Detroit Lions 2024 NFL offseason primer: A good spring with cap space and few key needs could mean Super Bowl

Detroit Lions' 2023 season: 12-5, won NFC North, lost in NFC championship game

Overview: While the season ended in painful fashion one game short of the Super Bowl, 2023 in Detroit can be considered an unqualified success. The Lions earned their first playoff berth since 2016 and won their first division title since Barry Sanders carried them to the NFC Central championship in 1991. They then advanced to their first conference championship game since that same 1991 season.

Savvy drafting paid off with the emergence of defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, running back Jahmyr Gibbs and tight end Sam LaPorta among others as game-breaking talents. There's plenty to build on for Dan Campbell and company as the Lions continue to seek the first Super Bowl in franchise history.

(Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)
(Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)

Key free agents

LG Jonah Jackson
WR Josh Reynolds
RG Graham Glasgow
S C.J. Gardner-Johnson
DE Romeo Okwara

Who's in/out? None of Detroit's pending free agents hit the market as high-priority targets. Detroit isn't expected to use the franchise tag this offseason. Glasgow and Jackson are proven commodities on the offensive line and players the Lions presumably would like to have back. Glasgow said in January that there's mutual interest in his return next season. Nobody here is a lock to return.

Dan Campbell's Lions have several key pieces already in place. Can they make the right roster tweaks to build on last season's trip to the NFC championship game? (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Dan Campbell's Lions have several key pieces already in place. Can they make the right roster tweaks to build on last season's trip to the NFC championship game? (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Key free agent needs

Interior offensive line
Wide receiver

Why the holes? Cornerback is the most glaring need on the roster, which is why the team traded for Carlton Davis from Tampa Bay. The Lions could still seek to add another corner via the draft or free agency. The interior offensive line needs are dependent on how things shake out with Glasgow and Jackson. There's no clear-cut No. 2 receiver behind All-Pro Amon-Ra St. Brown, especially if Reynolds leaves in free agency. Jameson Williams is raw with tremendous upside, and the Lions are still waiting on him to play a full NFL season.

Do they have the money?

They do. Per Spotrac, the Lions have $47.4 million in cap space, which puts them in the upper tier of the league. That's good news for a franchise that just finished arguably its most successful season of the Super Bowl era with its eyes on advancing next season past the NFC championship.

Potential notable cuts

S Tracy Walker
TE James Mitchell:

Why they might be gone: Walker lost his starting job at 29 years old and and has the third-highest cap hit on the roster at $12.8 million. Mitchell got lost in the emergence of LaPorta. The second-year tight end tallied two catches for 28 yards last season and carries a cap hit of $1 million.

2023 NFLPA report card

(Yahoo Sports)
(Yahoo Sports)

Draft picks

1st round: No. 29
2nd round: No. 61
3rd round: No. 73 (from Vikings)
5th round: No. 163
6th round: No. 200 (from Bucs)
6th round: No. 204
7th round: No. 249

Good draft fit

Penn State EDGE Chop Robinson

Why him? Robinson has the upside to upgrade Detroit's pass rush to the next level opposite Hutchinson. He has the best bend in this class and is explosive off the ball, even if he's not great against the run and is more flashes than consistency.

What can move the fantasy football needle this offseason?

The needle is already buried. It's deep in the red. This team is a near-perfect fantasy machine. Dan Campbell's squad just delivered a pair of top-10 fantasy running backs (which rarely happens) along with the overall QB7, WR3 and TE1. Absolutely ridiculous across-the-board production. Also, an offense that just ranked top-five in the NFL in rushing, passing and scoring somehow didn't lose its OC, which seems unfair. Sometimes, all we're really looking for in fantasy is continuity, and that's what we're getting with Detroit. A Lions skill player will likely be selected in each of the first four rounds in 2024 fantasy drafts.

If Jameson Williams makes any sort of leap in his third year — entering what should be the first normal offseason of his career — he can unlock a vertical dimension to a passing game that only produced five touchdowns on deep balls in 2023. But that’s wishcasting, not an urgent need. — Andy Behrens