29. Detroit Lions
What went right: The Lions went all-in on rebuilding their oft-frustrating secondary, trading cornerback Darius Slay and replacing him by signing Desmond Trufant and drafting Jeff Okudah at No. 3 overall. On paper, the trio of Okudah, Trufant and Justin Coleman would rank as one of the best cornerback combinations in the league. Trading for safety Duron Harmoncompleted the defensive back makeover. They will miss Slay, but even with him on the field last season, they allowed a passer rating of 97.4, which would have been the eighth-worst mark in the league.
What went wrong: Coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn elected to rebuild most of their defense by acquiring the players Bill Belichick didn’t want to keep, a move that typically turns out poorly for other teams. Jamie Collins’ three-year, $30 million deal seemed particularly onerous for a linebacker who was a mess outside of New England during his run with Cleveland. The Lions will now start four former Pats on defense in Collins, Harmon, Trey Flowers and Danny Shelton. They look perilously thin along the defensive line, and while Belichick has been able to mold middling players into contributors across his front seven, Patricia’s players have generally been better elsewhere than they were playing for him in Detroit.
The Lions also weren’t able to parlay the No. 3 draft pick into a bidding war between the Chargers and Dolphins, forcing them to stay put. Okudah should be an impact cornerback, and I don’t have any issue with them drafting him, but this team could have sorely used an extra first-round pick. Detroit used its second-round pick on running back D’Andre Swift, and while he is a talented player, this isn’t a roster that can afford to use two second-round picks on running backs across three years. You could argue Kerryon Johnson is a sunk cost, but the Lions could have addressed running back with one of a number of veterans at minimal cost.
Instead, Detroit hit free agency yet again, and its deals were questionable. Trufant hasn’t lived up to expectations over the past three seasons. The five-year, $45 million deal it handed Halapoulivaati Vaitai pays the former Eagles swing tackle like he is an upper-echelon starter. It sure looks reminiscent of the big deal that Detroit handed former starting right tackle Rick Wagner, which didn’t work out.
What they could have done differently: Resisted the urge to go after as many former Patriots as possible. The Collins deal is a mess, and under Belichick, the Patriots have exhibited the ability to develop players such as Shelton and Harmon into useful contributors. Patricia and Quinn are trying to buy them instead. If the Lions couldn’t trade down in the first round, they should have used their second-rounder on a position that’s tougher to fill than halfback.
What’s left to do: Add defensive line help. Detroit signed Nick Williams to a two-year deal after he impressed with the Bears in his first significant stretch of pro action as a 29-year-old, but it needs another pass-rusher to mix in on a rotational basis. I’d love to see the Lions sign Jadeveon Clowney, but more realistically, this would be a landing spot for somebody like Jabaal Sheard on the edge or Marcell Dareus on the interior. Hey, one of those guys used to play for the Patriots!
If it makes anyone feel any better, the Bears’ offseason is ranked 31st, ahead only of (of course) the Texans.