5 Potential FAs Detroit Lions fans should watch closely in Buccaneers vs. Eagles playoff game

By W.G. Brady  - Senior News Desk Writer
6 Min Read
Detroit Lions

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.

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The first matchup begins at 1:00 EST and features the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. the Philadelphia Eagles.

Here are 5 potential free agents Lions fans should be paying close attention to in today’s game.

CB CARLTON DAVIS, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Carlton Davis is one of very few good, young cornerbacks set to hit the free agent market and among an even shorter list of cornerbacks with the ability to play man coverage and battle head-to-head with an opposing team’s No. 1 wide receiver. This more rare skill set always has a higher earning potential on the open market, but a franchise tag here for around $17 million-$17.5 million might be the most likely outcome.

Tampa Bay went the franchise tag route with wide receiver Chris Godwin this past offseason, and they may elect to go that route once more as Davis has missed some time to injury just like Godwin did in 2020.

Bottom Line:
Carlton Davis is a talented No. 1 corner in pretty much any scheme. He has the profile of a corner that should excel in man coverage, but he has actually been better in zone shells throughout his NFL career. He would be a fit for most cornerback needy teams.

CB STEVEN NELSON, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Steven Nelson was entering the final year of his three-year, $25 million contract signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers and wanted an extension before Week 1 of 2021. With Pittsburgh already exhausting a lot of resources to retain key players, and with edge defender T.J. Watt set to sign the biggest contract for a defensive player in the entire NFL just months later, they decided an outright release would be better for both parties. Nelson didn’t have to leave the state of Pennsylvania, latching on in Philadelphia on a one-year, $2.5 million flier. Operating as the No. 2 alongside Darius Slay, Nelson will look to cash in on a longer-term deal after the season, and he may finally be departing from the state of Pennsylvania.

Bottom Line:
Steven Nelson fits in any scheme as a No. 2 corner who will consistently make some plays and give up some yardage and touchdowns. He is at his best in zone coverage and would be even better with a team that has a legitimate No. 1.

EDGE DEREK BARNETT, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

The Eagles let 2017 first-round pick Derek Barnett play out his fifth-year option season in 2021, going so far as to push $7.25 million in salary cap into 2022 just to fit everyone on the books. While this could suggest the two sides will at least explore an extension after the season, Philadelphia signed 2018 third-round edge rusher Josh Sweat to a three-year, $40 million extension, which could make Barnett the odd man out.

Barnett is very consistent, with his five season grades landing between 59.0 and 68.0. No facet of his play has ever earned a grade below 55.0 for a season. He has a very high floor, but his ceiling may not be as high as was originally projected when he came out of Tennessee. A good comparison contract signed recently could be Cincinnati Bengals edge rusher Sam Hubbard, who signed a four-year, $40 million extension before the 2021 season. Hubbard is also a player who is stout in run defense at 4-3 defensive end but doesn’t offer a ton of production as a pass-rusher.

Bottom Line:
Barnett has been extremely consistent in his five NFL seasons, showing to be an effective run defender and a mediocre pass-rusher. He is a complementary piece in a good defensive line rotation.

S JORDAN WHITEHEAD, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Whitehead played in Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl victory last year with a torn labrum, demonstrating how tough a player he is, which is exactly what you need at the strong safety position. His 5-foot-11, 200-pound build and play style are somewhat reminiscent of Cincinnati Bengals strong safety Vonn Bell. Bell signed a three-year, $18 million contract with the Bengals prior to the 2020 season that could serve as something of a blueprint here.

Bottom Line:
Whitehead is an enforcer type in an NFL that’s trending toward more coverage bodies at the safety position. When he’s at linebacker depth and moving toward the line of scrimmage, there are few safeties in the NFL better at making an impact.

G ALEX CAPPA, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Cappa was drafted in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of Division II Humboldt State. And he’s gotten better each season as he made a huge adjustment to the speed of the NFL game, culminating in career highs as a pass-blocker (71.1) and run-blocker (71.4). The Buccaneers also have center Ryan Jensen hitting free agency and may not be able to retain both players, which could lead to a solid free agency for Cappa.

Bottom Line:
As the NFL becomes more spread out, interior offensive linemen will need to be powerful enough to win one-on-one blocks between the guards. Cappa fits that mold and should add value to teams struggling with its downhill runs.

*Analysis via Pro Football Focus

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