In: (7) Jamie Collins, Jahlani Tavai, Jarrad Davis, Julian Okwara, Christian Jones, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Reggie Ragland
Out: Elijah Lee, Anthony Pittman
PUP: Austin Bryant
Rationale: The Lions go heavy at linebacker as they continue to look for a difference-maker at the position. This is also an important group in terms of special teams contributors.
Collins will pay all over the second level of the defense and could also see time close to the line of scrimmage. He also played over 40% of the New England Patriots special teams snaps last year, so expect to see him there as well.
His versatility could also mean a scaled-back role for Jarrad Davis, who should be motivated after having his fifth-year option declined following three uneven seasons. Tavai could also usurp some of Davis’ playing time, with the Lions favoring length over girth on certain occasions, notably nickel packages.
Okwara’s role and progress will be interesting to monitor. He is possibly their most talented pass-rusher already, though he’ll likely be eased in early on, especially after a broken leg cost him time in 2019.
Jones doesn’t move the needle in any particular area, but the Lions value his professionalism. He could see more time on special teams with the new additions arriving. Reeves-Maybin squeaks in thanks to his prowess in the third phase.
Ragland offers little outside of run-plugging, but his familiarity with the scheme dating back to his days at the University of Alabama lands him a spot as a depth piece.
It’s hard to see Bryant having much of a role this season; he has missed essentially all of training camp for the second year in a row due to an injury. If the Lions are intent on his continuing his development, he seems likely to have to begin the season on the PUP list again, as we’re predicting here.
However, the Lions could also decide to move on from Bryant and scour the league for another player after cutdown day. They can’t wait on him forever.