SI Lions Roundtable: Best and Worst Free Agent Acquisitions
The free agency period saw the Detroit Lions acquire a plethora of veterans familiar with Matt Patricia's defense.
Granted, while Detroit continued to look to New England to improve their defense -- the organization was still able to find depth along the interior of the defensive line with the acquisitions of Nick Williams and Danny Shelton.
Here is how the writers at SI All Lions felt about the free agent acquisitions that were made by general manager Bob Quinn.
1.) What were the best and worst free agent moves the Lions made?
John Maakaron: I like the acquisition of safety Duron Harmon. He will come in and help out in the secondary immediately. Also, he should be able to provide veteran leadership to younger players like Tracy Walker and Will Harris.
I think if the Lions were interested in having an older cornerback, they should have just figured out how to come to terms with Darius Slay. Desmond Trufant is an aging veteran who is not markedly better than Slay.
Logan Lamorandier: The Lions best addition was defensive tackle Danny Shelton because of his relatively cheap cost and how important the nose tackle position is in the Lions defense.
I would say the worst is right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai. It's a pretty big financial risk for a run-blocking career backup. The Lions are banking on him to take the next step in the prime of his career. I understand why the Lions gave him the contract, but I think they could have just kept Rick Wagner or used the money better elsewhere.
Vito Chirco: Danny Shelton is my favorite free-agency pickup for Detroit general manager Bob Quinn from the early free-agency period. He plugs a hole at nose tackle that was created by the departure of veteran Damon "Snacks" Harrison. And he's younger -- will be 27 come the start of the 2020 regular season while Harrison is 31 -- and arguably a better player than Snacks at this point.
Meanwhile, the nearly consensus worst free-agent acquisition of Quinn's from this offseason is offensive tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Quinn & Co. spent $45 million on Vaitai -- $20 million is fully guaranteed through 2021 -- and he's never started more than 10 games. The first and only time he started in 10 games came in 2017.
It was definitely a reach for Quinn to spend the kind of money he did on "Big V" when he could've signed former Michigan State walk-on Jack Conklin -- a more highly-proven lineman and the 10th-highest Pro Football Focus graded OT in 2019. Conklin received a three-year, $42M deal from the Browns, with $30M in guaranteed money -- only $10M more than the guaranteed money that Vaitai will receive.
2.) Who is the best receiver Lions can target in later rounds of the draft?
Maakaron: It is amazing how deep this year's wide receivers class actually is. I have been impressed with Gabriel Davis and Isaiah Coulter.
If Detroit decides to stay local, Donovan Peoples-Jones could be a player that evolves into a highly productive wide receiver in the right circumstances.
Lamorandier: I don't know how far Texas wide receiver Devin Duvernay will fall in this deep class after his great combine performance, but I really like him as a speedy slot option in Detroit.
He has some of the most reliable hands in the draft class. Standing at 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, Duvernay is very difficult to bring down and plays like a running back after the catch. Could use a little coaching with his route running, but overall, just a playmaker with the ball in his hands.
Chirco: I'll offer you two guys for the price of one. I've fallen in love with Michael Pittman Jr. -- a big-bodied receiver out of Southern Cal that the Lions could get in the third round. He offers a lot of upside in the red zone because of his size.
Meanwhile, Tennessee product Jauan Jennings is another receiver with size that will be a mismatch for defenders at the next level, and could be a target of Detroit's front office in the fourth or fifth round.
3.) What do you think about all the mock drafts having Detroit selecting CB Jeff Okudah?
Maakaron: I think Okudah is the correct pick for the Detroit Lions based on their needs in the secondary. Ideally, Detroit secures a nice haul of additional picks by trading out of the No. 3 spot.
If that cannot be achieved, Okudah is a player that can help the Lions secondary immediately.
Lamorandier: If Chase Young is gone, I think Okudah is the obvious and correct pick -- hopefully in a trade down scenario.
Not going to lie, if the Lions stay at pick 3, the best long term pick from a pure value standpoint is quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. I still wouldn't take the Alabama quarterback, but if the NFL truly believe in Tua, someone will offer a nice trade package for him.
Chirco: Taking Okudah at No. 3 is less of a high-value pick than taking former Ohio State defensive end Chase Young or former Alabama passer Tua Tagovailoa with the pick.
I would take one or the other, or I would look to trade down with someone like the Miami Dolphins -- which possess the No. 5, No. 18 and No. 26 overall picks.
And if I were to execute a trade with the Dolphins and landed the No. 5 pick, taking Okudah would then become more reasonable.
However, at this point, he's likely to be the Lions' pick at No. 3.
And Detroit could do a lot worse than take a potential All-Pro cornerback with the pick.
4.) Should the NFL delay the draft amid the COVID-19 pandemic?
Maakaron: I don't think so. With all the meetings I have conducted from home, the teams should be able to still conduct business ahead of the draft.
While it may make things more challenging, the draft is still a month away. Let's allow the Lions to make all of their selections without any further delays.
Lamorandier: They probably could try, but with the uncertainty of the long term impact COVID-19 will have, who knows when will be a better time. It would be nice for rookies to be able to report immediately to their teams after the dust settles. Every team is in the same situation, so it is a level playing field for all. Selfishly, I don't want it moved back to a later date.
Chirco: Yes. And I would've gone as far as delaying the start of the NFL league year. Some events in life trump sports, and the COVID-19 pandemic clearly does. The two main priorities for everyone in the United States and throughout the world right now should be staying home -- if your work doesn't require you to report somewhere -- and trying to stay healthy.
5.) Will you listen to Chase Daniel's Podcast Monday?
Maakaron: Well, since Daniel won't be seeing the field all that much, he should be already looking ahead to his future career.
I will give it a listen. The guest list will be impressive.
Lamorandier: Nothing against Daniel, but probably not. I am one of those people that lets others watch or listen first. If I hear good reviews, then I'll dedicate the time to listen.
Chirco: Since I record my own set of podcasts, I'm a supporter of others that give the platform a try. During these crazy times with the coronavirus crisis, many of us have more time on our hands. And Daniel surely can bring on a ton of big-name guests due to his time playing in the NFL. However, I'm not too interested in hearing his first podcast with Nick Foles. I know Foles has won a Super Bowl and has a Super Bowl MVP to his name. But, it's just not a podcast for me personally -- as a Detroit sports fan -- that's going to make me jump on "Apple Podcasts" and click download as soon as it's out.