The Detroit Lions have used the 2020 free agency period not just to sign new players, but to rid themselves of pricey veteran contracts. Will it pay off?
No NFL general manager has a perfect track record with their free agency signings. Even the Super Bowl-winning Kansas City Chiefs have some undesirable contracts on their roster. For the Detroit Lions, though, the start of free agency has highlighted some of their biggest spending errors in recent memories.
Just a week ago, the Lions seemed in a relatively stable position both at right tackle with Rick Wagner and at JACK linebacker with Devon Kennard. The two veterans were brought in by general manager Bob Quinn in the 2017 and 2018 offseasons, respectively, with the expectation that both would live up to or exceed the value of their contracts.
Now both are gone, released within just days of each other over the past week. Wagner had long been the target of sharp criticism from Lions fans for his average play despite being one of the top-paid players at his position. He consistently seemed overmatched against some of the league’s best pass rushers. After reportedly agreeing on a two-year deal with his home-state Green Bay Packers, he’ll get at least two chances a year to prove that the Lions erred in bidding adieu to him.
Kennard’s departure is perhaps even more surprising, though not necessarily as baseless as one would think. He tallied a team-high 14.0 sacks over the past two seasons with the Lions, but those takedowns came in bursts.
Kennard registered 3.0 sacks in a Week 1 tie with the Arizona Cardinals last season – but then didn’t get back in the sack column again until Week 9, as the Lions’ pass rush dried up and their season withered away. Unable to generate consistent pressure off the edge, he isn’t the kind of player that can carry a defense, particularly a complex one like the Lions’. They have moved on.
Jettisoning these two pricey players before their contracts run their course is disheartening, and their replacements won’t come cheap either.
Former Philadelphia Eagle tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai has reportedly agreed to a five-year, $45 million deal with the Lions, according to MLive.com. Not far off from Wagner’s original deal with Detroit.
Additionally, making Kennard expendable, former New England Patriot linebacker Jamie Collins will join the Lions on a three-year, $30 million pact, per The Detroit News. This is significantly more money than Kennard originally received. Will these replacements turn into smarter investments, or represent more dollars unwisely spent?
In a make-or-break-year for Quinn, give him credit for admitting his miscalculations, and swiftly moving forward. But will it work? The fill-ins for Wagner and Kennard will play a major role in determining the Lions’ fortunes in 2020 and beyond.
Do you think the Lions made the right call in severing ties with Rick Wagner and Devon Kennard? Let us know in the comments section below.