If Alex Anzalone finds greener financial pastures elsewhere in free agency, the Detroit Lions should eye these five as a potential replacement options.
The Detroit Lions had both of their starting linebackers from 2021 hit free agency last offseason. Jaylen Reeves-Maybin got a pretty nice deal from the Houston Texans, so it became easy to just bring back Alex Anzalone on another inexpensive one-year deal.
Anzalone followed by producing the best season of his career. He led the Lions in tackles (125), with 1.5 sacks, an interception, seven tackles for loss, six pass breakups, seven quarterback hits and 10 pressures.
Anzalone is of course now a free agent again. It’s no surprise he’s got his eye on getting a multi-year deal, from the Lions or another team if it comes to that. NFL careers are too short not to cash in when there’s an opportunity, and Anzalone has the best opportunity he’ll ever have this offseason.
Pro Football Focus had Anzalone as the most improved Lions player for the 2022 season, based on their grading. But that grade moved from bottom barrel in 2021 (35.4) to average this past season (59.4).
The Lions coaching staff has highlighted Anzalone’s intangible value, as he’s been wearing the green dot as the defensive signal caller the last two seasons. But purely based on talent, they should have their eyes open for an upgrade next to Malcolm Rodriguez. Maybe that comes in the draft, or maybe a dip into free agency will come.
Focusing on free agency, the Lions should have these five replacement options for Anzalone on their radar.
Detroit Lions: 5 free agent replacement options for Alex Anzalone
5. Anthony Walker
Walker played in just three games for the Browns last season due to a torn quad tendon. But he was off to a good start before going down, and in 2021 he had 113 total tackles over 13 games for Cleveland, Over the last two seasons his Pro Football Focus coverage grade (85.9) is third-best among all off-ball linebackers.
In his last four mostly healthy seasons, Walker has topped 100 tackles three times and he has been a bit of a contributor as a pass rusher. He’s not a star or a huge difference-maker in any one area, but he’s a veteran and solid all-around.
Coming off an injury-shortened season Walker won’t be breaking the bank, and even moreso he’ll probably only get another one-year deal somewhere. That would seemingly put him right in the Lions’ wheelhouse as a free agent target if the let Anzalone explore the market with a good hint he’ll be gone.