Detroit Lions would be foolish not to try to poach legit shutdown corner from Super Bowl champions

The Detroit Lions need to go all-in for a No. 1 cornerback this offseason.
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The Detroit Lions have not had a legit No. 1 cornerback since Matt Patricia drove Darius Slay out of town four years ago. A deep draft class at the position may yield a young replacement for Slay, finally. But asking a rookie to take on the opponent's No. 1 receiver every week might be a stretch.

General manager Brad Holmes got right to work reshaping the Lions' secondary in 2023 free agency. The first move was signing Cameron Sutton to a three-year deal. Sutton had stepped into a starting role for the Pittsburgh Steelers over the previous two seasons, and it was easy to project another step to being the Lions' proverbial No. 1 corner.

That did not happen. Sutton had a disappointing first season in Detroit. Albeit against quite a run of very good wide receivers down the stretch, he was ill-equipped to make an impact and the Lions' pass defense suffered for it.

Sutton will have an opportunity to rebound next season. But he needs to be usurped in the pecking order, and to put it plainly he can't be going against the opponent's No. 1 wide receiver on a regular basis.

Detroit Lions would be foolish not to pursue L'Jarius Sneed

Holmes surely envisioned Sutton becoming the Lions' No. 1 cornerback last season. He was simply wrong, and there's nothing wrong with that. Even good general managers miss sometimes. But the struggles of the Lions' cornerbacks in 2023 cannot stand if they're going to take the next step and make the Super Bowl next year.

The Kansas City Chiefs could franchise tag L'Jarius Sneed, and keep him off the open market. That would cost $19.8 million, and quite likely be a placeholder for talks on a long-term deal. But the Chiefs have a history of not paying cornerbacks, and they've selected four cornerbacks in the past two drafts. So it's very possible he's allowed to hit the open market.

Sneed primarily played in the slot over his first three seasons with the Chiefs. But he made the move outside last season, and to regularly covering the opponent's top receiver. He allowed a 56.2 passer rating and a 51 percent completion rate as the closest defender, with a top-30 overall grade from Pro Football Focus.

Sneed does have an issue with penalties. During the regular season he drew 17 flags, most of the handsy, pass interference variety. But that kind of aggressive style should be welcomed by the Lions, compared to the alternative. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, and new defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend, should see someone they can work with to reduce penalties without taking away what makes Sneed good.

It all depends on the Chiefs allowing Sneed to hit the market. But the Lions should be all-in on pursuing him if he does, ready to make him an offer he won't refuse.

Sutton was a half-measure to bring in a top-tier cornerback last offseason (h/t to "Breaking Bad", NSFW). This time around, no more half-measures on that front. Sneed should be No. 1 on the Lions' list of free agent targets, regardless of position.

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