Free agent 'fit' for Detroit Lions is really not a fit at all

A remaining free agent named a 'fit' for the Detroit Lions is really not such a good fit.
Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

Once upon a time, not so long ago....the Detroit Lions lacked talent at linebacker and should have been willing to look wherever they could to find someone who was capable.

That is not the case anymore. Alex Anzalone is coming off the best season of his career. Derrick Barnes took a big positive step last season. Jack Campbell was a first-round pick last year, and had a solid rookie season with areas he can improve in. The odd-man out last season, Malcolm Rodriguez, had 87 tackles as a rookie in 2022. Jalen Reeves-Maybin had the best season of his career last year, earning a Pro Bowl nod as a special teamer and playing very well in his defensive snaps.

The linebacker position is now a strength for the Lions. Never say never in terms of adding someone, but it's not a need when you go five deep with very capable players at a spot when two of three are usually on the field at one time.

Remaining free agent 'fit' for the Lions is not a fit at all

Matt Holder of Bleacher Report recently pointed to one remaining free agent who can help each NFL team in 2024. For the Lions it had to be....Stephon Gilmore? Steven Nelson? Adoree Jackson? A veteran safety? A kicker? Another edge rusher?


Linebacker Zach Cunningham.

Here's what Holder wrote.

"While Alex Anzalone had a good season in 2023, the Lions could use another option to line up alongside Anzalone. Derrick Barnes' play was up and down for the majority of last year and Jack Campbell had a pedestrian rookie campaign."

"Adding Cunningham would give them another veteran option to compete for a starting spot during training camp, and Pro Football Focus is only projecting him to receive a one-year, $2.75 million contract. So, it's worth the shot to bring him in and at least add some depth to the position group."

Cunningham had 85 tackles over 13 games for the Philadelphia Eagles last season. But beyond that raw number he was not that impactful, and his tackling grade from Pro Football Focus was subpar (48.4; 15 missed tackles). Frankly, he would not come in and start over anyone the Lions' have at linebacker. Campbell is expected to take a step in Year 2, and Barnes should have the opportunity to show last season was not a fluke.

The Lions could see Cunningham as a replacement for Anthony Pittman as a backup linebacker/core special teamer, but he has not seen notable special teams snaps since 2020 with the Houston Texans. Beyond that, he may be able to find a better path to a starting job elsewhere (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?) and if he can it goes without saying he should.

The Lions may make another free agency signing of some significance. It's just not going to be a linebacker with the resume or aspirations to be a starter, barring something completely unforeseen.


Next. Re-grading the Detroit Lions 2023 draft one year later. Re-grading the Detroit Lions 2023 draft one year later. dark