportunity for fans to catch a glimpse of some potential future Lions players. These three free agents have the potential to make a significant impact on the team’s roster. All three could play a crucial role in the team’s push for the NFC North title next season. So, Lions fans, sit back, relax and enjoy the game tonight.
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