Over the last five years of NFL free agent signings, Jamaal William is easily the best one for the Detroit Lions.
It’s safe to say the Detroit Lions free agent marriage with running back Jamaal Williams has worked out. He has had two of the best seasons of his career in a Lions’ uniform, capped by being the franchise’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2013 and setting the single season franchise record for rushing touchdowns last season.
Of course, Williams is again a free agent right now. While it feels clear he’ll re-sign, the door is definitely open for him to possibly leave. But let’s leave that aside here.
ESPN has surveyed their NFL beat reporters for each team’s best and worst free agent signings of the last five years, back to 2018.
Lions’ ESPN beat writer Eric Woodyard has Williams as the team’s best free agent signing since 2018.
"Williams enjoyed the best seasons of his career in 2021 and 2022 after signing with the Lions as an unrestricted free agent on a two-year, $6 million deal. After thriving in a complementary role for the Packers for his first four NFL seasons, Williams led the league in rushing touchdowns (17) this past year while rushing for 1,066 yards, the first 1,000-yard season in Detroit since Reggie Bush in 2013."
Who was tabbed as the Detroit Lions worst free agent signing since 2018?
While Williams was an easy choice as the Lions best free agent signing over the last five completed offseasons, there are certainly more options for the worst. But Woodyard landed on a good one.
"Worst signing: Jesse James, TE, 2019James signed a four-year, $22.6 million deal and was released after two seasons after failing to live up to that deal. He recorded just 30 receptions for 271 yards in those two seasons. In his first year, he went without a touchdown in a season for the first time in his career, which started in 2015."
Wide receivers Breshad Perriman and Tyrell Williams in 2021 are among those who deserve honorable mentions in the “worst” column, though only being signed to one-year deals knocks them off the top perch James occupies. Perriman didn’t even make it to Week 1 on the Lions’ roster, while Williams was injured early and was not heard from again.
As 2023 free agency approaches, Lions general manager Brad Holmes will be hoping to possibly add someone to consideration for the team’s best free agency signing of the previous five years. And looking to avoid signing someone who will have any chance to quickly usurp James as the worst.