The Detroit Lions have been working hard early in free agency reshaping their team for 2023, and now that the things are taking shape, folks can begin to ponder how the team has done thus far with the moves they have made.
Detroit has been busy adding players to the mix, mostly focusing on re-signings early on. That’s par for the course given how they have approached the first two years of free agency under Brad Holmes. Everyone they have brought on the team can fill a new role for the Lions in terms of improving depth or the outlook in the locker room. To that end, it’s been a successful offseason already in Detroit before the league year gets going officially.
So how should some of these moves be graded? Here’s a look at the breakdown of the biggest moves the team has made thus far in free agency. Check back periodically as this list will be refreshed as new moves are announced the rest of the offseason.
Isaiah Buggs, Defensive Line (Re-Signing)
Detroit’s move to re-sign Isaiah Buggs was a good way to start the offseason, relative to some of their biggest needs on defense. The defender was signed as a camp body and managed to fight his way into being thought of as one of the most impactful defenders on the team.
During the season, Buggs put up a total of 46 combined tackles, one pass defended and one sack. Additionally, he has been an anchor up front for the Lions in the middle of the line with Alim McNeill. The Lions needed his emergence given the health struggles of Levi Onwuzurike, Josh Paschal and others.
Arguably, one of Buggs’ best games of the season came against Minnesota in December, when he posted one tackle and one sack on the day, but was very active.
Buggs will add a layer of veteran protection to the team’s front for 2023. He fits the culture and the locker room, and clearly wanted to stay with the team to build a winner for the long-term. It’s a plus to bring him back at a low term.
Cameron Sutton, Cornerback
There’s absolutely no question the Lions needed to add a cornerback, and in Cameron Sutton, they moved to get their top target early on. There’s a reason Lions fans were instructed to watch Sutton entering free agency, and it’s because the team loved his combination of versatility, grit and smarts. The move to add him is a home run for a needy back end in Detroit.
In college, Sutton was productive for the Volunteers given he racked up 127 tackles and seven interceptions. He also had one touchdown and 30 passes defended to go with three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries while in school.
Coming to the NFL, things haven’t been different. Sutton has produced stats in the league as well, with 158 tackles, two sacks, seven interceptions and five forced fumbles since he burst on the scene with Pittsburgh. He’s a productive dynamo on defense.
Sutton fills a huge need for the Lions at a fair price, while also giving the team a valuable cornerback in his prime. The fact that his addition has been so well received is another win. Tough to grade that anything other than perfectly for free agency and a big outside move.
Alex Anzalone, Linebacker (Re-Signing)
Sometimes, the best moves are the ones a team doesn’t make. Detroit didn’t elect to go huge in the rapidly inflating linebacker market, instead electing to keep an obvious culture and defensive fit in Alex Anzalone, and it was a smart move for more reasons than one.
Statistically, Anzalone managed to have a career season in Detroit. This past season, he put up 125 tackles, 1.5 sacks and one interception. Prior to that, his high water mark in tackles was a mere 78 in 2021. That showed some major ability to develop.
As a whole, Anzalone has put up 326 tackles, 6.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and three interceptions in his career. That’s solid production for the Lions at a big position of need. In addition, he can continue to grow with young Malcolm Rodriguez and form a quality tandem.
Perhaps the only question about Anzalone is regarding durability and consistency of play, but he proved in 2022 that if he can stay healthy, he can be a big reason a team has a fantastic season on the back end. Keeping him around as a veteran voice is a smart move for a Lions team looking to take the next step.
Emmanuel Moseley, Cornerback
Detroit made their second cornerback addition in as many days when they nabbed Emmanuel Moseley on a one-year, $6 million dollar deal. Moseley adds some youth at just 26 and some experience with Cameron Sutton, Detroit’s other new cornerback.
Statistically, Moseley has done a nice job to adjust to the league and make an impact as a former undrafred free agent. Since joining San Francisco, Moseley has put up 161 tackles, 33 passes defended and one touchdown as well as one fumble recovery.
Moseley was being counted on for a big 2022 season, but got unlucky with an ACL injury in Week 5 of the season that cost him the year. Moseley is said to be ready for a comeback by the time training camp rolls around, so that will be to Detroit’s benefit.
If there’s any question, it’s about Moseley rebounding off injury. The Lions have gotten good seasons from players they signed with that variable before, so they will be looking to cash in again with this short-term deal. A lot to like about the player, the production and the fit.
John Cominsky, Defensive Line
It’s hard to disagree with the Lions bringing back such a strong fit to their locker room, defense and team. When John Cominsky was out, the Lions’ defense felt it in 2022. That proves his worth, so a fair value return for the team was always a must.
Statistically, Cominsky enjoyed his best season in the NFL with Detroit, posting 30 total tackles, four sacks, one forced fumble and three passes defended in 2022. Energy-wise, he continued to show his strength to the roster and the defense throughout the year. Constantly, he collapsed the pocket up front and was responsible on the edge.
Cominsky sticks around and that’s great news for the Lions and their defense. A perfect move.
David Montgomery, Running Back
Running back may not have seemed like a major need, but the Lions went out and addressed it in a big way by bringing in David Montgomery, a 25 year old who played for Chicago.
With Detroit trying to negotiate with Jamaal Williams, the Lions didn’t panic and offer a major deal to the veteran even in spite of his great season. Given his locker room fit, this could be a bit of a worry, but Montgomery is a solid producer as well.
As a rookie, Montgomery rushed for 889 yards and six touchdowns while adding 185 yards and one touchdown through the air. He would go on to have 1,070 yards and eight touchdowns in 2020, chipping in seven more scores in 2021.
In total, Montgomery has put up 3,609 yards and 26 rushing touchdowns, while adding 1,240 yards and four touchdowns through the air. He gives a team some solid pass catching as well as running.
The Lions could still draft a running back, but it’s a bit frustrating that Williams is not coming back. Still, that’s no knock on a solid Montgomery, who can produce well for the team’s offense.
Will Harris, Cornerback (Re-Signing)
This is a higher grade than many might expect for a move like bringing back Will Harris for one-year, but it’s sneaky good for the Lions given Harris and his production, in addition to how he has played when shifted to cornerback.
Harris has collected 228 tackles, 1.5 sacks and 12 passes defended for the team in his career. He also collected two forced fumbles and one interception. Harris has seen the field consistently at cornerback with 10 starts and 15 games in 2022, a season he earned his first interception in Week 2:
Harris coming back at just over $2 million a year is the kind of deal that could serve as a big value for the Lions. Detroit doesn’t have to pay a premium price for a player who they know fits their scheme and offers quality depth at a position of severe need for 2023.
It’s a move that won’t get loads of credit this offseason, but should get more positive run for Brad Holmes and his crew.
Graham Glasgow, Guard
The Lions drafted Graham Glasgow originally in 2016, but let him walk in 2020 as a free agent. Now, the team brought him back to the mix on a one-year deal, and it’s a quality depth move up front.
Glasgow could start for Detroit if the team elects to cut Halapoulivaati Vaitai in the days ahead. Even if Vaitai stays, he is a great depth piece for the Lions to have based on his starting experience in the NFL, and all the games he has seen.
Glasgow was a tough guard when he last played in Detroit, and has plenty of experience with 99 games played in the NFL and 91 starts. Notably for the Lions, Glasgow played in 62 games for the Lions with 58 starts.
It’s not a bad move to bring Glasgow back to boost depth for the Lions, especially with Evan Brown’s departure. This is a quality move for Detroit, though it might fly slightly under-the-radar.
Michael Badgley, Kicker (Re-Signing)
Kicking has quietly been a huge problem in Detroit since the team let Matt Prater go a few years back, but Michael Badgley helped in putting all of that behind the team since he has joined midway through the 2022 season.
He made a clutch 51 yard kick on Thanksgiving Day to tie the game late vs. Buffalo, and stabilized things overall. For that reason, he deserved to come back in a big way.
Ever since signing with Detroit, Badgley has gone 20-24 with a long kick of 53 yards. He has also been perfect on extra points, making 33 in his time with the Lions last season. For that reason, he deserved a shot to come back for next year.
No matter whether the team gives him competition to work against or not, Badgley offers solid NFL experience for Detroit to rely on.
C.J. Moore, Safety (Re-Signing)
The Lions lost one of their key special teams free agents in linebacker Chris Board over the weekend to New England, but the team worked hard to retain another one in safety C.J. Moore.
Detroit was revealed to be bringing Moore back on a two-year, $4.5 million dollar deal Saturday, March 18. While the move might not seem significant, it is to the team’s special teams group. The Lions love what Moore brings to the mix as the personal protector and a player always capable of making waves, as he did with a fake punt in 2022.
As a safety in the league, Moore hasn’t put up huge numbers with just one interception, 48 total tackles and two passes defended. Still, the gritty role he plays on special teams and his commitment to the roster made him a huge return for Dan Campbell and the team.