NFL insider points to still-available former Lion as possible free agent steal

Certain names stand out among NFL free agents who are still available, but an NFL insider has gone with a former Lion as a potential free agent steal.
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Here in June, with little else going on in the NFL world, early 2024 season predictions of various natures, a look at free agents who are still available (with potential team fits), etc. become a thing.

SI rounded up their MMQB staff to address some key questions, including the premise of a free agent who's still available and could be a steal.

Matt Verderame (Justin Simmons), Gilberto Manzano (Stephon Gilmore) and Conor Orr (Gilmore) went with the easily expected names along that line, with Simmons and Gilmore at or near the top of any lists of available free agents.

Albert Breer went a different direction.

Albert Breer: S Tracy Walker III

"I think Simmons and Gilmore are probably the two best players available, but Walker stands to be a really good value. Last year, coming off a torn Achilles he sustained in 2022, he lost his starting spot to Ifeatu Melifonwu. And, at 29, it’s a fair bet that he’s now landed on the back side of his prime."

"But he’s still a defensive back with positional versatility who’s been a captain, and was a key piece in the transition from Matt Patricia to Dan Campbell in Detroit, as a guy who could help a new staff inspire buy-in. He’ll be able to help someone in the fall in a bunch of different ways, and probably at a pretty reasonable price."

Could Tracy Walker return to the Lions?

Before he tore his Achilles in Week 3 of the 2022 season, Walker posted a 74.3 overall Pro Football Focus grade with 20 total tackles over three games. He led the Lions in tackles in 2021 (108). Coming off the major injury last season, he entered the starting lineup after C.J. Gardner-Johnson's injury and he struggled, eventually losing the job to Ifeatu Melifonwu-as Breer mentioned.

With a reduced role coming this year, the Lions could not justify keeping Walker at a $12.8 million cap hit. That cap hit is the primary reason he was released. The Lions did him a favor by making the move in February, giving him a head start on free agency.

As safety depth has been seen as an issue for the Lions, the idea of Walker coming back has lingered. Depth there doesn't feel like as much of an issue now, with Brian Branch in line to see more time at safety.

Mike Payton of AtoZ Sports, answering a mailbag question on the topic of possibly bringing back a safety who has played for the Lions before, landed on the bottom lines in regard to Walker.

"....Tracy Walker, who I assume you're talking about, might have to find a different spot to play this year. I would be shocked if he doesn't find a roster that needs him during camp or the season."

It is a little surprising Walker is still available, as we now move toward training camp. Further removed from a major injury he rehabbed from very quickly, he should still have something left at 29 years old. Someone may get a real free agent steal before the season starts, with Walker coming as a veteran leader and potential starter. There should better opportunities out there than the Lions can offer him though.

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