While the Lions’ defense is their biggest off-season need, they have some players who can build off of last year and contribute to the improvement of the entire unit. Defensive end John Cominsky, defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs, and linebacker Alex Anzalone should all be re-signed.
They All Want To Be Back In Silver And Blue
A couple of weeks ago, all three players expressed interest in returning to the Lions, even if meant a lower paycheck. Since none of the three are exactly elite free-agent targets, it leads me to believe they will all make it back to Detroit.
However, if there are contract numbers that cannot be agreed upon, or if one of these three receives a surprisingly high offer, the Lions would do well to prioritize their order of importance. My opinion means nothing, but if we pretend for a moment it does, here is how I would rank all three players.
Priority One: DT Isaiah Buggs
Buggs may not have had gaudy numbers all season for the Lions, but every team needs a force in the middle of the trenches. He also would not be classified as “elite” compared to others at the DT position, but he was effective enough to earn another contract in Detroit.
Buggs had 46 total tackles, one sack, and 10 quarterback hits across 17 games played. He started 13 of those games and played on 67% of the defensive snaps this past season. He and Alim McNeil had some nice moments, and I think Buggs can continue to be a consistent piece on a defense that has nowhere to go but up next season.
Priority Two: LB Alex Anzalone
Experienced linebacker Alex Anzalone is another one of the Lions’ players who has said he would take less money to stay in Detroit. He had somewhat of a breakout year in his own right while setting career highs in tackles (125 combined) and tackles-for-loss (7).
In addition to flying all over the field, his experience is a good complement to rookie LB James Houston, who came on late for the Lions. Houston recorded eight sacks and one forced fumble in just seven games during the second half of the season. If Houston takes another step toward being a consistent playmaker at the second level, Anzalone will continue to have value alongside him. The Lions could and should get Anzalone back in Detroit.
Priority Three: DE John Cominsky
John Cominsky is the third player here to say he would take less money, and he even went a step further by imploring fans to help him get another contract with the Lions.
My idea that Cominsky was an important FA target was not original, as he was deemed one free agent the Lions cannot afford to lose. Cominsky had four sacks and five tackles-for-loss across the 14 games in which he played. He added 12 QB hits, three passes defensed, and one forced fumble. Most notably in my opinion, however, is that from Week 10 on, he only fell short of 70% of the defensive snaps in one game. I realize that the Lions’ defense was not exactly elite all season, but consistency and durability are important.
Lions Will Still Need A Productive Off-season
While these three players are not stars on their own, re-signing them could be a part of a solid off-season that Detroit desperately needs.
The Lions need to draft well again like last season, but they also should make a splash or two in free agency. The Lions do not have tons of cap space at the moment, but they have enough for a cost-effective off-season. Their first moves should be not re-signing wide receiver D.J. Chark and cornerback Mike Hughes. I think Chark filled his role nicely this past season but will be too expensive. Hughes is more of a depth guy to me, and I think the Lions should think bigger if they are going to sign a CB in free agency. Their best-case scenario would be to hit on an elite young CB with the sixth-overall pick in April’s draft.
Culture Is Cliche, But Also Is Important
I and everyone else seem to be talking about it ad nauseam in regards to the Lions, and for a good reason. The three players mentioned in this article are representative of how players are rallying around Dan Campbell, and believe they can run it back next year.
The Lions will be a force to reckon with in the NFC next year, mark my words. My Vikings will have their hands full to hold on to the NFC North title.
Make sure you stay with us at Stadium Rant throughout the off-season. Mock drafts will be coming soon, there will be no shortage of speculation in between!