Here we go!
After an amazing Divisional Round of the 2022 NFL Playoffs, there are only four teams still standing and by the time Sunday is over, we will know who will square off in Super Bowl LVI.
The NFC Championship Game will feature the Los Angeles Rams vs. the San Francisco 49ers and there are a handful of potential free agents Detroit Lions fans should be paying attention to.
Here are 5 potential FAs Lions fans should watch closely in the NFC Championship Game.
CB DARIOUS WILLIAMS, LOS ANGELES RAMS
Darious Williams was the only restricted free agent to receive the first-round tender last offseason at a value of $4.766 million, signaling how much the Rams value his contributions. The move may also demonstrate their perception of how Williams is regarded league-wide if they thought a second-round tender would not have been enough to keep another club from signing him to an offer sheet. A very solid player opposite Jalen Ramsey, Williams has thrived in a heavy zone scheme but has physical limitations at just 5-foot-9. Nevertheless, opposing quarterbacks rarely fare well throwing into his coverage, and he deserves a payday.
Darious Williams has elite quickness, movement skills and the ability to find and break up the football once it’s in the air. He can play equally well in man or zone coverage but has always been protected by his role within the Rams defense.
G AUSTIN CORBETT, LOS ANGELES RAMS
The Cleveland Browns took Corbett with the first pick in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, and his NFL career got off to a rocky start. After Corbett played just 15 snaps over one-and-a-half seasons, the Browns sent him to the Rams for a fifth-round pick. Strangely enough, Corbett’s career trajectory now somewhat resembles that of Browns star right guard Wyatt Teller, with a trade and a change of scenery leading to a boost in his play.
Corbett didn’t miss a single snap for the Rams in 2020 and logged a career-high 73.4 overall grade and 76.4 run-blocking grade despite switching from center to right guard. He’s maintained that level of play through Week 12 of 2021, and his upward trajectory, positional flexibility along the interior of the offensive line and draft status could lead to a solid payday.
Corbett’s play as the Rams’ starting right guard over the past two years has helped him shed the “bust” label that was prematurely placed on him after being drafted 33rd overall by the Browns in 2018. He’s a top-20 guard in PFF’s wins above replacement metric since 2020, and he can be plugged in as a capable starting guard for most NFL offenses.
DI SEBASTIAN JOSEPH-DAY, LOS ANGELES RAMS
The Los Angeles Rams run defense took a big hit for a few weeks following an unfortunate torn pectoral sustained by Joseph-Day in Week 7, but reports have indicated he may return for the playoffs. His ability to eat up space on the interior and free up other rushers will be valued across the league.
Joseph-Day hasn’t had the hardest job in the NFL, given that he’s been playing next to Aaron Donald, but he provides positive value to any run defense. If he’s blocked one-on-one, expect him to win most of those reps.
G LAKEN TOMLINSON, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Tomlinson has picked up where he left off in 2020, earning a second consecutive grade above 70.0. He has yet to allow a sack through Week 13 of the 2021 season. Tomlinson has surrendered a quarterback pressure on just 3.8% of pass-rush snaps, the 16th-best mark among guards with at least 200 snaps on the season. The former first-round pick of the Detroit Lions in 2015 may be in for a bigger deal this time around than his early extension signed in 2018 for three years, $16.5 million.
After a slow start to his career, Tomlinson developed into a high-end starter and his most recent work ranks him among the league’s best guards. He’s a valuable asset in the run game and a strong pass protector who has plenty of good football left as a starting guard.
DI D.J. JONES, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Jones has quietly turned in a campaign that could make him the most sought-after free-agent interior defensive lineman. The 49ers kept him on a one-year deal in 2021 after his rookie contract expired, and if it was a “prove it” situation, his career-high 74.8 overall grade certainly proved that he’s earned a stronger multi-year deal.
Jones hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, given the other players he has played alongside on San Francisco’s defensive line, but he’s positioned himself well entering 2022 free agency off a career year in 2021. He won’t add a ton of value as a pass-rusher, but Jones has been one of the better interior defensive linemen in the NFL at making impact plays against the run in recent seasons.