Well, the NFL Draft is in the books and many of the top free agents have already been signed. That being said, looking up and down the Detroit Lions roster, there are still a few positions that could use some improving.
General manager Bob Quinn has made it very clear that he is all about creating as much competition that he can at every single position on the team. Don’t believe him? Well, let’s put it this way, he even used a draft pick on a long snapper to provide competition for current LS Don Muhlbach.
Assuming that Quinn’s theory of creating competition is true, you can be sure that he is still checking out the free agent market for that one guy (or more) who could improve the Lions roster.
Here is a list of 5 free agents who could make an immediate impact for the Lions in 2016.
Dwight Freeney (DE)
With the news of DE Jason Jones signing with the Miami Dolphins, the Detroit Lions have a couple of options. 1) They can roll with Devin Taylor and Ziggy Ansah, with rookie Anthony Zettel rotating in, or 2) Lions GM Bob Quinn can take a look at the free agent market to see what is still available.
If the Lions go with option No. 2, one veteran DE they should strongly consider is Dwight Freeney. Though Freeney is 36-years-old, he still has enough left in the tank to contribute to a Lions team that is currently a bit thin at the DE position.
Freeney, who has 119.5 career sacks, is one of the best in NFL history at getting to the quarterback. Worst case scenario, players like Ansah, Taylor, and Zettel would be able to learn their craft from one of the best ever.
Donte Whitner (SS)
I really think that Bob Quinn and the Detroit Lions were hoping that they could go into the 2016 season with Glover Quin at free safety and Isa Abdul-Quddos taking the strong safety duties. Unfortunately, Abdul-Quddos signed with the Miami Dolphins, leaving the Lions with an unfilled position, at least in terms of quality.
In the 2016 NFL Draft, the Lions used a fourth-round pick to select the hard-hitting Miles Killebrew out of Southern Utah. Though Killebrew has been drawing a ton of attention for his bone-shattering hits, he will probably take some time to develop into a consistent NFL safety. Because of this, the Lions should strongly consider taking a flyer on Donte Whiter.
Whitner, who was recently released by the Cleveland Browns, is still a good NFL player and will pay off dividends for whichever NFL team signs him.
Leon Hall (CB)
Heading into the 2016 NFL Draft, there was very little doubt in my head that the Lions would draft at least one cornerback. Well, by the time the seven rounds of the draft were complete, the Lions completely ignored the position and now they are left with the choices of standing pat or signing a free agent.
With Darius Slay on one side of the field, opposing quarterbacks are sure to attack whichever corner is on the other side and that player had better be ready. As of now, it looks like Nevin Lawson will be that guy. Lawson started nine games for the Lions in 2015, but really only has one full season under his belt after being injured for most of his rookie campaign. He could on the verge of emerging as a solid starting cornerback, but another year of learning could do him well.
One free agent cornerback the Lions should consider is veteran Leon Hall. Hall is 31-years-old and has had some injury concerns, but he could give the Lions defense some credibility opposite Darius Slay, especially on passing downs.
Brandon Boykin (CB)
As I said when talking about Leon Hall, the Lions failed to address the cornerback position in the draft. Unless they plan on going to war with Nevin Lawson as the starter, which would not be terrible, they will have to make a move.
Though I would prefer the Lions to sign Hall to a short deal because of his experience, another option would be Brandon Boykin.
Boykin, who is still only 25-years-old, was just released by the Carolina Panthers and will probably not last long on the market. The youngster is still an above average cornerback and could definitely help the Lions out, especially if Lawson does not get the job done.
Mike Neal (LB)
Another position that the Lions could afford to improve depth-wise is linebacker. We all know that DeAndre Levy is expected to return healthy and he could end up being the biggest addition to the entire team. Along with Levy on the outside, the Lions are likely to start the season with Tahir Whitehead in the middle, though that is not yet a done deal.
Assuming that the Lions release Stephen Tulloch (what is taking so long?), they would be wise to consider bringing in another linebacker.
The best free agent linebacker still available is Mike Neal. Neal, who is 28-years-old, has spent his entire career with the Green Bay Packers. Over the past four seasons, Neal has played in all 48 of the Packers regular season games (starting 28 of those) and managed to record at least four sacks in each season. According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Neal has already met with the Lions, so this option could be a real possibility.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 17, 2016