The Detroit Lions enter the 2023 offseason with the 10th most cap space in the NFL. This comes after the team parted ways with defensive lineman Michael Brockers to open up roughly $10 million in cap room.
Detroit enters free agency with roughly $23 million in salary cap space, and there is room for more. Cutting Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Romeo Okwara would open up an additional $14 million in cap room.
With money to spend, the Lions are in a position to sign one of the big fish in this year’s free agency pool. The Lions have the cash to bring in the likes of Bobby Wagner, Jamel Dean or James Bradberry. Signing any one of those players would instantly boost an ailing Lions’ defense.
However, it would be a mistake for the Lions to spend all of their cap room in one place, and bringing in one of the top free agents would suck away most of the team’s money. Spotrac places Dean’s and Bradberry’s average annual value (AAV) at $16.5 million and $15.1 million respectively. Signing one of those players plus the money needed to sign the team’s draft picks would severely deplete the Lions’ cap space.
In the long run, the Lions may be better off using free agency to shore up depth at positions of need. Their defense ranked 28th in points allowed and dead last in yards allowed in the 2022 season. Signing a big-name defensive player helps, but not nearly enough to warrant the price tag.
How should the Detroit Lions approach free agency?
The Lions are better off spreading their money around.
There is still starting talent available in free agency for a significantly cheaper price tag. Linebacker Bobby Okereke enjoyed a productive season with the Indianapolis Colts this past season, and he carries an AAV of just $2.3 million. Cameron Sutton proved he can be a team’s top cornerback with the Pittsburgh Steelers. His AAV sits at just $7.6 million.
Signing starting-caliber players with similar AAVs would provide the Lions with enough room to sign quality depth talent as well. With four picks in the top 60, the Lions can search for their star playmakers in the NFL Draft.
If the Detroit Lions were one or two pieces away from becoming a true contender for a Super Bowl, spending big on a star free agent makes sense. However, that is simply not where the team is. Detroit has numerous holes on its defense. The team can fill some of these holes through the draft. But there is no certainty about how reliable a rookie will be.
For a team with playoff aspirations entering the 2023 season, the Lions cannot afford to spend all their money in one place.
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