Ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions are continuing to retool their roster, after a disappointing 5-11 season in 2020.
After addressing needs in the secondary in the past week, it appears that new Lions general manager Brad Holmes will look to upgrade at linebacker and at wide receiver via the upcoming draft.
Despite only retaining a few of its own free agents, Detroit looked to players in free agency that were looking to prove themselves and were willing to accept short-term deals.
After trading quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for multiple first-round picks and fellow signal-caller Jared Goff, the organization decided to restructure Goff's contract.
The gesture ensured that Goff would return to Motown in 2022 and for possibly many more seasons, if he is able to rebound from inconsistent play the past couple of seasons.
Here are three takeaways from the Lions' 2021 offseason, as of early April.
1.) The Lions signed many mid-level free agents to short-term contracts
Other than bringing back defensive end Romeo Okwara, Holmes & Co. sought out and acquired mid-level free agents who would not significantly impact the salary cap.
"You get these one-year guys, and you build off of one-year guys and then, they’re gone. And then what do you do, right? I get that," Detroit head coach Dan Campbell said when asked about the team signing so many players to short-term contracts. "I think the ultimate vision would be -- you bring in these guys, and let’s just say they are all one year, hypothetically. Well, even there, you get the production out of them, but you get this work mentality, this chip on your shoulder. This is how you win, this is how you build things. And they’ve installed that in some of these young players that are already here on this roster and the guys that you’re drafting."
2.) Jared Goff is the quarterback beyond the 2021 season
Detroit converted $20 million of Jared Goff’s salary into a signing bonus.
The move created $15 million in cap space for the upcoming 2021 season.
The 26-year-old quarterback now costs Detroit $10 million in 2023 and would cost $5 million in dead cap in 2024, if the organization decided to part ways with him.
Detroit's front office clearly believes that Goff can lead the team to victories and can be more than just a "game manager," if the proper pieces are brought in around him.
“Well, I’ll say this. Part of the compensation that we received for the trade, and I know a lot of people talk about the picks, but a lot of it was Jared -- just the fact of being able to acquire Jared," Holmes said at Goff's introductory press conference. "He’s a proven winner. So, for him to compete for the starting quarterback position and winning the starting quarterback position, definitely expect him to reclaim that status. I’ve never had any doubts that he can be again. His resume speaks for itself, so we all know what he has accomplished.”
3.) Dan Campbell is the right leader at this time for the organization.
Time and time again, Detroit's first-year head coach has exuded the correct attitude the organization needs, following the disastrous tenure of the previous regime.
During a visit to Ford Motor Company, Campbell recently shared how he plans to reach the players in the locker room.
“You think about it from the perspective of when you were there,” Campbell said. “So, when I was here, what worked for me? Who could push me, and why could they push me? How could they push buttons without making me snap?"
He added, “So, how do you build that relationship, where they trust you and believe in you before you even get to the nuts and bolts of technique, scheme, all those things. Why don’t you build a relationship with the person first, and then, let’s get to the other stuff. Because usually, you can get what you want out of a player, if they believe you and they trust you.”
If Campbell is able to garner and retain the respect of the locker room, Detroit can turn around its fortunes sooner rather than later.
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