5 biggest winners for Detroit Lions early in 2024 free agency

Here are the biggest winners for the Lions so far in free agency.

Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK
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2. CB Cameron Sutton

Sutton, for one reason or another (hidden injury, defensive scheme) struggled mightily in his first season as a Lion. Quite simply, he was just not around the ball enough to make plays and a rough late run against some very good receivers only spotlighted that.

The addition of Carlton Davis to take on the opposition's No. 1 wide receiver benefitted Sutton greatly, and the subsequent addition of Amik Robertson stands to only reduce the pressure on him too. With Robertson best-suited to playing on the outside, despite being only 5-foot-8, Pro Football Focus pointed to a broader possible role change for Sutton.

"The interesting next step here will be whether Cam Sutton kicks inside to more of a nickel role or Detroit asks Robertson to do so after he seemed to hold up a bit better out wide with Las Vegas."

There's an angle (re-signing Emmanuel Mosely) that would suggest Sutton's starting job is in jeopardy. A cornerback early in the draft is also still possible. But in the immediate sense, Sutton is a free agency winner based sheerly on not having to cover the opponent's top receiver anymore.

1. DT Alim McNeill

During the aforementioned introductory presser, via the Detroit Free Press, DJ Reader also expressed excitement about playing next to McNeill.

“I’m super excited,” Reader said of playing with McNeill. “He’s a young player who has a lot, a lot of talent. … I’m excited to pair with him, see the things that he does well. I watch him all the time on film, so I’m excited to just get around him and just be around and be able to pick his brain about what he likes about the position.”

McNeill should be, and is, excited to play next to Reader. He had a breakout season in 2023, but Reader will only make his job easier.

The Lions now have two defensive tackles who Pro Football Focus graded out as top-10 against the run last season (h/t to Tim Twentyman of Lions.com). Reader is an automatic and significant upgrade over anyone McNeill had next to him last season, as a run defender and a pass rusher.

McNeill is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and his upward trajectory was only interrupted by a knee injury last season. Reader's presence could very well help him unlock another level next season; just in time to get paid handsomely (hopefully by the Lions).

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