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Where Lions Stand at Cornerback Following Release of Justin Coleman

Read more on the Detroit Lions' cornerback situation, following the release of Justin Coleman

Brad Holmes and the Detroit Lions have reportedly been actively trying to create cap space in anticipation for free agency. 

In addition to the decision to not use the franchise tag on either wide receiver Kenny Golladay or defensive end Romeo Okwara, the team has also made a series of cuts, according to reports.

The most recent of these cuts was cornerback Justin Coleman. If Coleman is declared a post-June 1 release, the Lions will save $9 million in cap space. Should that not be the case, Detroit will still save a little over $4.94 million. 

Coleman is the second cornerback the Lions have cut loose this offseason, joining fellow veteran Desmond Trufant. The decision to cut both players leaves the Lions without their two season-opening starters at the position.

Coleman defends against Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson. 

Coleman defends against Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson. 

The Lions have several options returning at the position, albeit those options are considerably inexperienced. And, two others -- Darryl Roberts and Tony McRae -- are set to be free agents.

Subtracting the departed, the Lions have four cornerbacks on the roster. 

The most notable is Jeff Okudah, whom the Lions selected No. 3 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. Okudah spent a lot of 2020 on the shelf, missing the last six games due to a hamstring injury. 

When Okudah did play, the results weren’t spectacular, either. 

In the games he suited up for, he spent time guarding receivers such as Davante Adams, Michael Thomas and Julio Jones. Okudah registered a coverage grade from Pro Football Focus above 60 just twice in 2020, while scoring below 40 on three separate occasions. 

Many expect a massive leap in production from Okudah. However, it would be more realistic to plan on a steady growth. The struggles in man-to-man coverage won’t go away in the blink of an eye. 

Instead, it’s more likely that Okudah will spend the season fine-tuning his technique, and should be playing his best ball by the middle-to-late part of his second season. 

Opposite him is Amani Oruwariye. 

A fifth-round pick in 2019, Oruwariye displayed promise amid his struggles in 2020. He played over 1,000 snaps, broke up six passes and intercepted one, as well. 

Now, he may be looked to as the shutdown guy, although that’s not necessarily what he was projected to be coming out of Penn State.  

The other notable corner on the roster is Mike Ford, who just signed a new deal to stay in Detroit. 

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The Detroit Lions and Brad Holmes will have some key decisions to make this offseason.

Ford has been with the Lions for three seasons now. He contributed the most in his rookie year in 2018, during which he played over 300 snaps.

In 2020, Ford played just six games and in a variety of roles, ranging from slot corner to strong safety. 

The other option on the roster is Godwin Igwebuike, a second-year player from Northwestern who is with Detroit on a futures contract. 

Having four, rather young options to choose from is not an ideal place to be, even for a team setting up for a full-scale rebuild. 

Expect for the Lions to attempt to make an addition or two during the offseason, whether it be through free agency or the draft. 

In the draft, they could target Virginia Tech's Caleb Farley or Alabama's Patrick Surtain II in the first round. 

Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Bengals' Mackensie Alexander, the Pittsburgh Steelers' Mike Hilton and the Washington Football Team's Ronald Darby are potentially cheap free agents the Lions could pick up to aid the secondary.  

Such a free-agent acquisition could serve as a mentor for the young secondary, while also providing a boost on the field to the defensive backs group.

Detroit's secondary is presently not deep enough to lose either Okudah or Oruwariye for a significant period of time to injury. It's also not talented enough to stop the opposition's top pass-catchers on a week-to-week basis.

Subsequently, it will be interesting to see how Holmes & Co. address the void this offseason.

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