As free agency slows to just a handful of moves a day across the league while attention turns to the NFL draft, there are still a lot of good players out there -- and a lot of good deals to be had for teams now that markets have started to settle down.
The Lions have about $10 million in cap room (before signing the rookie class and including DeAndre Levy’s post-June 1 cut) – far fewer dollars than some teams after big deals for offensive linemen Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang along with medium-sized deals for linebacker Paul Worrilow, cornerback D.J. Hayden and defensive tackle Akeem Spence.
But as ESPN's John Clayton re-ranks the available free agents, there are some players out there who could fill needs for Detroit and as time continues on, the price might become right. Of Clayton’s top 20 (and some others added by me afterward), here are some logical fits for Detroit among who is left.
No. 1 Johnathan Hankins, DT: He’s the best free agent left on the market, but his cost is likely still to be too high for Detroit. He had been reportedly seeking $10 million a year, but it doesn't seem likely he will get that now. He’s local to Detroit and would immediately upgrade the Lions’ defensive line, but they probably couldn’t even afford him on a short-term deal. If he’s still out there in a month, though, he could be worth re-inquiring about.
No. 2 T.J. McDonald, S: The 26-year-old would be a good long-term addition to the Lions, but a one-year deal could be tough with him. Like Hankins, he still might be too expensive for Detroit, but he would be a strong fit as a strong safety. That could make Tavon Wilson the No. 3 safety/nickel safety and special-teams standout.
No. 3 Zach Brown, LB: Much like Hankins and McDonald, it seemed like he would have signed already. He’s a playmaking linebacker at a spot that is Detroit’s biggest roster hole. His 149 tackles last year are impressive and he would give the Lions an upgraded linebacker group. Chances are, though, his cost still is too high.
No. 12 Michael Floyd, WR: His DUI issues are a legitimate concern, but he can play and is the kind of tall, possession receiver Detroit doesn’t have on the outside. His 4.2-percent drop rate is a concern on the field as well. Here’s why Floyd might fit, though: If there’s a locker room that could be a good influence on him, it’s the Lions. Former Notre Dame teammates Golden Tate and Theo Riddick are key members of the Lions.
No. 15 Tramon Williams, CB: If Williams is willing to come in at a smaller salary, he could be a good outside fit for Detroit. He would give the Lions another veteran presence in the defensive backfield and would be a good No. 2 opposite Darius Slay. If they can get him on a deal without much money guaranteed, the Lions could let Williams and Nevin Lawson compete for the starting gig with both in a contract year.
No. 19 Andrew Hawkins, WR: While Anquan Boldin is still out there, Hawkins might be just as good a fit. He’s a good character player who has proven to be a strong slot receiver. The question with Hawkins, though, is how much he has left after 60 catches for 600 yards combined in the past two seasons with Cleveland. But if he could have Lance Moore-like production as a No. 3 in 2017, that could be valuable in Detroit.
NR Anquan Boldin, WR: Boldin, who played for the Lions in 2016, said he’s playing another year in the NFL and Detroit remains a fit. There are questions here, though, about whether the Lions want to go with a veteran like him or give some of their younger receivers – such as TJ Jones and Jace Billingsley – a shot to win the job. If Boldin were to come back, it would likely be closer to the start of training camp.
NR Brandon Bolden, RB: Not a big name, but he’d be a fit in Detroit based on what else is going on in its backfield. He’s also a likely cheaper option than somebody like Adrian Peterson. Running back, like receiver, could be an after-the-draft move for the Lions based on what unfolds next month.
NR Jon Bostic, LB: Another Lions free agent, he never got a chance to do much in Detroit because of a foot injury that ended his season before it began. But he’s the type of player the franchise could bring in on a cheap deal a little bit later, if he’s available. He understands the system and Detroit clearly thought enough of him to keep him on the roster after his injury last year.
NR Sergio Brown, S: This might depend on how highly the Lions view Miles Killebrew, but Brown is a good special-teams player who can play safety, particularly in sub packages. Considering how much nickel and potentially dime Detroit might play, Brown could be a cheap, intriguing fit. He’s also a player Bob Quinn knows from New England. That hasn’t been a big thing this offseason, but it could be a match down the road. Like Floyd, he would have familiarity with some other Lions players from Notre Dame days as well.