Savvy early decision by Brad Holmes proven again via list of free agent busts

Brad Holmes had a second big decision early in his tenure as Lions' general manager, and there's further proof he nailed it.
Danielle Parhizkaran/ /

Time has told us that Brad Holmes is an excellent general manager, some may even say the best in the league. But when the Detroit Lions hired him in January of 2021, that was absolutely not able to be known.

At the start of another rebuild in Detroit, Matthew Stafford made it known he wanted to be traded. By all accounts he was allowed to pick his destination, and a chance meeting with Sean McVay while on vacation in Mexico paved the way for a deal with the Los Angeles Rams.

Holmes had another big decision very early in his tenure as Lions' general manager.

Wide receiver Kenny Golladay had missed all but five games in 2020 due to a hip injury, but he had topped 1,000 yards in each of the previous two seasons. Despite Stafford missing half of the 2019 season, Golladay neared 1,200 yards (1,190) and led the league with 11 receiving touchdowns that year.

Making any big free agent investment at the beginning of a rebuild has to make sense, and of course the Lions had the franchise tag in their pocket for Golladay if they wanted to use it.

The Lions ultimately made little or no effort to keep Golladay, and he signed a four-year, $72 million deal with the New York Giants. The decision to let Golladay hit the market looked good pretty quickly, and from there it grew worse for the Giants. They released him in March of 2023, two years into his contract, taking on a $14.7 million dead money hit by doing so.

Savvy early decision by Brad Holmes and the Lions further proven right

Golladay had 37 catches for 521 yards and zero touchdowns in his first season as a Giant (14 games). But that was robust production compared to 2022, when a new regime had come to New York, as he finished with six receptions for 81 yards over 12 games (63 of his 261 offensive snaps in a meaningless Week 18 game).

Golladay was out of the league last season, only surfacing with news of a workout with the New York Jets just before the season started. His career in the NFL appears to be done.

Dallas Robinson of Pro Football Network has ranked the 10 worst free agency signings in NFL history. There are some fairly obvious ones that are worse than the Giants signing Golladay, but that move lands at No. 7 on the list.

Robinson highlighted Golladay's fast fall.

"While Kenny Golladay had been a 1,000-yard receiver for the Detroit Lions in 2018 and 2019, his 2020 season was a nightmare. The 6’4″ wideout missed the first two games of the year with a hamstring issue, then went down with a season-ending hip injury upon his return."

"The New York Giants still decided to sign Golladay to a four-year, $72 million deal in 2021 that included $28 million in fully guaranteed money."

"Golladay missed three games with a hyperextended knee in his debut Giants season, but health wasn’t his primary issue — production was. He finished the year with just 37 catches for 521 scoreless yards, and things only got worse in 2022."

"Golladay fell further out of favor with New York’s coaching staff and missed more time with injuries in his second Big Blue season. He played more than 50% of the Giants’ offensive snaps just twice (Weeks 1 and 18) before being released in March 2023."

Holmes was painted into a corner to honor Stafford's desire to not be part of another rebuild. The first big decision that would prove his mettle as a general manager was the one to let Golladay go with no real resistance, and not even a franchise tag flier to see if he could have a healthy rebound in 2021. We don't need any more evidence it was the right choice, but it's still nice when it gets highlighted in light of a big mistake by the Giants.


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