4 players the Detroit Lions may release to create additional cap space

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /
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Detroit Lions, Jamaal Williams
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The Detroit Lions need to consider parting ways with Jamaal Williams.

This is a tough one.  Jamaal Williams‘ personality is a fresh of breath air for the Detroit Lions organization following the strict, always serious, no fun allowed Matt Patricia era.  Williams has an infectious smile, and his happy-go-lucky attitude is something that should not be overlooked.

I am a big fan of Williams, but the running back position is an area the Detroit Lions appear to be reasonably deep.  D’Andre Swift is quickly becoming a three-down back, but his injury history is somewhat concerning.  That’s where Williams became so valuable last season.  The Detroit Lions offense did not skip a beat, whether Swift, Williams, or Reynolds was in the backfield.

Detroit’s run game even performed exceptionally well with Craig Reynolds carrying the rock.  Jermar Jefferson is also under contract, and Godwin Igwebuike is an exclusive rights free agent, so the Lions are extremely deep at the running back position.

If the Detroit Lions find themselves tight against the cap and need room to sign an impactful free agent, whether it’s a linebacker, safety, edge-rusher, or receiver, releasing Williams will open up $3 million in cap space.  The transaction also carries a dead cap number of $1.625 million.

Last season Williams played 317 snaps to Swift’s 560.  To my surprise, Williams graded out better than Swift, according to PFF.  Williams earned an overall grade of 69.8, to Swift’s 57.8, but the most glaring difference came in pass protection.

Williams provided the Lions with a solid 70.4 grade in pass protection to Swift’s atrocious 26.8.  Swift proved to be valuable as a pass-catcher, often going out in the pattern rather than staying in to block, but he did not fare well during the 44 times he was counted on to block.  If you were wondering, Williams was only relied upon to pass-block 28 times last season.

Williams averaged 3.9 yards per carry during his first season, with the Detroit Lions totaling 601 yards and three rushing touchdowns.  Williams also added 157 receiving yards on 26 receptions in 2021.

In comparison, Swift totaled 617 rushing yards on 151 carries, good for 4.1 yards per tote, plus added 452 receiving yards on 62 catches.  He tallied seven touchdowns last season.  It was a small sample size, but Reynolds carried the ball 55 times, averaging 4.2 yards per carry, earning an excellent 76.5 rating courtesy of PFF.

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Again, parting ways with Williams is a move I would not be too fond of, but we need to remember this is a business and sometimes difficult decisions like this need to be made.