With the draft right around the corner, the free-agent market has come to a screeching halt. Teams are more focused on finalizing their draft board at this particular point and then turn sights to free agents afterward with positions they may not have filled through the draft.
The way the Lions have attacked free agency, don’t expect them to sign any players to multi-year deals considering they have only handed it out to a few this offseason, and from the looks of it, they are playing the compensatory game.
The Lions have also shown they are willing to take reclamation projects heading into the season and possibly get something out of them and boost their stock heading into next season like Charles Harris, Corn Elder, and Quinton Dunbar.
Even though there is a strong possibility those after-the-draft free agents not even making the team when it is all said and done, but there are a few free agents who might be able to battle out for one of those coveted roster spots heading into the season for the Lions.
WR Dede Westbrook
Westbrook missed the majority of last season after he tore his ACL after returning a kickoff. Thankfully, his injury occurred early last season, giving plenty of time to recover from the harsh injury. He has seen success as the primary slot receiver for Jacksonville Jaguars, catching 1,805 yards and nine touchdowns with a 65% catch rate through his four years as a fourth-round draft pick. Additionally, this all came from quarterbacks like Blake Bortles, Nick Foles, and Gardner Minshew slinging the ball.
With Westbrook coming off a tough injury, essentially sidelining him all last season, it comes as little surprise teams have not signed the 27-year old receiver. The Lions could get him for cheap and give him a one-year prove-it deal, hoping he can show the same spring in his step he had in Jacksonville, giving the Lions an established, young slot receiver who has return experience. By no means would this stop the Lions from drafting a receiver, but if they can find magic in Westbook, he could stick further into the rebuild either on offense and/or special teams as a returner.
General manager Brad Holmes has not been shy in taking on former first-round picks in hopes of untapped potential, and Dennard fits right into that category. The seven-year veteran has been battling injuries the past two seasons, missing 15 games in that span, which could be the pinpoint reason for not finding a team this offseason. When he has seen the field, he has shown to a reliable corner with the versatility to play outside and inside.
Once again, injuries have played a part in Dennard’s market, but the Lions cornerback depth lacks both outside and inside, and Dennard could fill in both spots if push came to shove. With Jeff Okudah, Amani Oruwariye, or Quinton Dunbar taking care of the outside and Corn Elder handling the middle, no one should expect him to start. Still, the local Michigan State product could provide that necessary depth and veteran savviness the Lions could use during the rebuild.
DL Jurrell Casey
The Denver Broncos brought in Casey after trading only a seventh-round draft pick to the Tennesse Titans. Unfortunately, he would only play 156 for Denver when he tore his bicep ending his season prematurely. At which point the Broncos decided to cut bait with the oft-injured veteran clearing nearly $12 million in cap space. When he has seen the field, he has been a model of consistency, making five straight Pro Bowls from 2015-2019 and notching at least 50 pressures from 2013-2017. He has the versatility to align anywhere in the inside from the 1 to the 3 tech, bringing a repertoire that makes him an effective run stuffer and a pass rusher.
Even though the Lions have a fair amount of defensive lineman, you can never have enough versatile lineman that allows you to put your defense in the best matchup possible. Casey can be a strong presence as a rotational lineman due to his age and injury history. It wasn’t long ago Casey was viewed as one of the better defensive linemen in the league, where he earned a $60 million contract from the Titans. Now those days are probably long gone where you see the sack and pressure numbers, but he brings a skillset the Lions could use to bridge the rebuild for any young players Detroit could potentially bring in.