With a 6-2 record heading into Tuesday's trade deadline, the Detroit Lions were even more solidly positioned as buyers. A big move could have vaulted them into the conversation as a legit Super Bowl contender.
Instead, the Lions largely stood pat. Their only move was a deal for wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, who is coming over from the Cleveland Browns for a 2025 sixth-round pick, While it was a solid move, it wasn't the game-changer Detroit should have been eying.
Defensively, the Lions have struggled rushing the passer without blitzing, which made the potential addition of another pass rusher tantalizing. Detroit watched as Montez Sweat was dealt to the Chicago Bears for a second-round pick, and the San Francisco 49ers got Chase Young from the Commanders for a third-round selection.
Either of those moves would have been ideal for the Lions. After seeing both of those players move, Holmes should have engaged the Minnesota Vikings on Danielle Hunter or the Carolina Panthers on Brian Burns. Both would have provided a boost up front, but the news shifted toward neither being easily available as deadline day neared.
As it stands now, the Lions will hope James Houston can return in December to boost their pass rush. But there's no guarantee he's going to be effective enough to tip the scales like a higher-profile player would.
The opportunity was there for the Lions to make a splash, in a year where plenty has gone right, to establishing themselves as Super Bowl contenders. Now, they must hope their roster is good enough as-is.
Dan Campbell explains Detroit Lions' mild trade deadline approach
The Lions could have made a bolder move, but it seems they didn't want to risk their future to make a play for the short term.
Speaking on Tuesday, Campbell explained the approach, and admitted the Lions were looking for a specific archetype in a trade.
"I think ultimately, Brad (Holmes) and I said from day one, we have a plan in place we don't want to alter. We don't want to mess with that. We're in year three of this, beginning of year three. Everything had to be right. It had to be the right player, it had to be the right fit, it had to be the right price. All three of those. That's not an easy thing to do, but that's how we look at it."
Whether that approach pays off remains to be seen, and it's not surprising that was the approach. But it's also true that the Lions may have missed an opportunity to put one of their best teams in recent memory over the top.