The Detroit Lions' 2020 season has come and gone.
And now, the attention of the organization and its fans turns toward the offseason, with a myriad of important decisions ahead for the successors to Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn.
Without further ado, here is your offseason primer for the Lions.
1.) Reasons for hope
Detroit will go into the 2021 season with some nice, young pieces on the offensive line.
Left tackle Taylor Decker, who is 27 years old, was Pro Football Focus' No. 12 overall offensive tackle (82.0 grade) and PFF's seventh-ranked tackle in terms of pass protection in 2020.
The fifth-year pro finished with just two sacks and 29 pressures allowed on 1,066 snaps.
On that same line, the Lions also possess 24-year-old center Frank Ragnow, a Pro Bowl selection for the first time this season, and rookie offensive guard Jonah Jackson, who held his own in 16 total games at both left and right guard.
Along with those three individuals, the organization can be hopeful for the future due to the presence of Pro Bowl punter Jack Fox, who's just 24 years old, and Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson, who's only 23.
Fox posted the second-highest net yards per punt average in '20 (44.8). Meanwhile, Hockenson, in his second season in the league, recorded career-high totals in receptions (67), receiving yards (723) and touchdowns (six).
These aforementioned individuals, along with rookie running back D'Andre Swift, appear to be the team's most surefire building blocks for the future.
2.) Reasons to worry
The defense failed the Lions in a huge way in 2020.
The team's defensive unit not only finished 32nd in both points allowed (519) and yards permitted (6,716). But, with those marks, it also set franchise records for the most points and yards allowed in a single season -- records that were previously held by the 2008 squad that went 0-16.
To no surprise, Detroit had a tough time stopping both the run and the pass over the course of the campaign, too.
It finished dead last in both rushing and passing touchdowns allowed, with 27 and 38, respectively.
There's no doubt that the defensive side of the ball needs to be overhauled this offseason by the new regime.
3.) Biggest question
To rebuild or to retool. You might think that it's a matter of semantics.
But, it's not and here's why: If the next regime completely tears it down and conducts a roster "rebuild," it's trading away franchise passer Matthew Stafford this offseason, in an effort to accumulate multiple draft assets. It also would likely then look to offload the contracts of fellow veterans Jamie Collins and Trey Flowers.
Now, if the new regime instead opts for a "retool," Stafford stays, and is allowed to play a 13th season in the Motor City.
I personally would go in the rebuild direction. But, at this point, it could go either way, depending on the individual that is hired to be the team's next general manager.
4.) Head coach/GM search
From all accounts, the clear-cut favorite to land the team's vacant head coaching position is San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.
The Dearborn, Mich., native guided a 49ers defense that despite injuries to numerous impact players this past season, such as defensive ends Nick Bosa and Dee Ford, managed to allow the fourth-fewest passing yards (3,327) and the seventh-fewest rushing yards (1,703).
If he doesn't land the Lions job, he seems destined to end up with one of the five other NFL organizations that presently has a head coach opening.
As for who will be Detroit's next general manager, the competition seems to be more wide open.
Three internal and five external candidates have already interviewed for the position, including ESPN NFL analyst/Monday Night Football commentator Louis Riddick, former Houston Texans GM Rick Smith and former Atlanta Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff.
If I was in charge of the Lions, I would hire a GM before hiring a head coach.
However, team president Rod Wood told reporters in his end-of-the-season media session Tuesday that the organization could very well name its next head man before hiring its successor to Quinn.
I consider that to be rather illogical, as I believe a franchise's GM should be responsible for handling all head coaching and personnel decisions.
But, remember, when it comes to the Lions, a common-sensical approach doesn't always prevail.
5.) Key free agents
• Wide receiver Kenny Golladay
• WR Marvin Jones Jr.
• Defensive end Everson Griffen
• DE Romeo Okwara
• Linebacker Reggie Ragland
6.) The Matthew Stafford dilemma
What should the Lions do with Stafford this offseason: Trade him or hold onto him for a 13th season? It's one of the biggest items that the next regime will have to tackle when it takes over.
Both trading him and keeping him could be advantageous for the organization.
By dealing him, Detroit could accumulate multiple draft assets, helping to replenish a 2021 draft pick haul (five total draft picks) that was depleted by the previous regime.
The franchise could also very well land an additional first-rounder, as a result of moving on from the gun-slinger.
On the flip side, one advantageous aspect of keeping him is that he's still playing at a high enough level to give the Lions a shot to be at least semi-competitive in '21.
However, Detroit is far away from being a legitimate playoff contender at this point, minimizing the significance of holding onto Stafford for the purpose of winning games next season.
The more important reason for why the team's new head coach-general manager duo should consider not dealing him is the fact that he could serve as a mentor to the quarterback that the team drafts in the first or second round this year.
Stafford, who is under contract through 2022, could then play one final season in Motown, before handing over the "keys" to the franchise to the next signal-caller that will hopefully call Detroit home for a decade-plus, just like No. 9 did.
And if Stafford isn't comfortable in serving in that type of role, it should provide the next front-office "head honcho" with all the more reason to deal him this offseason.
7.) What to do with the No. 7 overall pick
Clemson's Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State's Justin Fields are almost surefire locks to go No. 1 and No. 2 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars and the N.Y. Jets, respectively, in this April's draft.
After Lawrence and Fields, BYU's Zach Wilson is likely the third quarterback that will go off the board.
If he is still there at No. 7, I wouldn't hesitate for a second to take him, and I guarantee that the Lions wouldn't, either -- no matter who ends up calling the shots for the organization moving forward.
If Wilson is off the board -- and there is a good likelihood of this being the case -- the situation becomes more interesting for the replacements of Patricia and Quinn with the team's first-round selection.
Will the franchise still want to acquire a quarterback -- i.e. North Dakota State's Trey Lance or Alabama's Mac Jones -- or will it instead look to upgrade its porous defense?
From my vantage point -- which, as a disclaimer, is subject to change as draft season plays out -- if Lawrence, Fields and Wilson are all unavailable at No. 7, Detroit needs to turn its attention toward a defensive playmaker, such as Michigan EDGE rusher Kwity Paye or Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons.
The Lions need to focus on overhauling the defensive side of the ball all throughout the 2021 draft, and selecting either Paye or Parsons in the first round would be a solid start.
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