Lions general manager Brad Holmes has started to address Detroit's depth at linebacker with the re-signing of veteran linebackers Alex Anzalone and Shaun Dion Hamilton on Monday. The team also announced the re-signing of safeties Jalen Elliott and C.J. Moore.
Anzalone came to Detroit via free agency last offseason after the Lions targeted him for one of their inside linebacker roles due to his familiarity with head coach Dan Campbell and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn having played under both coaches in New Orleans his first four seasons in the league.
He had 78 tackles (49 solo) with a sack and seven passes defended in 14 games. He missed three games last season with a shoulder injury.
View photos of Detroit Lions linebacker Alex Anzalone.
"All a player really wants is to be wanted and be appreciated and have a role in an organization," Anzalone said Monday. "That fit was there for me (in Detroit).
"I think from the start from their vision last year that they kind of just let me play and play my game and let me play free and kind of gave me the keys to the defense in a way. I think that took my game to another level from where I was at before and I'm looking forward to continue that on."
In 52 career games (34 starts), Anzalone has recorded 200 tackles (133 solo), 5.0 sacks, two interceptions, 10 pass defenses and three forced fumbles. He originally entered the NFL as a third-round draft selection (76th overall) by the Saints out of Florida in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Hamilton's 2021 season never got going after he was placed on season-ending injured reserve in August with an undisclosed injury. He was claimed by Detroit following the 2020 season. Hamilton was having a good training camp and was on his way to a roster spot, if not for the injury.
Hamilton has three seasons of NFL experience with Washington from 2018-20. A sixth-round draft pick in 2018, he played in 46 games with seven starts and had 97 tackles, 2.5 sacks, seven tackles for loss, three quarterback hits, one interception, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Anzalone and Hamilton join second-year linebacker Derrick Barnes and veterans Josh Woods and Anthony Pittman, among others, who will compete for playing time in Detroit, along with any other free agents or draft picks the Lions might add to the position.
Anzalone said he's excited about the groundwork the Lions laid on defense last year and thinks they can take the next step with some key additions.
"I think a few pieces here and there, some continuity going forward, I know last year was a year of a new regime and new culture from the past," he said. "I think that going into year two of Dan (Campbell) and Brad (Holmes), I think things are definitely looking up and the momentum is there."