Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes talked to media members assembled at Detroit's open portion of practice Wednesday to discuss Tuesday's trade of tight end T.J. Hockenson, a 2023 fourth-round pick and a conditional 2024 draft selection to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for a 2023 second-round pick and a 2024 third-round pick.
"We strive to be the best we can as in-depth as possible with all the tough decisions we have to make for the present and future of our football team," Holmes said. "I do think this move was reflective of that."
Holmes said the trade talks developed rather quickly over the weekend when he started getting a few calls. Holmes said the move to trade Hockenson was not a reflection of the team's 1-6 start.
"If our record was reversed, and it made sense for us, then we would have still done it," he said. "It wasn't anything of that nature."
Holmes talked about teams being in different windows. At 6-1 and holding a 3.5-game lead in the NFC North, the Vikings view this season as their window to win the division and compete for an NFC title. Their starting tight end Irv Smith Jr. was placed on IR Tuesday, and they were quick to get a good replacement.
"Yeah, (Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah) got a good football player," Holmes said. "But we didn't give him away for free, either."
Holmes reaffirmed his view that this Lions team is still in rebuilding mode and constructing for the future. Their 1-6 record to begin the season reflects that.
"It's the regular season right now, so players being acquired, that's exciting," Holmes said. "Draft picks, that's not exciting right now. It's not draft season. I don't think anyone gives a damn about draft picks that we get. I understand that."
But Holmes thinks Tuesday's trade was a good move for both sides. As it stands right now, the Lions have five picks in the top 65 of next year's NFL Draft. Holmes said it's his job to always have a focus on both the current and the future, and the future benefit outweighed what Hockenson brought to this team right now.
Holmes did say that future contract considerations played a factor in the decision. Hockenson was going to be playing on his rookie fifth-year option next season that would have paid him north of $9 million. Some of the new tight end contracts recently signed around the league are north of $13 million per season.
"That was one of many (factors) that was looked at," Holmes said. "But it wasn't solely focused on that at all.
"We're still in the build phase. With the capital that we received back from a compensation standpoint, I just think it made a lot of sense for us to continue on this build."
REPLACING HOCKENSON'S PRODUCTION
With Hockenson now in Minnesota, the Lions are tasked with trying to fill his production, which amounted to 43 targets (second most on the team) good for 26 receptions for 395 yards and three touchdowns this season.
"What I have to judge is where does his production go now," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said Wednesday. "I have to feel OK with that production going to (Amon-Ra) St. Brown, Lif (Kalif Raymond), (Josh) Reynolds, (D'Andre) Swift, another carry for Jamaal (Williams) and the other tight ends. And I feel OK with that."
Campbell said second-year tight end Brock Wright is expected to be back for Sunday's game against Green Bay after being removed from the game to be evaluated for a concussion. Wright was never diagnosed with a concussion, and is working through the NFL's return-to-play protocol, much like St. Brown did last week.
The team also expects rookie fifth-round pick James Mitchell to play a bigger role moving forward at tight end. Mitchell was rehabbing a college knee injury and got a slow start to the season, but he made his first catch last week (14 yards), and Campbell said he feels good about putting more on Mitchell's plate moving forward.
"There's more food on the table for the other skill positions on offense," Campbell said.
That's something wide receivers coach Antwaan Randle El said Wednesday is a welcome development for the players in his room.
"It's more of the ball to go around," Randle El said. "It's opportunities for everybody, whether it's my guys, running backs, what have you. As it related to my guys, we can do a little four wide, five wide type deals. It opens it up for things like that. My guys will be ready for it and crank up and ready to go."
Harris, who led the Lions in sacks last season, hasn't played since Week 4 due to a groin injury. Elliott missed last week's game vs. Miami because of a finger injury. Hughes also sat out last week's contest with a knee injury.
Campbell said the team was also going to begin the 21-day practice window Wednesday for fullback Jason Cabinda to come off the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. He's been battling ankle injuries dating back to the offseason.
Campbell also said running back D’Andre Swift feels better to begin this week than he did last week as he continues to rehab ankle and shoulder injuries. That's good news as Swift only got 10 touches in last week's loss to the Dolphins.
Green Bay has scored 30-plus points in each of the last four games vs. Detroit. It is the longest streak by the Packers against the Lions since four straight in 2007-08 and tied for the longest by Green Bay in the series.