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NFC North in Free Agency: Lions landed the top edge rusher on the open market

APC breaks down the free agent acquisitions of each NFC North team, starting with Detroit.

NFL: Super Bowl LIII-New England Patriots vs Los Angeles Rams Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers play their division rivals twice a year, so regular APC readers have surely kept an eye on what the Lions, Bears and Vikings have done during the offseason. We’re going to take a look at what their acquisitions could contribute to new squads and why each team might have felt they could fill a hole on their rosters.

This breakdown begins with the Detroit Lions, who were big spenders in free agency — landing one of the top EDGE players available in Trey Flowers — as more Belicheck disciples buck the “Patriot Way” of team-building.

The Trey Flowers contract was a big deal for the defensive end, who’s coming directly from New England, where Matt Patricia used to coach the defense. A five-year contract worth a potential $90 million seems like a lot for an EDGE who didn’t specialize in sacks, necessarily, but rather being in the right place at the right time and applying pressure to opposing quarterbacks.

By adding Flowers to a defensive line that includes Damon Harrison and a talented A’Shawn Robinson, the Lions could have good control of the trenches. By not re-signing Ezekiel Ansah, though, you have to wonder how much pass rush pressure they’ll apply. According to Football Outsiders, the Detroit Lions were 29th in pressure rate last season at 26.3 percent of pass plays. Sacks aren’t everything, as football Twitter has been quick to remind us this offseason, but a momentum-changing sack every now and then can light a fire in the defense.

The Lions also paid big money to add another former Seahawks defensive back in Justin Coleman to help shore up their 31st ranked pass defense (by defensive DVOA). We remember the Deshawn Shead experiment, however, which ended poorly. Still, slot corners are as valuable as ever in today’s NFL and Coleman allowed an average of just 1.09 yards per slot coverage snap last year, which was good for 14th among corners with at least 100 passes thrown their way. Coleman is listed at 5-foot-11 190 pounds, so it will be interested if the Packers decide to test him with big slot options like Jimmy Graham and Equanimeous St. Brown.

The offensive additions are fine, but not great. Danny Amendola will replace Golden Tate on the depth chart, but his role in the offense could be limited. As these things go, Amendola is another former Patriot whom Patricia knows well. Amendola had a few good games with the Dolphins last season, but other than that he was an afterthought. Blame it on the wonky QB situation if you will, but Amendola has never had more than four touchdowns in a season and hasn’t played a full 16 games since 2014. He should easily be a step down from Tate.

The Lions’ newly signed TE Jesse James doesn’t feel like he’ll add a new dimension to the offense that wasn’t there with Luke Willson last year. The Lions also let former Packers guard T.J. Lang go (and he is apparently planning to retire), so adding Oday Aboushi for depth was a practical move.

Major Additions

  • DE Trey Flowers
  • CB Justin Coleman
  • WR Danny Amendola
  • TE Jesse James
  • G Oday Aboushi


  • CB Marcus Cooper
  • DE Romeo Okwara

Departed in Free Agency/Released

  • DE Ezekiel Ansah (currently unsigned)
  • DE Kerry Hyder (Cowboys)
  • WR Bruce Ellington (Patriots)
  • G T.J. Lang (retiring)
  • TE Luke Willson unsigned)
  • S Glover Quin (unsigned)
  • TE Levine Toilolo (unsigned)