The Lions have a week to make a move on Kenny Golladay. If they're going to franchise tag their top receiver, who could otherwise depart in free agency, they must do so by March 9.
"I would love to be franchised. That would be nice," head coach Dan Campbell quipped on Tuesday. "That's a pretty good little chunk right now."
No kidding. Golladay would get about $16 million under the franchise tag in 2021. Of course, he would get at least four or five times that amount on the open market or via a long-term deal with the Lions. He'd prefer to stay in Detroit.
But Campbell and new GM Brad Holmes might prefer to let him walk -- and spend that money somewhere else.
"I don’t think there’s any debate that Kenny has shown the ability to be a No. 1 receiver in this league with the skillset that everybody knows he has," Holmes said Tuesday. "There’s also no debate that Kenny’s been at the forefront of our mind in terms of making sure that we make the best possible decision, not only for the Lions but for Kenny."
Asked if the organization is in talks with Golladay on a long-term deal, Holmes said, "That's a decision that we’re keeping in-house out of respect for the process. But you’ll hear what we’ll be doing shortly."
The franchise tag window opened Feb. 23. If March 9 passes without the Lions tagging Golladay and the two sides don't reach a long-term agreement, he would become a free agent March 17. There's a chance the Lions could opt to tag DE Romeo Okwara instead, but Golladay is the more likely candidate.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported last month that Golladay, who had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2018 and 2019 but who missed 11 games last season due to injuries, was a 'sure thing' to get tagged in Detroit. He also left the door open for a 'tag and trade' as a way for the rebuilding Lions to amass more draft picks.
"That process can go all the way up to when you have to make the decision," Holmes said Tuesday. "The great thing is, and Dan mentioned it earlier, we’re not going to rush it. Whether it's the franchise tag on Romeo or Kenny, we definitely have a process in place that we believe in, that we’re trusting and we’re sticking to it to make sure that it meets the Detroit Lions timeline. That’s really the thing that matters most."
Right now, the Lions have one returning receiver under contract for 2021: Quintez Cephus, a fifth-round pick in 2020 who caught 20 passes last season. Bringing back Golladay, even if only for a year, would make sense. At the same time, the draft is deep at receiver and Holmes referenced how quickly he watched his former team transform its receiver room in one offseason.
"From a receiver standpoint, there’s some decisions that still have to be made in regard to how we’ll approach it with Kenny and just adding more pieces and more depth there," said Holmes. "You probably look at the roster now and say, 'Well, who you gonna add? It looks thin at that position.'
"But I will say, through my experience with the Rams, in 2017 our receiver room flipped within a year. The Rams were able to add some quality pieces pretty quickly. To be able to follow a similar kind of blueprint, having the experience of seeing how that works and being involved in that process, Dan I feel confident about us being able to take a similar process."
The Rams' top four receivers in 2016 were Kenny Britt, Brian Quick, Tavon Austin and TE Lance Lendricks. Their top four receivers a year later were third-round pick Cooper Kupp, RB Todd Gurley, free agent Robert Woods and trade acquisition Sammy Watkins. They went from 31st in the league in passing offense to 10th. They went from 4-12 to 11-5. And they did so under Jared Goff, Detroit's starting QB in 2021.
All things to keep in mind in regard to Golladay and the Lions, who might be headed for a split.