If the draft doesn’t yield notable help, might the Detroit Lions pivot and trade for a defensive lineman?
It feels likely the Detroit Lions will take a defensive lineman with one of their two first-round picks on Thursday night. Tyree Wilson, Jalen Carter, Bryan Bresee, Myles Murphy, etc. could land with Detroit.
But nothing should be surprising in any NFL draft, and the Lions could come out of Thursday night with a cornerback and a tight end? A quarterback? A wide receiver? Who knows? There’s definitely a chance they will be looking for defensive line help on Day 2 of the draft.
The Washington Commanders took a run of first-round defensive lineman in recent years. They made news this week with a report from Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic they will not pick up the fifth-year option on defensive end Chase Young. The No. 2 overall pick in 2020 draft and 2020 Defensive Rookie of the Year had his career set off-course by a torn ACL in 2021.
But Washington has ponied up to pay Jonathan Allen and more recently Daron Payne big contracts. On the notion of “you can’t pay everyone”, some tough decisions have to be made.
NFL rumors: Could the Detroit Lions pivot and trade for defensive line help?
Not picking up Young’s fifth-year option is not necessarily a declaration by the Commanders that they want to trade him, or won’t eventually sign him to a multi-year deal. They simply would like to see him put together a healthy season in 2023. But it’s easy to get the speculation machine moving on the idea he could be traded, and could be moved during draft weekend.
Ian Valentino of Pro Football Network included the Lions on his list of possible landing spots for Young.
"The Lions have thrown a significant amount of assets into their defensive line, hitting a home run with Aidan Hutchinson last year. However, veterans Charles Harris and Romeo Okwara were mediocre, and 2022 second-rounder Josh Paschal hasn’t found his stride yet. For a team that ranked 28th in points allowed last year, taking a flier on Young is a no-brainer.Young perfectly fits Detroit’s 4-3 front and would have a player’s friendly staff that might appeal to him more. Considering Young ranked seventh in the NFL in 2020 in run stuffs and 17th in 2021, Young can be more than just a sack artist for Detroit’s 29th-ranked run defense. If it works out, Detroit has over $87 million in cap space to use on retaining Young next offseason."
Commanders defensive end Montez Sweat is set to play, and likely play out without an extension from Washington, on his fifth-year option this year. He is likely auditioning for a new team he’ll sign with in free agency next March.
And of course, Dallas Robinson of Pro Football Network had the Lions on his list of landing spots for Sweat.
"The Lions are set at one defensive end spot for the foreseeable future after Aidan Hutchinson — last year’s No. 2 overall pick — posted 9.5 sacks and finished second in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting in 2022.The other side of Detroit’s defensive line has far more questions. John Cominsky flashed last season but doesn’t have much of an NFL track record to rely on. And Romeo Okwara, Charles Harris, and 2022 second-rounder Josh Paschal all missed significant time with injuries last year.Like their NFC North rivals, the Lions also have multiple selections in Round 2 (Nos. 48 and 55). If Dan Campbell wants to build one of the best pass-rushing groups in the NFL, I could see Detroit sending one of those Day 2 picks to Washington in order to pair Sweat with Hutchinson."
To consider trading for Young or Sweat, the Lions would have to ready to pivot big from any plan to draft an edge rusher. Sweat is set to make $11.5 million on his option this year, while Young’s cap number for this year is $10.99 million. Both come with the natural idea of a subsequent contract extension, and Sweat is in a far better position for that having played every game in three of his four seasons.
Could the Lions offer one of their 2023 second-round picks to Washington for Young or Sweat if the come out of the first round without a defensive lineman? It seems unlikely, but it’s hardly out of the question. I’d prefer Sweat between the two, even if Young’s upside is still higher, if the move were made.