4 potential veteran cut candidates for the Lions this spring

Jesse James, Detroit Lions (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Jesse James, Detroit Lions (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /
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Nick Williams, Detroit Lions
Nick Williams, Detroit Lions. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

Nick Williams

Position: Defensive Tackle

Age: 30

2020 statistics: 14 games played, 1.0 sack, 23 total tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 3 quarterback hits

2021 base salary: $4.1 million

Signed through: 2021

The Lions’ defensive line was a mess in 2020, with injuries, a lack of overall athleticism, and paltry production in the quarterback pressure department contributing to a historically bad defense. Like most of the members of the unit, Williams did little to help the group overcome these struggles.

A career journeyman, Williams brought in a year ago after a breakout season with the Chicago Bears in 2019, but he didn’t come close to replicating his performance from the prior year. He managed just a single sack after tallying 6.0 the year before, and he provided little help in defending the run, totaling just 23 tackles, including only two for a loss. He just didn’t cause much disruption or get into the opposing backfield nearly enough.

With the Lions possibly headed towards a base four-down defensive format under new defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, Williams’ primary experience as a gap-control player may not fit. His adaptability from playing for several NFL teams could boost his chances of returning, but the Lions’ new decision-makers may have little interest in retaining too many members of one of the team’s least effective position groups from 2020.

It will take more than one offseason to revamp the Lions’ defensive front, meaning that some veterans from the unit will be sticking around in 2021, despite their possible struggles in shifting to a new scheme. Williams could be one of them, but his low dead cap number of $1 million could also leave him as the odd man out in this situation.

Additionally, this is not a banner year for defensive tackles in free agency or the draft, which could leave the Lions scrambling to fill roster spots on the defensive line with passable contributors. Still, they need to explore all options when looking to upgrade this unit, including a possible release of Williams.