When the Detroit Lions and Shelia Ford Hamp decided to part ways with Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia, it was obvious that the new general manager was going to have some serious work to do.
Now, with Brad Holmes calling the shots, he has the tall task of fixing plenty of the old regime’s mistakes.
Whether Holmes considers it a rebuild or not, it’s exactly what the Lions are currently going through. So far, the moves Holmes has made in Detroit have been right on course for a team taking a long-term approach.
The first major roster decision came with trading quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford’s wishes were the catalyst for the trade, but it still needed to happen, as the timeline didn’t add up between the two parties. A trade was mutually beneficial, and netted the Lions plenty of draft capital, including a first-rounder in both 2022 and 2023.
A couple of other personnel decisions recently came down the pipeline, as well. Holmes opted to not use the franchise tag on receiver Kenny Golladay or defensive end Romeo Okwara.
For different reasons, again, Holmes made the best decision for the future. Golladay was looking for a top-dollar contract despite not necessarily being in that elite wideout category. While turning 28 years old in the middle of the upcoming season, Golladay would likely be trending on the downside of his career by the time the Lions realistically would be competitive again. On top of all that, of all the positions in the NFL, receiver is generally one of the easier positions to replace.
Meanwhile, Okwara had a great 2020 season. No matter the case, placing the franchise tag on an EDGE rusher would cost almost $18 million. That’s a lot of money for a one-year wonder on an already cash-strapped team. Let another team overpay for Okwara in free agency.
In all likelihood, the Lions won’t be big spenders in free agency. Despite not having much money to spend this season, backloading contracts could circumvent their lack of funds in 2021 -- that’s not to say they should, though.
One of the perks of letting Golladay and Okwara hit the open market is the ability for the Lions to earn compensatory draft picks. Again, that's Holmes looking at what’s best for the team a few years down the road.
Lastly, with a variety of the over-priced free agents Quinn signed, Holmes is starting to cut ties to take on dead cap this year, instead of in 2022 or 2023.
With expectations low this upcoming season, Holmes should be trying to get out from most of the big contracts Quinn handed out. Holmes already has released players like Jesse James, Justin Coleman, Christian Jones and Desmond Trufant. A few more cuts could be on the way, as well.
It is still very early in Holmes' tenure as Lions general manager. The results may not show up early. But, at least he's setting the team up to be competitive in the future and not just delaying the inevitable.
This Lions team will need to get worse before it's able to truly be considerably better. Building up the number of draft picks and future cap space is the best way to turn things around, and Holmes is doing just that.
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