Lions general manager Brad Holmes conducted his annual postseason press conference Tuesday. He talked about the 9-8 record being an improvement over their three-win total from 2021. He referenced the 5-1 record against the NFC North and how important that was. He talked about some of the player development that happened over the course of the season that bodes well for the future.
He referred to all of that as a step in the right direction, but said it's only a start. A standard has been set by the way this team finished the season, and it's up to Holmes, head coach Dan Campbell and these future rosters to live up to that standard.
So, what is the standard moving forward?
In simple terms it's the playoffs.
Holmes thinks this team is good enough right now to play with any team currently in the playoffs in the NFC this season. He wants the playoffs to become the standard every year along with division titles and home playoff games.
What did Holmes learn about quarterback Jared Goff this season?
Holmes already knew a lot about Goff from their time together in Los Angeles. Holmes knew Goff was resilient and mentally tough, and all those things were reaffirmed with the way Goff played this season and how he led this team down the stretch.
Holmes said he had a very honest conversation with Goff after last season and told Goff he and the team had to hold up their end of the bargain by putting him in the right situation with weapons around him. They did that, and Holmes believes Goff held up his end with the way he played this season.
Holmes never viewed Goff as a bridge to the next quarterback. Holmes said he isn't against drafting a quarterback and having him sit and learn behind Goff, but he also said this: "I think it's a lot easier to get worse at quarterback than to get better at quarterback in this league."
That statement says a lot about Holmes' mindset at that position moving forward.
Will Holmes prioritize signing his own free agents or looking outside the organization having the most estimated cap space (nearly $28 million per overthecap.com) in his tenure as GM?
Holmes and Campbell have established a culture here with the Lions, and Holmes said acquiring players who are a fit in that regard is first and foremost. Obviously, when it comes to their own free agents there is familiarity there on both sides.
Holmes talked to just about all of their free agents during their exit interviews Monday and a majority of them expressed interest in coming back. He will take a long look at their own free agents and those available across the league, and said he'll be 'aggressively smart' in improving this roster for next season.
"There's some area that we'll look to address and we'll be wise and smart and strategic in how we add," he said. "We don't just spend on getting a high-priced guy. It's got to be the right fit and it's got to be the right guy and if it's not the right guy it doesn't matter what the outside world thinks.
"There was a lot made about us signing our own guys back (last year). 'We're not aggressive because we're signing our own guys back.' But look, that's still being aggressive because you still have to pay for those guys. We identified those were the best guys. Just because you go external ... doesn't mean it's the right guy. I'm not saying we won't do that. But if it's a big spend big ticket item, it's got to be the right fit."
What did Holmes think about the play of his rookie class in 2022?
He said it was really rewarding watching some of these first-year players become impact players. He enjoyed the Washington game when defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson burst onto the scene with three sacks. It was good to see wide receiver Jameson Williams' 41-yard touchdown in his second game back from rehab. He enjoyed watching linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez make plays all year, the three interceptions by safety Kerby Joseph on Aaron Rodgers, and James Houston emerging as a starting-caliber edge player in this league.
It was a strong class that Holmes expects to continue to develop on an upward trajectory.
Is Holmes excited about the draft capital he has this year with two first-round and two second-round picks?
"You can have all the picks you want," Holmes said. "You better pick them right."
Holmes has confidence in his draft process, as he should after two terrific classes in his first two drafts.
Where does Holmes have to do the most work this offseason to improve the roster?
The numbers tell a lot of the story of the 2022 season for the Detroit Lions. Detroit finished 32nd in total defense, 30th in points allowed, 30th against the pass and 29th against the run. While Holmes is excited about some of the young players they have on that side of the ball, he also knows task No. 1 this offseason is improving the defense.
"Obviously, our defense was ranked 32nd," Holmes said. "It's pretty obvious we're going to have to utilize some resources to try and improve that defense."