Detroit Lions' player who most needs change of scenery is very obvious

The Detroit Lions don't have a lot of players who would be better off elsewhere, but the one ESPN's Eric Woodyard named is pretty obvious.

The Detroit Lions have become a player-friendly franchise, with a head coach who values "grinders" and gets emotional thinking about the players from his first season in Detroit. Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes value "our own" and players that fit in the culture beyond their talent level.

Levi Onwuzurike was the second draft pick Holmes made as Lions' general manager, 41st overall in the 2021 draft. He had gotten a bit of mock draft buzz as a late-first round pick, despite sitting out the 2020 season at the University of Washington due to COVID-19.

Onwuzurike battled through a back injury that dated back to his college career to play 16 games as a rookie. Then, during the first practice of 2022 training camp, he suffered a back injury that required surgery and cost him his entire second season.

Onwuzurike later detailed the extent of that back surgery-a spinal fusion, which cast his future as a football player into doubt. But he was ready to go for training camp last summer, and by all public accounts he was healthy for all of the 2023 season.

But Onwuzurike simply didn't play much (10 games, 132 defensive snaps), or make much of an impact (one sack, five total tackles).

Lions player who needs a change of scenery is obvious

ESPN tapped their NFL beat writers for a list of players who need a change of scenery this offseason. Lions' writer Eric Woodyard chose Onwuzurike.

"Onwuzurike still has a ton of potential but hasn't been able to find a groove in Detroit -- mainly because of injuries. He could benefit from a new situation, which could rejuvenate him on the field. The 2021 second-round pick missed most of training camp as a rookie and didn't have much of an impact when he did play. He then didn't suit up for a single game in 2022 while recovering from surgery on his back. He did appear in 10 regular-season games this past season, but he was a healthy scratch at times. Things haven't worked out for him so far in Detroit."

Back injuries are obviously no joke, and the kind of surgery Onwuzurike had is the kind you probably never fully recover from. He does still have potential, but where is that ceiling now?

On a short list of even faintly possible cap casualties for the Lions, Onwuzurike does stand as one possibility. Entering the final year of his rookie contract, $1.7 million in cap space can be cleared by cutting him ($821,617 dead money hit). A trade, such as another team would have interest, could yield a conditional late-round pick.

Any way you slice it, and with factors that have been out of his control, it has not worked out for Onwuzurike in Detroit. As much as he has a long future as an NFL player, maybe a new team can unlock him a little bit.


Next. 3 Detroit Lions who can safely be called busts after the 2023 season. 3 Detroit Lions who can safely be called busts after the 2023 season. dark