The new league year begins at 4 p.m. March 13, and with it comes the official start of free agency.
“I think there’s reasons to be optimistic as we go into the offseason,” Lions team president Rod Wood said after the season. “We have as much salary cap space as I think we’ve ever had in the history of the franchise.”
The Lions are in a good position to find help in the free agent market this offseason and with their nine picks in April’s NFL Draft.
Detroit already got started in that regard with the signing of veteran slot receiver Danny Amendola on Monday. He fills a significant need heading into free agency.
Here is a list of players in free agency who could be a potential fit for the Lions:
Trey Flowers, DE, New England: Flowers played three seasons under Lions head coach Matt Patricia in New England, and would come to Detroit very familiar with Patricia’s schemes and coaching style. Flowers is a disrupter on the edge with 21.0 sacks over the last three seasons, including 7.5 last year.
Kareem Jackson, CB, Houston: Jackson is north of 30-years-old (turns 31 in April), but you wouldn’t know it by his play last season. He’s intriguing for Detroit because of his ability to play outside, inside and even at safety. He’s a moveable piece, which has value. He started all 16 games for the Texans last season and recorded 87 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and a sack. He also defended 17 passes. He’s a proven playmaker in the secondary, and was Pro Football Focus’ fourth highest graded cornerback last season.
Justin Coleman, CB, Seattle: Coleman played for Patricia in New England in 2015 and 2016, and spent the last two years in Seattle playing in all 16 games each season with 10 starts in the slot. He recorded 55 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and an interception playing inside for the Seahawks last season.
Preston Smith, OLB, Washington: Smith (6-5, 265) has terrific length and pass rushing ability. He recorded 53 tackles, four sacks and an interception last season. He had eight sacks in both the 2017 and 2015 seasons, and he’s only 26 years old.
Za’Darius Smith, OLB, Baltimore: Another pass rusher with youth and length. Smith notched 45 tackles, 8.5 sacks and forced a fumble last season. At 6-foot-4, 272 pounds, Smith can put his hand in the dirt or rush from the two-point stance.
Jesse James, TE, Pittsburgh: James turns just 25-years-old in June, and has caught at least 30 passes in each of the last three seasons in Pittsburgh as a fourth or fifth option in a loaded offense. He averaged 14.1 yards per reception last season and is a plus blocker on the edge.
Steven Nelson, CB, Kansas City: Lions general manager Bob Quinn said he wants to add playmakers on both sides of the ball. Well, Nelson fits the description. He picked off four balls last season and also defended 15 passes. He’s also not afraid to tackle, recording 68 for the Chiefs in 2018 starting all 16 games.
Henry Anderson, DE, New York Jets: Anderson had a breakout season this past year with seven sacks and 35 tackles in mostly a reserve role along the Jets’ defensive line. Anderson (6-6, 301) has the frame to play inside or outside, and also notched 31 quarterback hurries. He was one of the top graded 3-4 defensive ends by PFF last season. He’s earned a positive grade from PFF in each of his first four seasons.
Rodger Saffold, G, Los Angeles Rams: This is a need for the Lions after the release of veteran guard T.J. Lang last Friday. Saffold, 30, is arguably the best guard on the market, and has only missed two games the last three years.
J.R. Sweezy, G, Seattle: Sweezy played in Bevell’s offense for his first four seasons in Seattle, so there’s some familiarity there. Sweezy, 29, has missed just five games over the last five seasons as a full-time starter.
Eric Rowe, CB, New England: Injuries have limited Rowe in recent seasons, but there’s a history with Patricia, and Rowe (6-1, 205) has the size and skill set to play both inside and outside.
Malcom Brown, DT, New England: The Lions could be on the lookout for a fourth interior defender to pair with Damon Harrison Sr., A’Shawn Robinson and Da’Shawn Hand. Brown has started 51 games for the Patriots over the last four seasons, and he’s a plus run defender.
Jared Cook, TE, Oakland: The Lions have to bolster the tight end position and could elect to do so both in free agency and the draft. Cook will turn 32 this offseason, but doesn’t look to be slowing down at all after recording career highs in receptions (68), yards (896) and touchdowns (6) last season in Oakland.
Mike Davis, RB, Seattle: Lions new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will be very familiar with Davis from their time together in Seattle in 2017. He could be a nice complement to Kerryon Johnson after rushing for 514 yards (4.6 average) with four touchdowns in 15 games with the Seahawks last season.
Pierre Desir, CB, Indianapolis: Desir (6-1, 198) has the kind of length teams love on the outside at cornerback. Opposing quarterbacks completed just 59 percent of their passes throwing his way last season. He had 79 tackles, two forced fumbles and an interception in 12 starts.