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By: Erik Schlitt
This article will update with every signing, so be sure to bookmark and reference it throughout the offseason!
The Detroit Lions 2022 season is over and that means we’re on to the 2023 offseason.
For this continuously updating piece, we will focus on the Lions’ roster heading toward free agency. This article is organized by position group and will provide fans with an overview of the 78 players on the roster, injured reserve, or practice squad at the end of the season.
Within each section, we will provide readers with an end-of-season depth chart at the position, identify the roles players held, the 2023 contract details of the players currently signed by the Lions, as well as several key terms to better clarify each player’s situation.
Key Terms to know:
- UFA: Unrestricted Free Agents can sign with any team during the free agency period beginning on March 15 (Tampering negotiations begin on the 13th). Lions can re-sign these players at any time.
- RFA: Restricted Free Agents rights are held by the Lions. If an RFA receives a contract from another team, the Lions can match the offer or potentially receive draft compensation for allowing the player to leave.
- ERFA: Exclusive Rights Free Agents are only allowed to negotiate contracts with the Lions unless Detroit chooses to let them explore free agency.
- SFA: Street Free Agents are players who were under contract with an NFL team in 2022, but not on an active roster at the season’s end. They are free to sign with any team immediately. The most common SFAs are players on NFL practice squads.
- Futures deals are contracts given to street free agents before the start of Free Agency. They’re called “futures” deals because while currently signed, these contracts don’t count against the cap until a “future” date—which is the start of free agency.
- 2023 Cap Hit: How much a player counts against the team’s 2023 salary cap.
- Guarantees remaining: this is the remaining guaranteed money owed to the player over the remainder of his contract, not just 2023. If the Lions move on from a player with guaranteed money, that amount will count against the Lions’ cap, even though the player is no longer on the roster.
NOTE: This article will be updated throughout the offseason and will include links to relevant articles that POD publishes over the next several months. So be sure to bookmark and keep an eye out for updates.
Related: Lions sign 10 players to futures deals.
With only Jared Goff under contract at the start of the 2023 offseason, the Lions will surely be in the market to add as many as three quarterbacks this offseason. Goff has gotten strong backing from both coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes, and appears to be the clear choice to remain the Lions’ starter in 2023.
The Lions were aggressive in acquiring Nate Sudfeld after he was released at cutdowns and could be an option to return, while Steven Montez was a late-season addition after Tim Boyle and Josh Dobbs were poached off the Lions’ practice squad.
With not a ton of money invested in the position, the Lions seem likely to try and retain their entire running backs room while also adding some offseason competition. Jamaal Williams ran for over 1,000 yards and set a new franchise record for rushing touchdowns in a single season (17) in 2022. He is a strong leader in the locker room and will likely be a high priority to retain.
The Lions enter 2023 with two young receivers primed to be starters in 2023, as well as veteran depth/possible starters in Reynolds and Raymond, leaving them at a very good starting point. The voided year from Chark’s 2022 contract will carry over but that likely won’t keep them from potentially re-signing him.
With ERFA options for both Brock Wright and Shane Zylstra, the Lions will surely extend offers to retain them and bring back all three tight ends who finished the 2022 season on the active roster. Last year at this time, the Lions had eight tight ends under contract, indicating this will also be a position where the Lions add competition for all roles.
Update: Derrick Deese signed futures deal
The Lions are set at their starting spots, but their depth will need attention. With the Lions’ use of offensive tackles as their sixth offensive linemen in big sets, as well as no clear OT3 on the roster, this figures to be a low-key priority this offseason. That could mean re-signing Matt Nelson and Dan Skipper, dipping into free agency, or even the draft for depth options.
Interior offensive line
The Lions are set at center and left guard but their right guard spot is a big question mark. Halapoulivaati Vaitai has been good in the past but missed the entire season with a back injury. Evan Brown proved more than capable of filling a starting role for the second season in a row but is an unrestricted free agent. Are they willing to gamble that Vaitai will be healthy with a large cap number? Will they give Brown a raise to return to what might only be a backup role? Will they dip into free agency or the draft? Lots of decisions.
Additionally, their depth also raises questions as Tommy Kramer also missed the season with a back injury, and the other reserve players stumbled when given opportunities to start.
Interior defensive line
This is by far the thinnest group on the roster for what they are asked to do on a weekly basis. Alim McNeill is locked in as a starter but beyond that, the Lions will need to prioritize this position in the offseason. Isaiah Buggs stepped into a leadership role and could return in 2023, and Benito Jones seems like a logical player to return with an ERFA option, but Levi Onwuzurike’s future is uncertain due to his back injury, and Michael Brockers will surely be a cap casualty.
The Lions heavily invested in their edge positions in 2022 and it paid off. Second-year players like Aidan Hutchinson, Josh Paschal, and James Houston figure to have prominent roles in 2023, but former starters, Romeo Okwara and Charles Harris, have heavy price tags and are now further down the depth chart.
While there are plenty of solid players in this position group, there are still questions. Will either of the former starters end up as cap casualties? Will the Lions grant John Cominsky’s wish to return in 2023? Will they add more youth in the draft to further cement the position?
The Lions really liked their linebacker group this season. All six were active on game days for the majority of the season and each player had a specific role. Even though half the group is unrestricted free agents, some, if not all, could be retained, while the Lions will also likely add competition into the mix.
Lots of bodies but also lots of questions. This position group seems the most unsettled on the current roster. Jeff Okudah struggled down the stretch, Will Harris (starting nickel) and Mike Hughes (who ended the season as a starter) are both unrestricted free agents, and depending on how the Lions feel about each player, they could end up needing multiple starters in 2023.
- AJ Parker signed a Futures deal with the San Francisco 49ers (source)
The rapid development of Kerby Joseph has given the Lions some options at the safety position but with Tracy Walker rehabbing from Achilles surgery and DeShon Elliott an unrestricted free agent, the Lions will need to be proactive to maintain their stability.
Jack Fox was extended during the season, and Scott Daly is an ERFA, indicating they will likely have at least two-thirds of their kicking unit return. Michael Badgley performed well enough to get a contract offer but he will also likely face competition in camp.
2023 Lions roster at a glance
Originally posted on Pride Of Detroit