The Detroit Lions still have cap space to spend in free agency if they so choose, possibly signing an edge-rusher should remain their primary focus.
General Manager (GM) Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia have sure been busy this offseason signing several free agents, but are they finished yet? Some may snicker that the Detroit Lions have a plethora of needs to fill, and adding a low costing edge rusher won’t elevate the team much anyway.
The top available target remains the same since day one of the free agency period started, Jadeveon Clowney. The Detroit Lions would need to exercise nearly all of their remaining funds before Clowny even considered Detroit as a destination.
The Lions have roughly $30 million in salary-cap space remaining, $10 million of which needs to be prioritized to sign this year’s rookie draft class. This leaves $20 million, and Detroit would surely be able to sketch up a plan to sign the star rusher, but how would that affect the rest of the roster? Would the Lions be able to extend star receiver, Kenny Golladay? Detroit would be up against the cap with little to no wiggle room.
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Quinn may opt for another familiar face for the right price.
Edge rusher Jabaal Sheard is a former New England Patriot who has ties to head coach Matt Patricia. At 31-years old and his production numbers having dipped since leaving New England where he won a Super Bowl, he may benefit by coming off of the bench in more of a pass-rushing situation rather than a three-down linebacker.
The Cleveland Browns initially drafted Sheard with their second-round pick in 2011, 37th overall. After spending four seasons with the Browns playing in 61 games, starting 50 of them, he recorded 122 solo tackles and compiled 23 sacks.
Moving on from Cleveland to New England, Sheard played in more of a situational role, starting just nine games over the two years but appearing in 28. He’d record 13 sacks, forced four fumbles, and account for 70 total tackles.
Over the last three seasons spent with the Indianapolis Colts, Sheard has started 44 of the 45 games he’s appeared in recording 15.5 sacks for an average of 5.2 per season, also making 94 solo tackles and 33 assists.
The Detroit Lions have signed free agent middle linebacker Reggie Ragland who will likely beat out Jarrad Davis to be the starter. I’d like to see Davis in more of an edge rushing role this season; he’s proved to have the athleticism to get to the quarterback. Making a tackle, though, that’s been a problem.
Jamie Collins and Jahlani Tavai are expected to round out the starting linebacking group. That leaves Christian Jones, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, and Elijah Lee to round out the position. A player like Sheard would have an immediate impact on strengthening the team’s depth and provide a much-needed pass rush. I’d expect Sheard to command somewhere in the neighborhood of $6-million per season.
Other notable edge rushers that are available: Everson Griffen, Ziggy Ansah, Clay Matthews, Markus Golden. After Clowney, I’d expect Golden and Griffen to be the more expensive of this group. Do we really want to revisit Ansah? No thanks. Matthews or Sheard would be perfect and affordable for pass-rushing situations.