The largest Free Agent deal announced (so far) on Monday during the NFL’s Legal Tampering Period is the Detroit Lions signing Matt Patricia’s former player, a playoff phenom, the versatile shop wrecker Trey Flowers from the New England Patriots. The deal is reported to be for 5 years worth $16-17M per year. During a day in which the Detroit Lions Front Office was one of the most aggressive among all 32 teams, Flowers could be the crown jewel to a Franchise altering offseason haul.
In Year 1 for the Lions under Matt Patricia, the biggest upgrade was along the defensive front. Rebuilding the defensive front began with General Manager Bob Quinn signing Devon Kennard to a relatively cheap 3 year, $17.25M, deal during last season’s Free Agency period. As the Lions Jack Linebacker on the edge last season, Kennard registered 7 sacks and 36 total QB pressures. Next for Quinn and Patrica, on Day 3 of the 2018 NFL Draft the Lions traded up in the 4th Round to select former 5-Star Recruit Da’Shawn Hand. After underachieving for much of his career at Alabama, Hand graded as the 13th best Interior Defender by Pro Football Focus in 2018 and his 79.5 Pass Rush grade was the second highest registered by PFF in their history for a rookie Interior Defender other than J.J. Watt. Quinn’s continued process improvement lead to the Lions claiming Romeo Okwara from the Giants prior to Week 1, Okwara lead the Lions in 2018 with a career high 7.5 sacks. In-house the Lions had former Second Round Draft choice A’Shawn Robinson, who after being inactive for Week 1 of 2018, improved greatly as the season progressed under the tutelage of Patricia and the Lions coaching staff and it resulted in Robinson grading as PFF’s 11th best Interior Defender. The cherry on top for Quinn and Patricia rebuilding the Lions defensive front was acquiring Damon “Snacks” Harrison from the New York Giants before the NFL Trade Deadline. In 2018, Snacks continued his dominant play in the middle, registering 58 tackles, including 51 run stops, and earning PFF’s highest run defense grade of 93.8. All of this without much contribution from their Franchise Tag Player Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah.
Adding Trey Flowers to the group of Harrison, Hand, Robinson, Kennard and Okwara shows a cohesive plan for the Lions roster construction and it gives Detroit a dominant identity along the defensive front. Flowers has registered at least 6 sacks and 40 QB pressures the past three seasons and was the third best Edge Defender against the run in 2018. The Lions are building a defense for January and February football and it should be mentioned that Flowers has 2.5 sacks and 9 QB hits in the last three Super Bowls. Flowers versatility is something other Edge Defenders in Free Agency, and those Franchise Tagged, cannot offer. In 878 snaps last season, Flowers played on the outside (Defensive End, Outside Linebacker, and even Slot Corner) for 656 snaps but he also kicked inside (Defensive Tackle or Nose Tackle) for an impressive 228 snaps.
Quinn, Patricia, and the Lions will now have at least 6 high quality players to deploy in order to scheme mismatches across the line of scrimmage and to allow for these players to be fresh throughout the game. Flowers is not only the masterful chess piece Patricia needed in order for this defense to ascend to a higher level of play, but he also brings a much-needed winning culture to the Detroit locker room. Look for the Lions to continue to bolster their defensive front in the very loaded upcoming NFL Draft.