For the past three years, the Lions have boasted one of the better receiving duos in football in Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones. Both are set to be free agents. At least one of them will be gone.
Jones, a nine-year vet who wants to play for a winner, feels certain to sign elsewhere. Golladay is a bit more complicated. He's 27. He had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons before a hip injury limited him to five games in 2020. He can still be part of a winning future in Detroit, and he's made it clear he wants to stay.
Assuming, of course, the money is right.
With Matthew Stafford out of the picture, Golladay's future is probably the biggest item on new GM Brad Holmes' agenda. Long-term deal? Franchise tag? Or do the Lions simply let him walk and try to restock at receiver in the draft?
For what it's worth, new head coach Dan Campbell said last weekend he's interested in keeping Golladay around, along with Detroit's best free agent on defense Romeo Okwara.
"I've talked to both of them. Brad and I are both going to sit down and call those guys together, as one, and just kind of talk through things with them. I would say, man, I'm interested," Campbell told the Detroit News. "First and foremost, I want guys that want to be here."
Golladay certainly seems to check that box, from his comments over the past several months to his reaction to Campbell's introductory press conference in January.
"Coach Campbell came with that energy. I’m trying to match the same energy he came with," Golladay said last week on Good Morning Football. "I loved it, he set the tone right there. I guess we’re gonna be biting some kneecaps off."
We'll see. Golladay won't be biting them off for free. He's set to be one of the top wide receivers on the market, where he could reasonably command north of $17 million per year. It would cost the Lions about $16 million to franchise tag him. Given where they are in a long-term rebuild, does it make sense to pay top dollar for a receiver?
ESPN's Bill Barnwell doesn't think so. In his free agent projections, Barnwell pegs Golladay to the Ravens on a four-year, $74 million deal ($18.5 million per year). He says there's not "much logic (for the Lions) in keeping him for one year at about $16 million unless it's to produce a sign-and-trade."
"The Lions would expect to get a third-round compensatory pick back for him if they let him leave and didn't make a significant free-agent signing to replace him," Barnwell adds.
Golladay would give the Ravens' offense the No. 1 receiver it's lacking. Baltimore's top receiver this season, Marquise Brown, had 769 yards.
And then there's Jones, who ended 2020 with a flourish. He finished with 978 yards and nine touchdowns to cap off a consistently productive five-year stint in Detroit. His 32 touchdowns are seventh most in the NFL since 2017.
But Jones turns 31 next month, and he heads into a crowded market at his position. That will limit his value. Barnwell guesses Jones lands with the Titans on a two-year, $13.5 million deal as a potential replacement for fellow free agent Corey Davis.
That would leave the Lions with two huge holes at receiver, to say nothing of a third probable departure in Danny Amendola. They've already been linked to the likes of Ja'Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle with the seventh overall pick in the draft. And they'll surely look to make a move or two in free agency.
Barnwell says former Raiders receiver Tyrell Williams is a good fit, on a one-year, $2.5 million deal. Williams, who had three strong seasons under new Lions' offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn during their time together with the Chargers, is expected to be cut by the Raiders after missing the 2020 season with a torn labrum.