1. TE Robert Tonyan
Ok, so Tonyan barely qualifies as a “former Lion”. He was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Indiana State in 2017, then he was cut before playing a significant down in Honolulu Blue.
Tonyan eventually landed with the division rival Green Bay Packers, but he didn’t really find his way until 2020. That season, he had 52 catches for 586 yards and 11 touchdowns. A torn ACL ended his 2021 campaign after eight games, then he had a very mild rebound last season (53 receptions; 79.1 percent catch rate).
Tonyan looks like an ideal free agent target for the Lions, as they eye a talent upgrade at tight end. His value on the open market is surely a little bit surpressed coming off a couple not-so-great seasons. But he’s a capable blocker and pass catcher, with an easy red zone tilt as a big target (6-foot-5 and 237 pounds).
The Lions don’t necessarily want a No. 1 tight end to command a lot of target share in the current construction of their offense. Someone better than Brock Wright and Shane Zysltra can certainly raise the ceiling of their offense though.
If Tonyan can move the chains and be a red zone weapon when called upon, he’ll be a perfect fit in Detroit (and a lot of places). During that peak season for him in 2020, 44 of his 52 receptions (according to Pro Football Reference) went for either a touchdown (11) or a first down (33). He also had a very nice 88.1 percent catch rate.
The Lions won’t be diving into the deep end of the free agent tight end pool, not that they even should. An offer to Tonyan feels like a no-brainer in that context, and if he doesn’t go back to Green Bay staying in the NFC North should be on the table for him.