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KEY QUESTIONS: Why Holmes thinks this was Lions' best free agency

ORLANDO – Lions general manager Brad Holmes took time to speak with Lions reporters Tuesday morning at the Annual League Meetings in Florida. Holmes touched on a number of different topics ranging from free agency, the NFL Draft, the current construction of the roster and moves he still hopes to make.

Here are the key questions from that media session:

How did the first wave of free agency go with the additions they were able to make to the roster?

The additions of guard Kevin Zeitler, defensive lineman DJ Reader, edge rusher Marcus Davenport and cornerback Amik Robertson, plus the trade for cornerback Carlton Davis III and the re-signing of some of their own free agents, makes this offseason the best free agency haul the team has had to date in Holmes' opinion.

"I truly believe this was our best free agency haul that we've had since we've been here," he said. "The reason why I say that is through our planning and process this year we have these No. 1 targets, and we were literally able to get every single one of our No. 1 targets that we were out to get."

It doesn't always work that way in free agency but landing all of their top free agency targets has put the Lions roster in a terrific position with both talent and depth as they prepare to add to it with three picks in the top 100 in next month's NFL Draft.

Holmes still isn't done with free agency. He said re-signing wide receiver Josh Reynolds is a priority.

After the release of Cam Sutton, does Holmes still view cornerback as a position of need?

It's fortunate Holmes and the Lions were able to acquire Davis via trade and sign Robertson in free agency. Along with second-year nickel cornerback Brian Branch and the re-signing of Emmanuel Moseley, Holmes likes the competition developing at cornerback and doesn't view it as a must-add. 

"We really like the competition that we currently have," he said. "We don't feel like the Cam Sutton situation really altered the landscape of how we approach the draft."

He also said teams can never have too many good cornerbacks. Holmes has taken a cornerback in every draft he's run since coming to Detroit in 2021.

Speaking of Moseley specifically, Holmes said his recovery from a torn ACL is on track and going well.

How did the Davis trade come about?

Holmes and the Lions reached out to Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht.

"We kind of had a sense that they were going to be available," Holmes said. "They were going to have some corners available. Obviously when you get to those players making a certain amount of salary and coming up on the last year of their deal. And you look at them and they have some young players in that secondary that are ascending. So, I think it made sense on their part."

The Lions gave up a 2024 third-round draft selection and received a 2024 sixth-round and 2025 sixth-round draft selection as part of the trade. The Lions recently converted $6 million of Davis' $14 million base salary in 2024 into a signing bonus and added three void years to the end of his contract, according to NFL Players Association records.

Davis was a good scheme fit and Holmes said he's done work on Davis all the way back to his time at Auburn when Holmes was scouting the southeast.

How important was the Zeitler signing for the stability of the offensive line?

Holmes said he and Jonah Jackson's representatives had conversations dating back to before last season. The two sides couldn't come to an agreement then. Holmes said they were in the conversation to re-sign Jackson at a point in free agency this month before Jackson signed with the LA Rams for $51 million.

To be able to pivot and sign a veteran like Zeitler, 34, fresh off a Pro Bowl season in Baltimore was a huge get for Holmes and the Lions.

"When we played the Ravens and saw how much of a high level Zeitler was playing I was like, 'Wow.' But you never know when guys get to that age how long it's going to last. When it got to the end of the season and I really started diving into those (free agent) targets and looked at him again, I was like, 'wow, he's sustained that for a whole season and he's a guy that just fits like a glove for what we're about.'"

Getting Graham Glasgow re-signed and signing Zeitler was a huge priority for Holmes, and he was able to execute both moves.

What stands out most about the current roster?

Looking at this Lions roster from top to bottom it's pretty complete. There's not a spot on either side of the ball where a rookie drafted next month will have a clear path to a starting role. If they beat out a veteran and earn it, that's one thing, but it's not like last year where running back Jahmyr Gibbs, linebacker Jack Campbell and tight end Sam LaPorta were expected to be starters or play significant roles right away.

"Honestly, I think that's where you want to be at," Holmes said. "I remember back when I was in LA we had got to that point. That's where you want to be with your roster where you are picking guys, whether it's at pick 29 or in Day 2, if he plays, he plays."

Holmes said that was the approach with Brian Branch last year. They had veteran C.J. Gardner-Johnson slated to start in the nickel and felt good at safety at that point. Branch was just the best player on Holmes' board at the time in the second round, so he selected him. Branch's play in training camp kept him on the field.

How much better is the defense with the addition of Reader?

Holmes couldn't say enough about what Reader is going to mean for the defense and how he's going to elevate the play of everyone along the defensive line.

"His run defense, which I think is elite and I think is at a whole other level among a lot of these other guys, but the pass rush is really what sold me," Holmes said of Reader. "There's athleticism in there where he can catch edges and push the pocket and harass the quarterback as well. He's going to open up so many things for our defense."

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