Looking into Detroit Lions rookie deal extension candidates and what they might get

The 2021 draft class was the launch point of the Detroit Lions' rebuild, and here's what those extension candidates may get in their next contracts as their rookie deals get set to expire.

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
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3. DT Alim McNeill (Third Round, No. 72 overall)

McNeill put in a lot of work to reshape his body last offseason, from a body fat and strength perspective, and he worked hard to broaden his game on the field too. It paid off, as he had five sacks (second on the team), and 10 quarterback hits while boosting his overall Pro Football Focus grade substantially.

PFF called him the Lions' "secret superstar" and most improved player after that breakthrough season.

"Despite playing in just 13 games, McNeill still managed to notch 34 pressures and a career-high five sacks while surging up the middle of the Lions defensive line. He’ll return next season to carry on being a quiet superstar."
-Pro Football Focus

McNeill has made progress year-over-year each season of his career. He started all 17 games in 2022 and played a lot more snaps than he did as a rookie, then he had the aforementioned third-year breakthrough.

McNeill is a bargain in the final year of his rookie deal, with a base salary in the $1.3 million range. But Over The Cap's valuation projection for him points to where he could get to in a contract extension ($8.7 million). The Lions may want to see what the next step is for him before committing long-term, but there's a case for them to buy into his continual progress now before he elevates his value.

Alim McNeill contract extension projection (if it happens this offseason): 3 years, $21.5 million; $15 million fully guaranteed