The NFL Draft is the preferred and most cost-effective way for NFL general managers to build their roster, but free agency is a terrific way to fill holes with proven players. A few good drafts stacked on top of each other and a few savvy free-agent signings can make all the difference in the NFL.
The Detroit Lions have the most cap space they've ever had heading into free agency in Bob Quinn's tenure as general manager. Quinn hasn't been afraid to go out in free agency in the past and bolster a position he feels is a need. He did it with the offensive line two offseasons ago by signing T.J. Lang and Rick Wagner, and at linebacker last offseason with the signings of Devon Kennard and Christian Jones.
"I think the NFL resume is huge," Quinn said at the Combine, when asked about adding a player at a position of need vs. drafting a player. "Those guys have been in the league, most of them four years plus, right – because they're hitting unrestricted free agency. So, there's plenty of tape and stuff you can watch against NFL competition if they're making plays at whatever position they are."
The Lions have needs this offseason for a pass rusher, a couple tight ends, a third receiver, potentially an interior offensive lineman, competition at cornerback, a backup quarterback and depth at linebacker.
Some of that will be addressed in the draft, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Lions are aggressive in free agency trying to fill some needs with proven players.
"That's a little bit, I'd say, a safer bet than drafting anybody from the first round down to the seventh because the draft is sporadic," Quinn said. "Sometimes you hit, sometimes you miss. We try to do as much work as possible to try to mitigate those misses, but yeah, the NFL free agency is more of a safe bet."