The Detroit Lions signed one linebacker and released another. But did their moves actually upgrade the position? Let’s dive into the numbers.
The Detroit Lions have started the legal tampering period of NFL free agency creating and filling needs on their roster. The Lions opted to move on from starting right tackle Rick Wagner last Friday. Three days later, Detroit agreed to sign free-agent offensive tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai to a five-year, $50 million deal presumably to replace Wagner.
Late Monday night, the Lions agreed to terms with free-agent linebacker Jamie Collins on a three-year, $30 million deal. The next day, Detroit decided to release linebacker Devon Kennard. According to ESPN.com, the move saves the Lions $5.675 million against the salary cap. But cutting Kennard also resulted in a $1.75 million dead money hit.
But did the Lions actually upgrade their linebacker position by swapping Kennard for Collins? Let’s breakdown each player and their numbers.
First, let’s start with the 6-foot-3, 256-pound Kennard. The 28-year old has spent the past two seasons in Detroit, after a four-year stint with the New York Giants. Last year, the team captain recorded 58 total tackles and 7.0 sacks. The latter being tied for the team lead along with defensive end Trey Flowers. Kennard has also racked up 14.0 total sacks in his two years in Motown.
Now, let’s look at the identically-sized 6-foot-3, 255-pound Collins. Two years older than Kennard, the 30-year old former New England Patriots linebacker is a seven-year veteran. Last season, Collins posted 81 total tackles and a team-leading 7.0 sacks (a career-high) in 16 games for the Pats. The veteran linebacker also recorded seven pass deflections, three interceptions, three forced fumbles, and a defensive touchdown.
Both Kennard and Collins are big linebackers with the frame that head coach Matt Patricia appears to covet in his defensive scheme. Both veterans racked up 7.0 sacks last season, leading their respective teams. Kennard is two years younger, but Collins appears to be much more versatile. And the fact he’s a former Patriot is certainly attractive to the current regime in the Motor City.
So, is Jamie Collins actually an upgrade over Devon Kennard? With Matt Patricia as his defensive coordinator in New England, Collins posted the lone Pro Bowl season of his career in 2015 after earning a Super Bowl ring the year prior. If he can replicate that level of play in Detroit, the answer will be evident. But honestly, only time will tell.