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How Detroit Lions landed every ‘Plan A’ target in free agency

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By: Jeremy Reisman

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Lions GM Brad Holmes says they signed every top target in free agency. Here’s how it happened.

“I truly believe this was our best free agency of all that we’ve had since we’ve been here.”

Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes came out firing in his opening statement to a small group of Detroit media at the owners meetings.

While the Lions didn’t make a ton of splash signings this free agency, Holmes believes they went out and accomplished just about everything they wanted to. Why does he think that? Well, according to Holmes, the team hit on literally every one of their top targets this free agency period.

“Through our planning and process this year, we have these No. 1 targets, and we were able to get every single one of our No. 1 targets that we were out to get,” Holmes said. “It doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes you might strike out on one, you got to go to Plan B. You got to go to Plan C. No, actually, we were able to land Plan A.”

That started with their plan at cornerback. The Lions knew they needed to overhaul the position group, and they had seen Carlton Davis up close twice in their 2023 matchups with the Buccaneers.

“I had a good feel of Carlton,” coach Dan Campbell said. “We didn’t really want to throw at him. We knew he was a good cover guy, and he’ll tackle on the perimeter. There are just things he can do where he can take his side of the field away, at times.”

Detroit knew Tampa was likely to put one of their young cornerbacks on the market, so Holmes reached out.

But while he was working with Lions contract experts Brandon Sosna and Mike Disner to see how they could absorb Davis’ 2024 cap hit of over $14 million, the team focused their attention on undersized, gritty corner Amik Robertson. At that point, the Lions felt like they were in an either/or situation. But eventually the Lions made the numbers work, agreed upon trade terms with the Bucs, and even though the Davis trade went down first, Robertson was still excited to come to Detroit and compete for a spot.

“We make the Carlton trade, and we’re like, ‘Well, we’re going to lose Amik. I mean, we just traded for a corner,’” Campbell explained. “He’s like, ‘Are we going to get this done or not?’ He wanted to come. To him, he’s coming in to compete to start. He wants to come in and earn his right. I love that about this kid.”

By unexpectedly landing both Robertson and Davis—plus re-signing Emmanuel Moseley to a one-year deal—the Lions were able to absorb the sudden impact of releasing Cameron Sutton following the warrant for his arrest.

“I think it was a blessing for the mere fact, like I said, we were able to land Carlton Davis and Amik Robertson,” Holmes said. “So I do like the competition that we have”

With Moseley back in the fold after the team re-signed him to a one-year deal, the Lions are still in the market for a cornerback, but they aren’t going to press for one.

Their ideal situation also fell into their laps on the offensive line. While the Lions were still negotiating with Jonah Jackson before last season began and well into the season, they changed courses in the offseason, hoping to retain versatile guard Graham Glasgow while landing Kevin Zeitler to replace the hole left by Jackson’s departure. It took some time for the Lions to eventually rope in the 34-year-old Zeitler, but they managed, again, to hit their Plan A.

“He’s a guy that, he just fits like a glove for what we’re about,” Holmes said. “He plays the game how we want to play it. He fits the identity of what we’re all about. Again, he was another one that we weren’t sure. We wanted to get Glasgow and him. That was the Plan A, and to be able to get both of them, we were just thrilled with it.”

Detroit also made two upgrades to their defensive line in DJ Reader and Marcus Davenport. In the former, they got a dominant run defender. The latter, a perfect complement to Aidan Hutchinson.

Holmes was particularly enamored with Reader, who he believes has underappreciated pass rushing skills to go with his “elite” run defending.

“The pass rush is what really sold me,” Holmes said. “Like, the run defense, like yeah, he can do that, but there’s athleticism down in there where he can catch edges and push the pocket and harass a quarterback as well, and he plays hard. So, again, I can’t talk enough about Reader. You guys obviously got a chance to speak with him. Great, great human being.”

Davenport, on the other hand, is a person Campbell is familiar with from their collective time in New Orleans.

“What you’re getting is you’re getting an athletic, explosive player with length,” Campbell explained. “He plays hard and I think a lot of it is who is this guy opposite of Hutch that can really crush the pocket and close it down. Whether he makes it or sends it to Hutch was really a lot of what this is. We really felt like we’ve got to complement to Hutch.”

While the Lions hit on every one of their external top targets, there is one coveted player who currently remains just out of their reach: receiver Josh Reynolds. The Lions want to bring back their No. 2 receiver from last season, but haven’t been able to close the deal yet.

“Still having dialogue, we’ll just kind of see where that goes,” Holmes said. “But that’s really the only one that’s still out there who was in the original plans.”

Originally posted on Pride Of Detroit