Coming off the best season of his career, Alex Anzalone has cashed in very nicely to stay with the Detroit Lions.
As he prepared for free agency, again, Alex Anzalone hinted strongly at seeking a multi-year deal that would provide some security. That made re-signing with the Detroit Lions a natural question, but on Monday afternoon we got the answer.
According first to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the Lions have signed Anzalone to a three-year deal worth up to $18.75 million.
That’s a substantial raise from the one-year, $2.25 million deal with the Lions last year. Which isn’t to say he didn’t earn it, setting career-highs in tackles (125), tackles for loss (seven) and quarterback pressures while doing well in coverage (79.8 passer rating allowed). His also cut his missed tackle rate by more than half compared to 2021.
That all being said, and for what it’s worth to some, Anzalone’s Pro Football Focus improved to average last season after being pretty awful in 2021.
Did the Lions overdo it to keep Alex Anzalone?
At a glance, $6.25 million a year for Anzalone seems high. Not to mention giving him a three-year deal. But the structure of the deal will be telling, in terms of guaranteed money. If the Lions were smart about, no matter how much they love his intangibles, it’ll effectively be a two-year deal with a palatable out in 2025.
Bigger deals for inside linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and Germaine Pratt on Monday puts Anzalone’s deal in a different perspective too.
Some beat writers and analysts will justify investing in Anzalone like this by noting the difference in organization and fan perception of him, and they’re not wrong. But it doesn’t take Pro Football Focus grades or a particularly keen eye test to show it shouldn’t be hard to upgrade on Anzalone from a pure talent standpoint. And the Lions just won’t do it.
Anzalone was also in a contract year last year, again, and it’s not a stretch to say he was fighting for his future as more than a backup and special teamer. And he concidentally produced the best year of his career.
The Lions are betting that a linebacker entering his age-29-season, albeit someone who fought injuries early in his career with the Saints, has not reached his ceiling. That feels like a poor bet, but time will tell. Linebacker is still somewhere on the radar for the Lions in April’s draft.