After finishing the 2021 season with just three wins, most Lions fans were surprised to see GM Brad Holmes retain much of that same team in 2022. Holmes re-signed players such as Josh Reynolds, Charles Harris, and Kalif Raymond while spending minimally on players from other organizations. Considering the disappointment that was the 2021 season, many fans questioned this tactic. How can you expect to improve from 3-13-1 if you don’t change the roster?
In hindsight, players like Kalif Raymond and Josh Reynolds were critical to the Lions finishing with a winning record for the first time since 2017. Now with the 2022 free agent class set to hit the open market, let’s look at who Detroit should prioritize bringing back.
5. Alex Anzalone
A leader for the defense, Anzalone finished with a career high in tackles (125) and had at least 5 tackles in each game this season. Although he isn’t the game wrecker that Fred Warner or Shaquille Leonard are, he is a model of consistency and a positive veteran presence for an otherwise inexperienced LB corps.
4. John Cominsky
While Cominsky’s numbers don’t necessarily jump out at you (30 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 forced fumble), his impact was evident during the games he missed. With Cominsky on the field, the Lions went 9-3. When he was forced to miss time with a hand injury, the Lions were 0-5. To say that Cominsky is the most critical player to the defense would be an overstatement, but he is certainly one of the unsung heroes that was critical to the Lions’ success this year.
3. DeShon Elliot
Elliot was 1-of-4 defensive backs in the NFL to produce 95 tackles, 5TFL, 1INT, 1FF, and 1FR this past year, and he was top 10 among safeties in solo tackles and run stuffs. Elliot is as physical as a safety comes. He plays with grit and toughness. When interviewed after forcing a fumble on Jacksonville’s Travis Etienne, he said “He thought I was a punk, so I had to show him what it was and what it wasn’t. I’m like that.” He embodies what it means to play for Dan Campbell.
2. D.J. Chark
At 6’4, the former pro bowler was signed to be Goff’s fast, athletic deep threat. Despite being injured for a time, Chark proved he is just that. He ranked 6th among all receivers with 16.7 yards per catch (min. 30 receptions), and he was targeted more than 20 yards down fields nearly 30% of the time. With the hopeful emergence of Jameson Williams, retaining Chark would be critical for the Lions to have a talented deep threat on every offensive snap.
1. Jamaal Williams
Williams was the heart and soul of the 2022 Detroit Lions. His motivational speeches and loving character didn’t just win the hearts of the national media, but he won the hearts of the locker room as well. Oh and not only did he rush for over 1,000 yards, but he also broke Barry Sanders’s franchise record for touchdowns in a season. Jamaal has a special ability to lead a team, and as one of the best short yardage runners in the league, he is everything the Lions could ask for.
Justin Jackson, Chris Board, Anthony Pittman