in

7 Potential FAs Detroit Lions fans should watch closely in Cowboys vs. 49ers 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.

The second matchup of the day begins at 4:30 EST and features the Dallas Cowboys vs. the San Francisco 49ers.

Here are 7 potential free agents Lions fans should be paying close attention to in today’s game.
NOTE: Cowboys WR Michael Gallup is included on this list but he is injured and not playing in today’s game.

EDGE RANDY GREGORY, DALLAS COWBOYS

Gregory has finally reached unrestricted free agent status after getting drafted No. 60 overall in 2015 and making an impressive return to full-time football action over the last two seasons. His 90.7 pass-rush grade through Week 13 of the 2021 season ranks third among edge rushers, and his 17.3% pressure percentage ranks sixth among edge rushers with at least 100 pass-rush snaps. The big question may be whether Dallas is able to retain a player who has developed into a premier pass-rusher while also paying edge defender Demarcus Lawrence top-five money at the position. If Gregory does reach free agency, there may be a long line of teams vying for his services.

Bottom Line:
It took several years of setbacks, but Gregory has shown the pass-rushing ability that made him a high-end prospect in the 2015 NFL Draft. He is at his best as a designated pass-rusher rushing off the edge.

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.

Bottom Line:
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.

WR MICHAEL GALLUP, DALLAS COWBOYS (*Not playing/Injured)

Gallup’s contract year got off to a bit of a shaky start, as he sustained an injury in Week 1 that kept him sidelined through Week 9. He has caught five passes in each of his past three games, though. He will have to make the most of the second half of the season to boost his value back up, but his durability shouldn’t be much of a question — his length absence marked the first time in his career he’s missed significant time.

The larger question may be if Gallup benefits from playing with quarterback Dak Prescott and alongside Amari Cooper in one of the league’s premier passing attacks, but Gallup is a productive outside wide receiver who will be coveted come March.

Bottom Line:
Gallup is a really intriguing receiver who is capable of doing a lot and even generating yards and catches against elite corners like Jalen Ramsey. He may not have the ceiling, consistency or elite athleticism of the best receivers in the game, but he would make a fantastic complementary piece to an offense that already has one.

G CONNOR WILLIAMS, DALLAS COWBOYS

Williams was a top-50 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and a full-time starter at left guard right out of the gate in Week 1 of his rookie season. He’s gotten better each season, earning career-high marks in pass-blocking (71.4) and run-blocking (71.6) through Week 13 the 2021 season. Williams understandably gets overlooked playing alongside an elite left tackle in Tyron Smith and with the Dallas Cowboys’ other guard, Zack Martin, leading the way in PFF grade among guards since 2020 (94.9). Nevertheless, he’s a solid young player with more room to grow.

Bottom Line:
Another offensive lineman who took a couple of years to get going, Williams stepped up his game with a top-20 grade in 2020 and he’s continued that success in 2021. He’s a better run blocker than he is a pass-blocker, and he’s a mid-tier starting option with scheme diversity.

LB LEIGHTON VANDER ESCH, DALLAS COWBOYS

Vander Esch has been up and down in his first four years in the NFL, but the talent that made him a first-round pick in 2018 still flashes on occasion and will certainly have teams take notice. The Boise State product earned three single-game grades above 90.0 this year, two of which came in the final month of the season. If he can play more consistently from week to week, teams may view him as a low-risk, high-reward option in a weak linebacker class.

Bottom Line:
Vander Esch came into the NFL in 2018 and instantly became one of the best linebackers in the league with an ideal blend of size and athleticism for the position. That version of Vander Esch hasn’t shown up again in the three years since, due in large part to injuries. It’s fair to question if he will ever get back to that level again.

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.

Bottom Line:
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.

S JAYRON KEARSE, DALLAS COWBOYS

This offseason, Kearse signed a veteran-minimum salary with the Cowboys and was one of many safety additions alongside Damontae Kazee and hybrid safety-linebacker Keanu Neal. Despite the competition for snaps, Kearse has emerged as the best of the bunch and is on track for a career-high PFF grade on over 1,000 snaps after never having played more than 503 in a single season prior.

Bottom Line:
Jayron Kearse is a potential answer to the matchup problems caused by tight ends who can run and catch like wideouts but in a 250-pound frame. Kearse has man coverage skills but in a much bigger body. How he fares in traditional zone assignments is less clear, which limits his market.

*Analysis via Pro Football Focus

 

 

Have you subscribed to our YouTube Channel yet? Subscribe and hit that notification bell to stay up to date on all the latest Detroit sports news, rumors, interviews, live streams, and more!
MUST READ:
NFL insider gives interesting intel on what Detroit Lions will do with No. 2 pick

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

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