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One Offensive Free Agent Who Could Aid Lions

Read more on the one offensive free agent who could aid the Detroit Lions in 2021.

The Detroit Lions' 2021 roster undoubtedly has a variety of holes on both sides of the ball. 

But, when you focus on the offensive side, there's one area of weakness that clearly sticks out more than the others: the team's wide receivers group. 

To the Lions' credit, general manager Brad Holmes did go out this offseason and add Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman via free agency and Amon-Ra St. Brown via the draft to plug the holes at receiver created, most notably, by the departures of Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. 

However, the organization is still lacking a legitimate No. 1 wideout. 

So, you might think I'd say that Holmes & Co. should add one of the remaining free-agent wideouts, such as former Lions receiver Golden Tate or Arizona Cardinals legend Larry Fitzgerald, who has still yet to announce whether he's going to retire. Well, if you were thinking that, you'd be mistaken. 

Simply put, Tate and Fitzgerald would both just be additional depth pieces for Detroit's receivers group. And the same can be said about fellow free-agent wideout Kenny Stills. 

None of them would be clear-cut No. 1 receiving options for the Lions. 

Thus, if I was going to add one more offensive player to Detroit's roster prior to training camp and via free agency, it wouldn't be a wide receiver. Instead, it'd be a running back. 

Sure, the Lions already have two capable runners in D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams on the roster. However, new Detroit offensive play-caller Anthony Lynn plans to place a heavy emphasis on the ground game this upcoming season, to help provide Lions signal-caller Jared Goff with a balanced offensive attack in his first campaign in the Motor City. 

Subsequently, I'm all for adding another veteran back to the mix. And no, not Todd Gurley, who has been frequently mentioned as a target of Detroit's. Instead, I'm talking about Duke Johnson.


That's not a mistype, either. I firmly believe that Johnson is the free-agent running back the Lions should pursue to beef up their ground game in time for the start of the 2021 regular season. 

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Here's why: For starters, Johnson, who had suited up in all 16 games in each year of his career prior to last season, would come at a cheaper price than Gurley -- and perhaps much cheaper. 

He'd also slide much more easily into the role of a reserve back than Gurley. And, with Swift and Williams already on the roster, it's highly expected that any additional back would be, at the very best, the No. 2 back on the Lions' running backs depth chart. 

Out of the 88 games Gurley has logged a snap in during his career, he's started in 87 of those contests. 

Meanwhile, in stark contrast, Johnson has played in a total of 91 games in his career, and only has logged 17 starts. 

Additionally, from 2016-19 (while with the Cleveland Browns and then the Houston Texans), Johnson averaged 4.7 yards per carry, as compared to Gurley's 4.1 yards per attempt.  

Similar to Gurley, Johnson's also a competent pass-catcher out of the backfield. 

In 2020, Johnson hauled in 28 passes from Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson for 249 yards and a TD in 11 games (five starts). 

Sure, Gurley would be the sexier splash, and would add stronger competition to Detroit's RBs room than Johnson. 

However, at this advanced stage in the offseason, I'll go with the more affordable Johnson as the one remaining offensive free agent that Holmes & Co. should ink to a contract.

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