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What They're Saying: Lions Took Calculated Risks

Reacting to Lions early free agency moves.

Here is a collection of what was said by pundits about the Detroit Lions transactions, on the first day of the league's legal tampering period. 

The Athletic

Trade grade: B

"Judging by my mentions on X, formerly Twitter, either the Lions or Bucs significantly won or lost the trade, so these grades should go over well with everyone.

Ultimately, it comes down to Davis’ availability. If he makes it through the season relatively healthy — even just matching his career high of 14 starts — and is available in the playoffs, it’ll be a good trade for the Lions as they attempt to make another run at the NFC title.

However, if Davis isn’t healthy, it’ll be shades of 2023 when the Lions added defensive backs Emmanuel Moseley and C.J. Gardner-Johnson before each dealt with significant injuries. That doomsday scenario would adjust the perception of the trade."

CBS Sports

Trade grade: B+

"Detroit certainly needed to address cornerback after going aggressive the year prior with little results. Emmanuel Moseley played just two snaps in coverage before going down for the season with a torn ACL in his right knee, one year after tearing the ACL in his left knee. Cam Sutton allowed five passing touchdowns and an 80.4 passer rating in coverage last season, the first of a three-year deal he signed in free agency.

The Lions used their available cap space to take a chance on Davis heading into the final year of his contract to pair with Sutton. He has no immediate connections to defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn or defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend, but will be counted upon to improve a pass defense that allowed 28 pass touchdowns (28th in NFL) and 7.8 yards per attempt last season (31st in NFL)." 

Sports Illustrated

Trade grade: C+

"The Detroit Lions made the NFC title game, but they’re not settling with a defensive roster that needed work in 2023.

Detroit addressed its suspect secondary by acquiring cornerback Carlton Davis III in a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who received a 2024 third-round pick. The Lions also received sixth-round selections in ’24 and ’25 from the Bucs.

Davis was entering the last year of his contract and scheduled to make $14.5 million.

Davis signed a three-year, $44.5 million contract extension in 2022 to remain in Tampa Bay. After back-to-back rocky seasons, the Lions are hoping he’ll have a bounce-back year and provide improvements to a poor secondary. The Lions added cornerbacks Cameron Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley last season, but the moves didn’t pay off on the field. Davis will provide competition and much-needed depth for the cornerbacks in Detroit.

As for the Buccaneers, they had plenty of depth in the secondary and gained cap space, which was needed after working out deals with Mike Evans, Baker Mayfield and Antoine Winfield Jr. The Buccaneers could replace Davis with the Lions’ third-round pick."


Trade grade: B-

"Acquiring a previously great cornerback at a low cost tends to be pretty good business. The position is so volatile from year to year that players can ascend and descend without warning, so sometimes the thing to do is bet on the player you know can be a No. 1 cornerback and hope the variance swings in your direction.

The downside is that by sending a third-round pick to pay Davis $14 million on a one-year deal Detroit is not buying that low, however. Consider: a year ago the Dolphins traded a third-round pick for Jalen Ramsey, who was making roughly the same amount of money -- the Lions will owe Davis $14 million in 2024 -- with an extra year of guarantees ... but Ramsey is a better player.

But it's clear that the Lions had to make moves to upgrade their secondary. They tried a year ago but to no avail -- injuries derailed C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Emmanuel Moseley's seasons and Cameron Sutton wasn't great -- allowing 1.4 yards per coverage snap and plus-18 EPA. The Lions allowed 0.08 EPA per play -- fifth-worst among all teams and a significant weakness to their title hopes. They had to do something."

Pro Football Network

"Finding a No. 1 cornerback was arguably the No. 1 item on Detroit general manager Brad Holmes’ to-do list. At his best, Davis is capable of offering shutdown-level play on the perimeter.

A second-round choice in the 2018 NFL Draft, Davis is still only 27 years old.

He can hold up in man coverage in Aaron Glenn’s defensive scheme, while his physicality should endear him to Glenn and Lions head coach Dan Campbell. Davis’ 60 pass breakups from 2019 to 2022 ranked second in the NFL, trailing only James Bradberry.

With Davis and Cameron Sutton on the perimeter, and 2023 rookie standout Brian Branch in the slot, Detroit has the making of a solid nickel package.

However, depth will continue to be an issue for the Lions’ secondary, which was banged up last season. Davis isn’t immune to injuries, missing five games in 2023, four in 2022, and seven in 2021."