NFL free agency is off and running, and we're keeping track of every major signing, trade and release of the 2020 offseason, with analysis from our NFL Nation reporters and grades from Bill Barnwell. The new league year began March 18, which means free-agent signings can be made official after that. The first round of the 2020 NFL draft begins April 23.
Desmond Trufant, CB
Trufant has agreed to a two-year contract worth $21 million, including $14 million guaranteed.
What it means: Trufant, based on the length and price on the deal, is being brought in as a starter. After Darius Slay was traded, Trufant is going to be replacing the three-time Pro Bowler.
What's the risk: Trufant's been a consistent player over his career, but toe and forearm injuries limited him to nine games last season. Considering Trufant turns 30 later this year, the Lions should be at least a little concerned about whether this is the start of injuries for Trufant or just a blip in an otherwise healthy career. If Trufant ends up replacing Slay, there is a concern about a production dip -- although Trufant is a very good player coming off a four-interception season in only nine games.
Jayron Kearse, safety
Kearse has agreed to a one-year deal, that according to NFL Network is worth $2.75 million.
What it means: Kearse is a big body at 6-foot-4 and a special teams dynamo who has played at least 50% of the snaps for the Vikings every season since coming out of Clemson in 2016. The Lions have been remaking their safety group to go with incumbents Tracy Walker and Will Harris by trading for Duron Harmon and now signing Kearse. His signing could mean both Tavon Wilson and Miles Killebrew end up in different homes after spending multiple years in Detroit. But the Kearse signing has potential because of his size and speed if Lions coach Matt Patricia can unlock it. He never played more than 25% of defensive snaps with the Vikings, so his role is up in the air.
What's the risk: The risk would be that they paid multiple millions for a special teams only player, but if Detroit views him as the type of ace it needs on the unit, then it would be worth it considering how much emphasis the Lions place on special teams. Another concern will be what the league potentially does with Kearse. He pleaded guilty last month to drunken driving and carrying a pistol without a permit in Minnesota and was sentenced to probation and community service, but the league hasn't said whether Kearse will be suspended for the incident. He apologized for the incident after it happened.
Danny Shelton, defensive tackle
The Lions agreed to a two-year, $8 million contract with former Patriots defensive tackle Danny Shelton, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
What it means: Once D.J. Reader went to Cincinnati, this always seemed like the move the Lions were going to end up making. Shelton likely will end up taking a role similar to Damon Harrison as a space eater and run-stuffer in the middle of the Detroit defensive line. And he'll do it at a fraction of the cost of what the Lions paid Harrison last season. Figure Shelton to be a starter, but this move also gives Detroit flexibility to still sign another player or two. Between Shelton and Nicholas Williams, Detroit has done a lot to remake the interior of its defensive line -- which was the expected move in free agency.
Why signing Shelton makes sense for the Lions
Michael Rothstein breaks down the Lions' decision to bring in ex-Patriot Danny Shelton on a two-year deal.
What's the risk: There isn't much of one, especially at the cost they are paying. Shelton has been a fairly reliable player throughout his career in Cleveland and New England as a run-stuffer who can occasionally get to the quarterback. He's a reliable tackler. Perhaps the biggest concern will be his usage. He's played more than 50% of snaps in a season just once -- in 2016 -- but considering his role where he'll likely come off the field on passing downs, that makes a lot of sense.
Chase Daniel, quarterback
The Lions found their backup quarterback, agreeing to a three-year, $13.05 million deal with former Bear Chase Daniel.
What it means: The Lions had to find a more stable backup quarterback than the merry-go-QB situation they had last season behind Matthew Stafford -- especially after Stafford missed the last eight games of 2019 with a broken back. Daniel gives them that with the added bonus of experience in multiple systems throughout his career (Philadelphia, New Orleans, Kansas City, Chicago). He'll give Stafford a veteran set of eyes while also allowing the Lions to start to groom a younger quarterback behind both of them without the pressure of playing, whether that's David Blough or a rookie.
What's the risk: Honestly, none. Daniel is exactly what you want in a backup. He's reliable. He's smart. He has experience (five career starts and 218 career passes) and can get you out of a game. His last career win came on Thanksgiving in 2018 against Detroit when he completed 72.9% of his passes. Signing him should also take the Lions fully out of the conversation for a quarterback at No. 3 because Detroit can only invest so much money at the position. This signing is a smart move.
Nick Williams, defensive tackle
The Lions and defensive tackle Nick Williams agreed to a two-year, $10 million deal, according to a source.
What it means: Tough to say. Nick Williams received his first real playing time last season at age 29 and ended up with a six-sack season as an interior lineman. Considering how Lions coach Matt Patricia likes his defenses to pressure the quarterback, from the interior out, Williams could be a promising piece for an interior rebuild. If Williams is being viewed as more than a rotational interior lineman, it would be surprising. He even told the Chicago Tribune last year, "Everybody knows I'm going to play the run and play the run well. A sack is an afterthought for me," when asked about his out-of-nowhere rise as a pass-rusher. The Lions should add more here, both through free agency and the draft.
What's the risk: A bunch. Williams hasn't played a ton, which means he's a 30-year-old without a ton of mileage. But the question remains: Why was he not able to really latch on in Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Miami or, before last year, in Chicago? What if last year was just a magical year for him -- much like Detroit has seen in the past with players such as George Johnson. While we don't know how the numbers break down, $10 million is a decent investment in a player who had no real pass-rush presence before last season.
Jamie Collins, linebacker
Collins is joining the Detroit Lions on a three-year, $30 million deal, with $18 million guaranteed, a source told ESPN's Field Yates.
What it means: It's a reunion with his former coach in New England, Matt Patricia, in a defense where Collins had some of his best seasons. He's more of an off-ball linebacker than an edge rusher who can give some cover to running backs and tight ends with 10 career interceptions. That's long been an issue for Detroit's linebackers since DeAndre Levy left. What this means for Christian Jones and, perhaps, Jarrad Davis remains to be seen. But Collins is going to play and understands the defense more than any other defender Detroit could get in free agency.
What's the risk: His age is going to be a concern, giving a three-year deal to a player who will turn 31 this season. But he's been remarkably durable throughout his career, playing in 15 or more games in three of the past four seasons. Much like Trey Flowers a year ago, if Patricia is bringing in Collins it is with a clear understanding of how he wants to use him so fit and role shouldn't be as big of a question as it would be with outside free agents.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai, offensive tackle
What it means: The Lions cut Rick Wagner last week -- presumably because of the cap hit he was going to cost Detroit. Wagner, though, had a lot more experience than Vaitai when he signed with them in 2017.
The more interesting piece of this is how Detroit views Tyrell Crosby, who might have been seen as the starter at right tackle with Wagner being released. But the money given Vaitai means he'll be the starter at right tackle -- or maybe left tackle if Detroit chooses to move on from Taylor Decker after the 2020 season. Could this be a signal Crosby gets a shot at guard? Or that they view him as a swing tackle and that's about it? Either way, it's the first big move for Quinn in free agency this year -- going again to a position he's long-focused on during free agency and the draft.
What's the risk: A decent amount. Vaitai has started 20 games over four seasons and the only year he was even close to a full-time starter was in 2017, when he started 10 of 16 games. The past two years he's started four.
The reason to maybe give some benefit of the doubt is Lions' defensive coordinator Cory Undlin saw Vaitai play every day last year in Philadelphia and went against him in practice. So perhaps he feels like he could be a breakout player. But if the numbers are accurate -- and it's tough to say how the contract breaks down -- that's a lot of money for a player who has not proven that much in the NFL as a starter.
Tony McRae, CB
The Lions signed the former Bengals DB to a one-year deal.
What it means: This should be a depth/special teams signing -- the first from the Brayden Coombs tree in Cincinnati. McRae played 58% of snaps last season so he’s going to push for a core special teams role. He did play some corner, starting three games over the past two seasons and in limited work at the position allowed over a 72% completion rate in both seasons, according to Pro Football Reference.
What's the risk: Giving him too big a role. If the Lions are signing him to compete with Dee Virgin and Mike Ford and maybe even Jamal Agnew for depth at corner and one or two special teams roles, then that’s fine. If they are counting on him to become a regular cornerback, that could be a major concern with his lack of experience.
Miles Killebrew, safety
The Lions bring back the versatile Miles Killebrew.
What it means: Killebrew makes sense for the Lions in a couple of different facets. He has positional flexibility coach Matt Patricia seeks. He can be used as a reserve both at safety and linebacker. He's also been one of the club's most important special teams players throughout his four years with the Lions and will likely retain that role again for Detroit in 2020.
What's the risk: Honestly, not much unless the Lions overpaid him, which would be unlikely. They know what they have in Killebrew. They know what he can do and he showed development at both linebacker and safety under this staff. So it's a sensible move for the Lions to retain one of their own.
Oday Aboushi, guard
The Lions re-signed Aboushi.
What it means: Aboushi is going to be coming in to compete with Russell Bodine and Beau Benzschawel for the guard spot vacated by Graham Glasgow, who signed with Denver last week. Aboushi was a depth offensive lineman throughout the 2019 season for Detroit but filled in well in the final two games of last season as a starter. He's a player who Detroit can rely on in spot starts -- something he's done in almost every stop of his career.
What's the risk: Not much, although if the Lions are planning for him to be the starter they should definitely bring in someone else to push for that job. More than likely at this point, Detroit is going to have a pretty open competition for the role between the aforementioned players and potentially one or two yet-to-be-signed or drafted.
Reggie Ragland, linebacker
Ragland agreed to terms with the Lions, a source told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.
What it means: It's tough to really tell at this point because there seems to be a lot of moving pieces in the Lions' linebacker room at this point. Ragland was a known commodity coming out of Alabama in 2016, but he was a rotational player for the Chiefs, never playing more than 50% of snaps in a season. He's primarily an inside linebacker -- which definitely leads to some questions about how Detroit plans on using Jahlani Tavai, who is last year's second-round pick, and former first-round pick Jarrad Davis, whose name popped up in trade rumors this week that were deemed, by a team source, as "100% false." But could this mean Davis ends up sliding over to the edge rusher spot vacated by Devon Kennard? It's going to be a question for whenever coach Matt Patricia speaks next.
What's the risk: Depending on what the deal looks like, probably not much risk involved. But it definitely signals the club is not satisfied with its current group of linebackers. This should make for a really interesting competition come training camp at a crucial position for the Lions.
What it means: The Lions could be remaking their linebacker room. Between the signing of Jamie Collins last week -- leading to the release of Devon Kennard -- and then agreeing to terms with Reggie Ragland and Lee on Friday, the club is at least pushing incumbents for spots. In Lee's case, he's primarily a special teams player, playing at least 40% of special teams snaps every year he's been in San Francisco. This could put Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Steve Longa, two veteran special teams standouts for Detroit, on notice along with Jason Cabinda, who was called up late last season from the practice squad.
What's the risk: If this is a primarily special teams role for Lee, then not much of a risk because he'll be in a competition with the other three or four players mentioned. And that doesn't include a potential draft pick or two. It's clear Detroit is trying to improve the quality of their linebackers, both starters and depth, while also adding to their special teams. As long as there isn't a substantial guarantee on the deal, this is a low-to-no risk move for Detroit.