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3 Potential FAs Detroit Lions fans should watch closely in Chiefs vs. Steelers playoff game

The NFL Playoffs will continue on Sunday afternoon and once again, Detroit Lions fans will have to watch other teams compete for the Super Bowl.

Sunday’s nightcap begins at 8:15 PM EST and features the Kansas City Chiefs vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Here are 3 potential free agents Lions fans should be paying close attention to in today’s game.

S TYRANN MATHIEU, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

When Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith signed his four-year, $64 million extension shortly before the 2021 season, the deal had to have gotten the attention of veteran safeties league-wide. The Smith deal is one of the strongest contracts for a player in recent memory, with the signing keeping him under contract through his age-36 season. Mathieu is several years younger than Smith, and if he can lead the Kansas City Chiefs defense to a much stronger second half of the season than the first, the versatile defensive back may be able to cash in once more.

Bottom Line:
Mathieu brings leadership, energy and the ability to make plays from multiple positions to any defense he’s on.

WR JUJU SMITH-SCHUSTER, PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Smith-Schuster turned down offers from the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs to stay with the Steelers, who selected him in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Smith-Schuster was once believed to be supplanting Antonio Brown as the best wide receiver in Pittsburgh, but even with Brown no longer in town, that still isn’t the case. However, Smith-Schuster plays a very valuable role as a sure-handed slot receiver who quarterbacks can rely on in critical situations. He ranks top-15 in third-down receptions by a wide receiver since he was drafted in 2017 (85). That said, he will once again likely be facing one-year flier offers after missing much of the 2021 season to injury.

Bottom Line:
Smith-Schuster’s career arc has largely been a function of the offenses that he’s played on, putting up big numbers on the “Killer B” offenses early in his career before seeing his numbers take a nosedive on dysfunctional Steelers offenses since 2019. He won’t transform an offense, but he can be a nice complementary piece on an offense that already has legitimate outside weapons.

CB CHARVARIUS WARD, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Ward is playing the 2021 season on a second-round restricted free agent tender and continues to show he can hold up as a man cover corner with good size at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds. If Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis and New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson were to be franchise-tagged or extended by their current clubs, Ward would have an argument as the best cornerback available due to his ability to play out wide in a man coverage scheme.

Ward also excels in an area that every defensive coordinator will love: tackling. His 5% missed tackle percentage is the lowest rate among the top 75 outside cornerbacks in total tackles since 2019.

Bottom Line:
A former undrafted free agent, Ward boasts the size and speed to play press-man coverage on the outside. Given his career production, he projects better as a No. 2 option, particularly in a man-heavy scheme on a team that dictates matchups.

*Analysis via Pro Football Focus

 

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