Detroit Lions: 5 players who may follow Robert Saleh in free agency

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
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Detroit Lions
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Solomon Thomas

The 49ers drafted Solomon Thomas with the third overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.  The 49ers spent years accumulating defensive linemen with premium picks in the draft.  They’ve spent years building a line that consists of Nick Bosa and formally DeForest Buckner, who has since moved onto Indianapolis but don’t forget about Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, and Thomas.

One could make a fair argument that Thomas is a bust out of this group.  He’s undoubtedly the least decorated of these premium picks and hasn’t lived up to his draft position.

At 280 pounds, Thomas provides a defensive-front with an abundance of flexibility because he can play inside as a tackle or out as a true defensive end.  Thomas can lineup in a three (over an OG) or five (outside shoulder of an OT) techniques, and Saleh has used him both ways over the last two years.

Thomas played more than 600 defensive snaps in each of his first two seasons.  After drafting Bosa and acquiring Dee Ford heading into the 2019 season, the 49ers pulled the reins back on Thomas; he’d only total 425 snaps.

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The year 2020 has been a lost season for Thomas, and it comes at the worst time, a contract year.  Thomas is a player that will likely hit the open market looking for a fresh start knowing the 49ers have many other, more impactful players to sign.

I could see Saleh having an interest in bringing Thomas with him to use in a rotational role, and he’d fill a need for upfront for the Detroit Lions.  Thomas won’t earn nearly what he makes on the rookie deal that pays him over $8 million per season, but he’s worth adding for $3 or $4 million on a one-year prove-it type of agreement after sustaining a season-ending torn ACL in 2020.

Thomas’ best PFF rating came in 2018, earning a mark of just 62.5.