Lions DT Alim McNeill has extra motivation to build on 2023 breakthrough

Coming off his breakthrough last season, Lions defensive tackle Alim McNeill will naturally have a little extra motivation heading into his contract year.
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After two seasons that were not that impressive, Detroit Lions defensive tackle Alim McNeill attacked his offseason heading into last season. He changed his routine, with some eye on being a better pass rusher, and showed up to OTAs looking noticeably slimmer. Most notably, shy of sheer lost weight, his body fat percentage dropped as he wanted to have better stamina.

That effort bore fruit last season. McNeill had a career-high five sacks with 34 quarterback pressures (according to Pro Football Focus). Had he not missed four games in December due to a knee injury, his breakthrough numbers would have been even better. A younger teammate has noticed how his work last offseason paid off, which should not be discounted.

However obviously, McNeill was named by Pro Football Focus as the Lion's most improved player and the team's "secret superstar" from last season.

A third-round pick in 2021, McNeill is now entering the final year of his rookie contract. Where a new deal for him is on the Lions' offseason radar is unclear, with extensions for Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jared Goff top of mind for most people, but it's not like they're unaware of McNeill's contract status.

Alim McNeill will be plenty motivated to build on 2023 breakout

McNeill is certainly on an upward trajectory, now only boosted by the addition of DJ Reader in free agency.

This offseason, there have been some big contracts given to defensive tackles. The deal Derrick Brown just got from the Carolina Panthers added another member of the $21-plus million a year club at the position. As Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press pointed out, McNeill has to be loving those dollar figures as he moves toward his next contract.

McNeill is not as accomplished as the guys on that list of the highest-paid defensive tackles, or as experienced. So his new contract is naturally unlikely to stretch into the $20 million per year range.
Over The Cap has given McNeill a valuation of $8.852 million. From the Lions' end, they may want to see what he does into next season before committing long-term.

If last offseason is any indication, motivation will not be a thing for McNeill at all. But a contract year naturally adds a layer of motivation for any player, and he just has to look at the deals defensive tackles are getting as more fuel to build on last year's breakthrough.


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