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Lions' Brad Holmes Follows Winning Formula

Brad Holmes has stuck to shrewd ways in building Lions' roster.
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Day 1 of the 2024 NFL offseason's legal tampering period has come and gone, and one thing has become crystal clear. Brad Holmes has mastered the ability to build up the Detroit Lions’ roster without sacrificing the long-term future of the organization.

Holmes, now in his fourth offseason as Lions general manager, showed off the ability to do so once again on Monday. He acquired both veteran EDGE Marcus Davenport and veteran defensive back Carlton Davis III, without having to part with more with a third-round pick in this April's draft. That third-rounder – the No. 92 overall pick in the 2024 draft – was dealt to the Buccaneers to acquire Davis. It felt like more than fair compensation for a No. 2-caliber cornerback who has made a living off of excelling in man coverage. 

Detroit, by the way, also acquired a pair of sixth-rounders in the trade with Tampa Bay (one in each 2024 and 2025). 

Meanwhile, Davenport, who most recently was a member of the Minnesota Vikings, was an unrestricted free agent, and inked a one-year deal with a base salary of reportedly $6.5 million.

Davenport had a disappointing 2023 campaign, playing in just four games due to an ankle injury. However, prior to his short-lived stint in Minnesota, he spent five seasons in New Orleans, where he became known as a reliable pass-rusher. The 2018 first-round pick amassed 142 total tackles, including 25 for loss, 21.5 sacks and 60 quarterback hits in 63 career games with the Saints. 

While in New Orleans, Davenport also became acclimated with Lions head coach Dan Campbell and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, both of whom were Saints assistants at the time. Campbell spent the 2016-2020 seasons as New Orleans’ tight ends coach and assistant head coach, while Glenn served as the Saints’ defensive backs coach during that same time span.

In essence, the Davenport contract is a one-year, prove-it type of deal, which Holmes has deployed multiple times now in his tenure as Lions GM. It's a calculated risk for Detroit, which entered the offseason with a dire need for a pass-rushing counterpart at EDGE for Pro Bowler Aidan Hutchinson. And, in a best-case scenario, Davenport stays healthy this upcoming season, and becomes just that for Hutchinson and the Lions.

Signing Davenport and trading for Davis, another player with plenty to prove this coming season after being limited to 12 games in 2023 due to various injuries, won't be confused for the “sexiest” of moves anytime soon. Yet, if Davenport and Davis can manage to stay on the field for the majority of the 2024 campaign, they will undoubtedly make the Lions better and at two major areas of need (EDGE and cornerback, respectively). Holmes deserves to be commended for that.

And guess what: These two moves leave Detroit with plenty of cap space to make a “splash” signing this offseason. Per Spotrac, the Lions entered Monday with about $47.4 million in available cap space.

Subsequently, I believe it's still very feasible that Holmes signs a high-profile defender during free agency (e.g. Cowboys cornerback Stephon Gilmore). 

And, you've got to also believe that Holmes will utilize the draft, as he has so efficiently in his time with the Lions, to continue to build up the defensive side of the ball. He's found impact defenders in all three of his previous drafts as the organization's lead decision-maker (Alim McNeill in 2021, Hutchinson in 2022 and Brian Branch in 2023). So, I wouldn't put it past Holmes to nab another difference-making type defensive talent with his seven total draft picks this April. 

Holmes’ work upgrading the Lions’ defense is hardly done. But, at the very least, through him remaining committed to his shrewd approach to roster-construction, he's put Detroit in position to have a successful offseason.