Over the past three years, the Detroit Lions have been very active in free agency. That was mainly due to the previous regime of general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia attempting to change the culture in the Motor City.
As a result, the Lions have been a haven of high-priced free agents ever since the team hired Patricia back in 2018. More specifically, available free agents formerly of the New England Patriots.
In recent years, Detroit has inked pricey veterans such as defensive end Trey Flowers, linebacker Jamie Collins, and cornerback Justin Coleman. All of whom are former Pats and all signed to monster deals.
In the end, the attempt to make the Lions a version of the Midwest Patriots failed, resulting in three-straight losing seasons and both Quinn and Patricia being fired last November. This offseason, the organization has created quite a stir by hiring the former director of college scouting for the Los Angeles Rams, Brad Holmes, as the new general manager, and former assistant for the New Orleans Saints, Dan Campbell, as head coach.
And according to former Lions linebacker Chris Spielman, who was hired this offseason to be the special assistant to owner Shelia Ford Hamp and team president Rod Wood, the new regime in Detroit will likely take a much different approach to building the team than Quinn and Patricia. Here’s what Speilman told the team’s official website, DetroitLions.com, recently about being active in free agency this offseason …
"“There are a lot of ideas around here, and it’s kind of an opposite theory with how the Lions used to be very active in free agency … You can fill in voids in free agency, but you can’t buy a locker room. What I believe is building a team through the draft. It’s draft, develop and re-sign. And hopefully, that’s the direction the Lions will take.”"
Building through the draft is great … in theory. But it can require plenty of patience from both ownership and the fanbase. That means developing your own players year after year instead of bringing in proven veterans as instant upgrades. It also means your scouting department and front office have to absolutely nail the draft process, as bringing in draft busts will significantly damage a rebuild.
The Detroit Lions have too many needs not to bring in at least some veterans in free agency this offseason. But if the team truly desires to retool through the draft, Detroit could settle for more modest free agents than we’ve seen in the recent past, essentially filling roster voids only to give them more flexibility in the draft so they don’t have to reach simply to fill roster needs. And while that doesn’t make for an exciting free agency period for fans, it might be better for the Lions in the long run.