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What free agency additions to secondary mean for Lions' roster

General manager Brad Holmes went to work this offseason adding talent and depth to Detroit's secondary that he hopes will reshape the back end of Detroit's defense and create an environment of competition that makes everyone better.

The additions of cornerback Cam Sutton, safety/cornerback C.J. Gardner-Johnson and cornerback Emmanuel Moseley, all of whom should be in the mix for stating roles, certainly adds competition across the board.

The team also re-signed cornerback Will Harris, who transitioned from safety to cornerback in 2022 and appeared in 15 games (10 starts), posting 53 tackles, four passes defended, two tackles for loss, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and an interception.

"When it comes to game time, we absolutely have a role for Will that we are excited about," Lions head coach Dan Campbell told "Will's been very productive for us and getting him back along with the new guys we signed was very important to us."

Just where that might leave other returning players like Jeff Okudah and Jerry Jacobs will be interesting to watch develop. Okudah, the former No. 3 overall pick, will certainly have some competition for the starting role he's earned out of training camp the two years. The team will have to decide by May if they want to pick up the fifth-year option of his rookie contract in 2024, which will cost them a little north of $11 million.

Okudah had his first two seasons in the league cut short by core muscle and Achilles injuries. He played in 15 games last season with 15 starts. Teams completed 59.7 percent of their passes throwing his way with an 87.6 passer rating with just one touchdown allowed, per Pro Football Reference statistics, but his level of play dipped later in the season and he saw his playing time decrease as a result.

"He's still learning as a player even all the years that he's been in the league already, it's still been very minimal play time," Holmes said of Okudah at the Annual League Meetings this past week. "I told you that last year was he's basically a rookie in terms of playing time. So, he's still got a lot of ability, but when the official decision is made on the fifth-year option, I'll make sure you guys are the first to know."

Jacobs returns for a third season in Detroit after a very good year in which he was arguably Detroit's most consistent cornerback down the stretch after returning from ACL rehab. He started eight of the 12 games he played in last year and teams completed 53.3 percent of their passes in his coverage with a 70.0 rating and one touchdown, per Pro Football Reference.

Given the resources the Lions used to sign Sutton, he is expected to be a starter on the outside, but he also has the ability to play the slot. Gardner-Johnson can play both safety and nickel cornerback and is expected to have a big role at one of those spots. The Lions are hoping Moseley is back from an ACL injury suffered last October by the start of the regular season. He also has some versatility and will compete for an important role.

"Yeah, look man, it adds depth, and it adds competition," Campbell told reporters at the Annual League Meetings this past week. "That's what it does. That's what we desperately need. I see those guys coming in and competing ...

"That's the other thing, just because you acquired these guys that doesn't mean it's a lock that they start. Probably a pretty good chance, that's why you acquired them. But gosh, the best guy is going to play and they all know that. All you do is you raise your level of competition. You raise the floor and that's a good thing for everybody."

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