Why Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith makes sense for the Detroit Lions

Gone from the Detroit Lions roster is pretty much all the wide receivers from the past few seasons. In with the new. Some players signed during free agency will add much needed speed, but by and large the Detroit Lions need to remake the receiver group from the draft. The Lions currently hold the #7 overall draft pick. A player who in my opinion would go a long way in retooling the downfield attack is former Alabama Crimson Tide receiver DeVonta Smith.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JANUARY 05: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY through Tuesday, January 12, 2021. Approval by the Heisman Trust will be needed for any usage thereafter or any Commercial usage requests at any point.) Wide receiver DeVonta Smith of the Alabama Crimson Tide poses with the Heisman Memorial Trophy on January 05, 2021 in New York, New York. (Photo by Kent Gidley/Heisman Trophy Trust via Getty Images)

Heisman Trophy Winner DeVonta Smith is not the biggest wide receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft. But that is just fine. He may be among the fastest and also Smith contains some intangibles that may prove to be too much for the Detroit Lions to pass up.

During the COVID shortened college football season, Smith put up some eye popping numbers. Smith’s numbers and talent has made him a top 10 prospect, with 117 receptions for 1,856 yards and a total of 24 touchdowns in 13 games  and lead the country in 20+ yard targets in becoming the first wide receiver since Michigan Wolverines, Desmond Howard (1991) in winning the Heisman Trophy.

Standing 6 foot 1 inch, DeVonta Smith is not over imposing. Once the ball is snapped however Smith shows elite skill. Not only did Smith win the Heisman but he was also named the MVP of the Alabama offense.

For a team looking to build a roster and team into a playoff contending franchise, Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes should give drafting DeVonta Smith serious consideration.

Smith can be a game breaking player and give real life to the Detroit Lions passing attack. Sure the Lions have holes aplenty all over the current roster. One draft will not and can not fix that. But for a franchise looking to build a team with speed. DeVonta Smith would be a next to perfect fit.

By restructuring quarterback Jared Goff’s contract the Detroit Lions free up $15 million

The Detroit Lions were (and still are for the most part) tight against the salary cap. On Wednesday morning it was announced the team has restructured the contract of presumed starting quarterback Jared Goff. There was some cap relief to the tune of $15. It does however also mean the Lions are tied to Goff longer.

Detroit Lions General Manager, Brad Homes, has stated many times that Jared Goff was THE reason the Lions traded former quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams.

DETROIT, MI – OCTOBER 16: Jared Goff #16 of the Los Angeles Rams warms up prior to the start of the game against the Detroit Lions on October 16, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. The Lions defeated the Rams 31-28. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Holmes has had a solid relationship with Goff ever since he spearheaded the Rams drafting him. While it is true the Lions received two-first round draft picks as well as a third round pick, Holmes says Goff was the reason for the trade.

With a base salary of $25.65 million, the Lions converted $20 million of the contract into a signing bonus. So Goff gets all that money up front. While he was going to be the presumed Lions starter this season Jared Goff is now likely to be the Lions starting quarterback for at minimum two seasons and possibly more.

NEW YORK – APRIL 26: A general view shows the stage during the during the 2008 NFL Draft on April 26, 2008 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Sure Brad Holmes has said that all draft options were on the table at #7 including a quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft. Now the Lions have even more options. If a quarterback they like is not there they can either draft another position of need or move back and acquire more picks.

The restructured contract allows the Lions to sign their draft class as well as sign any free agent during the season in case of injury. It could be just as Holmes has said, he views Goff as the starting quarterback moving forward.

The real proof will come during the draft. When the Lions draft their first round draft pick all will be revealed.

 

By re-signing Romeo Okwara it is the start of a long overdue rebuild for the Detroit Lions

Some teams tweak their rosters to stave off rebuilding while trying most times in vain for one more trip to the playoffs. Some teams rip the band aid off and get right down to rebuilding. That is where the Detroit Lions are. A down to the studs rebuild. When Lions general manager Brad Holmes re-signed defensive end Romeo Okwara and not wide receiver Kenny Golladay, Holmes effectively moved the Lions into rebuild mode.

Here in my opinion is what Brad Holmes may have been thinking. While it would have been nice to have both Okwara and Golladay back due to salary cap issues that was not in the cards for the Lions.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) runs the ball under the pressure of Detroit Lions defensive end Romeo Okwara (95) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Michigan USA, on Sunday, October 28, 2018. (Photo by Amy Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The Lions defense has needed edge rushers for a while. Romeo Okwara and his 10 quarterback sacks last season fits that bill. Again in my opinion because he can get to the quarterback Holmes put a premium on bringing Okwara back.

NFL pass rushers who are able to sack quarterbacks are not cheap. As Okwara’s 3 year $13 per year contract extension shows. One other factor I believe was critical in Holmes decision is that the Detroit Lions defense was so bad last few seasons that he simply could not afford to let the best player on the defense walk as a free agent and get nothing in return for him.

Make no mistake about it, by re-signing Okwara the Lions defense is not going to suddenly spring to life. It does mean that when his rotation comes up and he is on the field, he gives the Lions a proven weapon. This team is rebuilding and needs any edge it can get.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – NOVEMBER 15: Romeo Okwara #95 of the Detroit Lions plays against the Washington Football Team at Ford Field on November 15, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The easy step to take was re-signing Romeo Okwara. The more difficult part comes by Brad Holmes and the Detroit Lions scouting department putting the right talent around him.

This was the right call for Brad Holmes to make. Kenny Golladay is a very good player and can help any offense in the NFL. But a good, talented young edge rusher does not come along everyday.

With roster holes and needs all over, look at who the Detroit Lions could target in the 2021 NFL Draft

Following a 5-11 season that saw the dismissal of general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia the Detroit Lions are starting over. New Lions GM Brad Holmes and the Lions scouting department are currently hard at work evaluating talent and coming up for a draft day “big board.” The Lions have holes all over the roster and are set to embark on a lengthy rebuild. So who could the franchise target with the #7 pick in the first round? Let’s take a look.

The 2021 NFL Draft is set, Thursday, April 29- May 1. It has been a while since the Detroit Lions have won a playoff game, 1991 to be exact. Brad Holmes is now being charged with changing the narrative that the Detroit Lions can not be a winning franchise.

It is safe to say the Detroit Lions will not be a winning team for at least two seasons and more likely three. That is alright. It is more important that Holmes and company get the draft picks right in order to build a core of players to build around.

In my opinion the Detroit Lions have three position groups that stand out as needing the most attention. In no certain order. Keep in mind that all of the Lions issues and needs will not be fixed in one draft.

  1. Wide Receiver:  Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, and Danny Amendola are all going to be gone and need to be replaced.  2020 fifth-rounder Quintez Cephus
    NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – DECEMBER 20: Quintez Cephus #87 of the Detroit Lionsplays against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on December 20, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

    is a player who has proven he can be part of the Lions receiving future. Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle are all wide receivers who could and should be there when Detroit picks at #7. Any one of the three would be a big welcome.

2. Linebacker: I will try to be nice here, but the facts are that the linebackers were (and as of right now still are) a hot mess of bad. The Lions linebackers are void of athleticism and energy. There appears to be only one linebacker worthy of a top 10 pick and that player is  Penn State’s Micah Parsons. Parsons is by far the most versatile linebacker in this class. Parsons would instantly be the Lions top linebacker if selected.

 

3. Quarterback: Yes, Jared Goff will be the Detroit Lions starting quarterback this season and perhaps next season. Brad Holmes said he likes the quarterbacks in this years draft. One of Trey Lance, Justin Fields and  Zach Wilson, could be there at #7. If Holmes goes quarterback it is because he and the scouting department agree on a player enough to make them the franchise QB.

There you have it. These are the positions and some players who I believe the Detroit Lions are looking into. We will know for sure next month when the 2021 NFL Draft rolls out.

The Detroit Lions are being set up for future success

New Detroit Lions General Manager, Brad Holmes has wasted little time in taking an axe to former GM Bob Quinn’s roster. To date Holmes has cut eight players from the Quinn era and traded the franchise quarterback (Matthew Stafford) to the Los Angeles Rams for two-first round draft picks and a third round draft pick as well as Rams starting quarterback Jared Goff. In doing so Holmes is setting the Lions up for future success.

As with any new front office and coaching staff, Brad Holmes is no different. Holmes is looking to put his fingerprints on the Lions roster. A roster filed with slow, aging over paid players. Holmes made it clear he prefers young fast versatile players.

GLENDALE, ARIZONA – SEPTEMBER 27: Running back D’Andre Swift #32 of the Detroit Lions warms up before the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on September 27, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona. The Lions defeated the Cardinals 26-23. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

By freeing up the Detroit roster of players that do not and will not fit what the Lions are trying to do, Holmes is setting the Lions up to fail. Yes, I said fail. The team is void of enough impact players to win. That is a good thing. This is a total rebuild.

When any team in any sport rebuilds, high draft picks are critical to future success. By pairing down rosters general managers increase the probability they will net high draft picks, Brad Holmes has done that.  Holmes has made it nearly impossible for the Lions to be anywhere but a top three pick in next years NFL draft. Coupled with the Los Angeles Rams first round draft pick in 2022 and 2023.

The popular phrase used by fans and media when a general manager strips a roster of talent is “tanking.” It may sound crude, but the is in essence exactly what is taking place.

Brad Holmes has said he does not like the term rebuild, but he prefers retooling or reshaping. Call it what you will. A new Detroit Lions team and roster will emerge when the dust settles.

While the Detroit Lions are set to be bad (really bad) for the next two years. If Brad Holmes does his job, the Detroit Lions are going to be a good solid team. Like the one Holmes played a key role in with the Rams.

 

The Detroit Lions are moving on from wide receiver Kenny Golladay

It has been a source of constant conversation in Detroit. Fans and media all wondered aloud, if the Detroit Lions would apply the franchise tag to star wide receiver Kenny Golladay. Last week new Lions general manager Brad Holmes said “you’ll know very soon what out intentions are.” Now we do. The Detroit Lions are moving on from Golladay.

What was already going to be a lengthy rebuild could most likely be sited for the Detroit Lions choice to not tender the franchise tag to Kenny Golladay. At 27 years old, Golladay would be 30-31 by the time the Lions are ready to contend for division titles again.

DETROIT, MI – OCTOBER 27: A Detroit Lions flag bearer runs onto the field with the Lions logo flag before the start of a regular season game between the New York Giants and the Detroit Lions on October 27, 2019 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

By not tendering the franchise tag it saves the Lions roughly $19 million for next season. That money can be spread out between other players to help the team. It has been reported that Golladay turned down a new contract that would have paid him $20 million per-season.

What was already evident became more so, when the news broke about the Lions plans. This is not only going to take time to reshape the roster, but now it seems as though there will be next to no hold-overs from the Bob Quinn era of Lions football. At least at the skilled position.

In my opinion this is the right move for the Detroit Lions. A rebuilding team should not pay one player $19 or so million, when there are holes up and down the roster that need to be fixed or at least patched until core players can be identified and drafted.

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions

For Kenny Golladay, it gives him the chance to play elsewhere and teams will line up for his services. Golladay should not be out of work long. The question is should the Lions have placed the franchise tag on Golladay with the intention of trading him?

That is a knee jerk reaction. First a team interested in him would have to agree to take a one year deal at $19 million, while teams may prefer a longer contract and not pay a rather hefty one season lumpsum up front.

As for the Detroit Lions, it is refreshing to see a general manger with a plan of how he wants to construct his team. Through the draft.

Little hints have been dropped about the Detroit Lions offseason plans

With new Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes brings a new direction for the organization. Also now in the mix is former Detroit Lions player and Lions legend Chris Spielman who is sitting in with Brad Holmes and Shelia For Hamp and others on draft and free agent plans. So here is a look at what Lions will probably do to improve the team.

The Detroit Lions have never been a franchise that has made big splashes in free agency. That trend looks like it will continue. In fact Lions fans should expect that the team will not sign any big name free agents. Look for Holmes to fill roster moves like Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila as well as Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman. Sign cheap players on a short 1-2 year deals.

01 May 2015: FormerDetroit Lion Chris Spielman during round 2 of the 2015. The NFL Draft is being held at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, IL (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

What should be noted is that Chris Spielman and Brad Holmes and new Lions Head coach Dan Campbell all share similar philosophies. That it is better to build a team through the draft. Once a core group of players has been established then add to the core via free agency.

The Detroit Lions are in my opinion on the right track with the build your team through the draft thought process. So it is more of a, draft, develop process that leads to a younger team that is hopefully more athletic than the current roster able to grow together. There will be lumps along the way to be sure.

The fact that the Detroit Lions actually have an offseason plan is refreshing, on many levels. In years past it felt like they were throwing darts at a dartboard hoping to hit the board. They rarely did.

This is not an overnight fix. It took the Detroit Lions years to put a slow team filled with holes on the field. It will take time to reshape the roster. I have total confidence in Brad Holmes who helped to put a Super Bowl team on the field in Los Angeles with the Rams to build the Lions roster in much the same way.

SAN DIEGO, CA – DECEMBER 20: Head coach Dan Campbell of the Miami Dolphins stands on the field before playing the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on December 20, 2015 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

It is a good sign that owner Ford Hamp , Chris Spielman, Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes are all on the same page. It will do nothing but help the Lions moving forward.

Should the Detroit Lions draft a quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft

By trading former Detroit Lions starting quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for two first round draft picks (2022 and 2023) and a third round draft pick (2021) along with Rams starting quarterback Jared Goff it has garnered the Lions draft capital. Should the organization draft a quarterback in 2021? That is the question we will dive into.

Heading into the 2021-22 NFL season there is little doubt Jared Goff will be the Detroit Lions starting quarterback. In fact Goff could be the starter for two seasons. Which is fine. At 26 years old Jared Goff has already played in a Super Bowl and been selected to two Pro-Bowls. At the very least Goff is a serviceable quarterback.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 24: Jared Goff #16 of the Los Angeles Rams warms up before a preseason game against the Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on August 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The Detroit Lions currently hold the #7 pick in the first round of this years draft. It seems inevitable that up to three quarterbacks will be selected before the Lions have their turn.

Another fact is that the Lions simply do not have many draft picks this year due in part to poor choices former general manager Bob Quinn made. Current Lions GM, Brad Holmes would be ill advised to take a quarterback from rounds 3 and later due to the fact that unless your name is Tom Brady the likelihood a quarterback taken this late would even see the playing field is next to zero.

The Lions could sign a cheap free agent to fill the role of backup quarterback. That said because drafting a quarterback is like throwing a darts at a dartboard the risk this year seems far to great.

The Detroit Lions are in for a total (much needed) rebuild that is going to take some time. The roster is filled with holes that need to be filled and the team as a whole lacks speed.

NEW YORK – APRIL 28: NFL Commisioner Roger Goodell speaks during the 2007 NFL Draft on April 28, 2007 at Radio City Music Hall in New York, New York. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

This years draft focus should be in my opinion, on areas that can impact the roster this coming season. Be it wide receiver, offensive line, linebacker, defensive backs or edge rusher.

So in should the Detroit Lions draft a quarterback in 2021? My answer is no.

Chris Spielman has played a large role in the retooling, reshaping, rebranding of the Detroit Lions

Chris Spielman was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1988. He became a Lions legend in his eight seasons in Motown. Spielman was selected to four Pro-Bowls and was the Detroit Lions defensive MVP in 1993 and 1994. Since retiring from the NFL Spielman has spent time in the broadcast booth and now has a new job. Chris Spielman is the special assistant to chairman Sheila Ford Hamp and president Rod Wood.

When the Detroit Lions were looking for a new General Manager after the dismissal of former GM, Bob Quinn, Chris Spielman began to get to work. His goal was to help not only rebuild the Lions but change the culture.

Over the years many NFL team reached out to Spielman for job openings. Nothing tempted him enough to leave the announcers chair. That is until the team that drafted him came calling. When the Detroit Lions called Spielman’s loyalty answered. He was never going to work for another team. That would go against everything he believes in.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – DECEMBER 26: Detroit Lions President and CEO Rod Wood (L) talks with Chris Spielman prior to the start of the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Ford Field on December 26, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. Tampa defeated Detroit 47-7 (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Chris Spielman had a meeting with owner Sheila Ford Hamp, and he knew. This is what he wanted. His team needed him and like the defensive captain he was and still is he agreed to return to the Lions full-time.

Spielman has a good reputation around the league he has a lot of connections. He used those connections to identify Brad Holmes. He would meet with Holmes and do his own interview with him before he reported to the owner and team president.

After the meeting Spielman knew Brad Holmes was the right guy to rebuild the Detroit Lions and help unify the team as well as change the culture. Next up was finding the right head coach. Those who remember what type of player (hard nosed, tough as nails) Spielman was, were not surprised when he recommended Dan Campbell for the head coaching job.

WASHINGTON – OCTOBER 22: Chris Spielman #54 of the Detroit Lions before a NFL football game against the Washington Redskins on October 22, 1995 at RFK Stadium in Washington DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

So the new look Detroit Lions that have begun to take shape are being made in the image of an old gritty linebacker. That is part of why fans are actually pleased with the direction of the franchise.

 

The Detroit Lions believe tight end T.J. Hockenson has a higher ceiling

The new Detroit Lions coaching staff is working around the clock to watch film and get to know and understand the players on the Lions roster. New offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, really likes what he sees in tight end T. J. Hockenson. So much so that Lynn in preparing an expanded role for a player who took a big step forward this past season.

This past season tight end T. J. Hockenson had  had 67 catches for 723 yards and six touchdowns last season in route to his first Pro Bowl game. Anthony Lynn believes Hockenson is just scratching the surface of his potential.

DETROIT, MI – JANUARY 03: T.J. Hockenson #88 of the Detroit Lions makes the second quarter reception and is tackled by Harrison Smith #22 of the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field on January 3, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

Anthony Lynn said it was nice that Hockenson made the Pro Bowl but that he and the rest of the Detroit Lions coaching staff believes that Hockenson can be even better and plans to expand the Detroit offense in order to bring that out in the gifted young receiving target.

The new-look Detroit Lions offense will be very tight end friendly. Don’t believe me? Try this on for size, last season while as the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers tight ends were targeted 93 times.

Lynn likes a high-level tight end on the roster because of what it can mean for the rest of the offense. Both in the passing game, downfield blocking and run blocking. To have a player as gifted as T. J. Hockenson it means that linebackers and safeties have to play a cleaner game. No cheating the line of scrimmage.

When the Detroit Lions drafted Hockenson in the first round out of Iowa in 2019 many thought he was the most NFL ready tight end in the draft. Hockenson struggled his rookie year and then took off this past season.

GLENDALE, AZ – SEPTEMBER 08: A detailed view of a Detroit Lions helmet during the NFL football game between the Detroit Lions and the Arizona Cardinals on September 8, 2019 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

New Lions starting quarterback Jared Goff has a history of targeting tight ends. During his time as starting quarterback of the Los Angeles Rams Goff threw 316 passes to tight ends in his career, including 194 of them over the past two seasons this would seems to indicate a lot of usage for Hockenson in the near future.

For the rebuild Detroit Lions, they will lean heavily on the likes of running back D’Andre Swift and T. J. Hockenson to create miss matches.