TWENTYMAN: 5 positions of need for Lions

The legal tampering period in the NFL begins today, which mean general manager Brad Holmes and the Lions can start having contract talks with potential free agent signees.

Those deals are just being negotiated and can't be signed until the start of the new league year on Wednesday.

With the start of the legal tampering period, it's a good time to take a look at Detroit's five biggest positions of need:

1. Wide receiver

Holmes opted not to use the franchise tag on Kenny Golladay, which means the former Pro Bowler is headed to free agency, and his potential market could be out of Detroit's price range. Marvin Jones Jr., Danny Amendola, Mohamed Sanu and Jamal Agnew are also set to become free agents.

The Lions signed wide receiver Tyrell Williams last week. The team also has Quintez Cephus and Geronimo Allison under contract, along with Tom Kennedy and Victor Bolden, who both signed futures deals with the club after the season.

The good news for Holmes is that he’s been through a receiver rebuild before in 2017 when he was with the Rams. This is also a terrific free agent class and draft class at receiver, so Detroit should be able to restock that room rather quickly.

View photos of the Detroit Lions coaching staffing visiting Ford Field together for the first time March 10, 2021.

2. Linebacker

The Lions are bringing back their best playmaker at the position in veteran Jamie Collins Sr., after reportedly reworking his contract, but the team also released veteran Christian Jones. Jarrad Davis, Reggie Ragland and Jalen Reeves-Maybin are all headed toward free agency.

I expect this unit to look pretty different next year, which isn't a bad thing. As it stands right now, Collins and Jahlani Tavai are the only linebackers with experience under contract for 2021.

The Lions need an infusion of athleticism and talent at the position, especially when it comes to being able to cover and play in space.

This is a really good draft class at linebacker, with a half dozen or more rookies highly graded and projected to be early impact players. I expect the Lions to explore the mid-level free agency market at the position as well.

3. Cornerback

The Lions have a nice young nucleus with Jeff Okudah and Amari Oruwariye on the outside. Signing veteran restricted free agent Mike Ford helps with depth, but Holmes would certainly like to add talent and competition at the position, especially with the release of starting nickel corner Justin Coleman last week.

The Lions need to find a nickel corner and add depth and competition at the position as a whole.

4. Defensive line

We'll see what the free agent market looks like for veteran defensive end Romeo Okwara, who's headed to free agency after leading the Lions with 10.0 sacks last season. Everson Griffen is also a free agent.

The Lions should expect a jump in production from young pass rushers like Julian Okwara and Austin Bryant, but it still makes sense to add a veteran pass rusher in free agency.

Things are a little more urgent inside in terms of adding talent and competition. John Penisini showed some good things as a rookie, but Danny Shelton and Nick Williams could be candidates for contract restructure or release depending on cap space. Da'Shawn Hand has really struggled to stay healthy, missing 22 games through his first three seasons in the league. Can he stay healthy and up his production inside?

The Lions have to find some consistency opposite Trey Flowers, especially if Okwara signs elsewhere, and they have to improve the talent and production inside as well.

5. Offensive line depth

This was something Holmes noted when speaking to reporters a couple weeks back.

Taylor Decker, Jonah Jackson and Frank Ragnow are solid from left tackle to center. Halapoulivaati Vaitai is expected to be much better in his second season after signing as a free agent last offseason. He dealt with injuries last year, most significantly a foot injury suffered the last week of training camp. A healthy and productive Vaitai would give Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell some options in that he can play right guard or right tackle.

Veteran tackle Tyrell Crosby has played pretty well when given an opportunity. He's headed into a contract year. Is he the right tackle in 2021? Holmes and Campbell would probably like him to face some competition in camp. Detroit also needs some depth along the interior at both guard and center, even with Joe Dahl under contract.

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