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2024 Detroit Lions free agent profile: Re-signing Jonah Jackson is the toughest decision.

The Detroit Lions have 32 players on their 2023 roster who will become free agents in 2024 (20 unrestricted, 6 restricted, and 6 exclusive-rights), and we are looking at what their expectations were heading into the 2023 season, how they performed, and their chances of returning to Detroit in 2024.

Take a look at our past free agency profiles for WR Josh Reynolds, WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, OG Graham Glasgow, OG Halapoulivaati Vaitai, OL Dan Skipper, EDGE Romeo Okwara, CB Emmanuel Moseley, and K Michael Badgley.

Next up is Jonah Jackson, the starting left guard.

Jackson was originally picked by the previous regime in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He spent four years at Rutgers before transferring to Ohio State as a graduate transfer in 2019.

Since arriving in Detroit, Jackson has been a consistent left guard for the Lions, and when healthy, he is one of the best pulling guards in football. And now that his rookie deal is up, the 27-year-old is certainly owed a sizable bonus.

Jonah Jackson

Expectations for 2023
From the time Lions general manager Brad Holmes and coach Dan Campbell arrived in 2021, they were very meticulous in how they built out their team, particularly in the trenches.

Fortunately for them, one of their predecessors’ few strengths was the ability to draft offensive linemen, leaving them with established veterans like left tackle Taylor Decker, center Frank Ragnow, and left guard Jonah Jackson.

As he entered the final year of his rookie contract, Jackson was open to whatever his demand would be after the season. He had already released a few years’ worth of impressive footage, and because to a great finish in 2022, expectations were sky-high for the Lions’ highly touted offensive line.

On paper, most would say the Lions had a top-five offensive line in the league, with the key being to keep everyone healthy and available at the same time. Because, despite Jackson’s strong finish in 2022, he missed four games earlier in the season after breaking a finger in practice.

Actual role in 2023.

Note: PFF grades combine regular season and playoffs and reflect at least 20% of snaps at that position.

Regular season: 12 games (12 starts): 2 sacks, 8 hits, 14 hurries, and 24 pressures allowed on 798 offensive snaps.
Postseason – 2 games (2 starts): Allowed 3 hurries and 3 pressures on 83 offensive snaps.

PFF Offensive grade: 61.0 (34th among 83 qualifying guards).
PFF run blocking grade: 60.3 (35th out of 83).
PFF pass blocking grade: 60.7 (38th out of 83).

Jackson missed time in 2023, just as he did in 2022, missing five regular season games. In addition, he was knocked out of the divisional round triumph over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a knee injury that necessitated surgery, leaving him to be sidelined in the NFC Championship game.

When Jackson was on the field, he appeared to be a top-tier guard. It was often in such moments that the Lions’ offensive line looked like the Infinity Gauntlet it was billed as. An overwhelming force capable of bludgeoning teams into submission once things got started.

Jackson, who is sandwiched between Decker and Ragnow, thrives in offensive coordinator Ben Johnson’s playbook, where he can use his excellent athleticism to draw down the line of scrimmage, allowing him to pick off defenders in space while out in front of ball carriers. The Lions place a high demand on their guards, especially when it comes to their complex rushing approach, which incorporates principles from zone and gap schemes.

Jackson has periods of both good and bad play. Jackson struggled in pass protection in 2023, allowing three or more pressures in six of the 14 games he appeared in.

Outlook for 2024: Contract status: unrestricted free agent.

Retaining Jackson is easy to justify. We’ve seen how potent this attack can be when the offensive line is on point. Running backs Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery have massive holes to run through, while quarterback Jared Goff has clean pockets to work from. Just as Holmes and Campbell envisioned when they selected Penei Sewell with the seventh overall pick in the 2021 draft, the offensive line is the driving force behind this entire operation.

The continuity that has developed throughout the years of playing with one another, as well as the reason for keeping a strength a strength, are two critical elements in this argument. If there is a chance to keep Jackson in Detroit for the next few years, the Lions should seriously consider all options.

Allowing Jackson to walk in free agency raises the issue of money, which many fans dislike discussing.

The Lions’ hostile line is as of now costly because it is. In 2023, no group went through more in cap space on their hostile line than the Lions. Within the last year of his contract expansion, Decker will carry a cap number of fair over $19 million in 2024, with Ragnow checking in at $12.8 million. Toss within the reality that Sewell will before long be resetting the hostile handle advertise, and you start to see why this may conclusion up being a troublesome choice.

Let’s say that Jackson signs a bargain where his cap number will be $12 million in 2024, putting him some place within the center of the most elevated paid bunch of insides hostile linemen. The Lions would have over $50 million given to fair four starters along the hostile line, with the plausibility of that add up to being indeed higher—depending on who closes up at right watch with Glasgow also being an unlimited free specialist. Of course, the Lions seem structure an expansion to play down Jackson’s cap hit early, but there’s likely a time down the street in which Jackson, Ragnow, and Sewell might all have colossal cap hits within the same season.

On beat of the previously mentioned compensation cap repercussions, there is too the reality that the Lions claim four picks within the top-100 determinations within the up and coming 2024 NFL Draft in Detroit. Utilizing one or indeed two of those picks to strengthen the hostile line would be a cheaper, more long-term play at keeping up the unit’s first class status.

Is there intrigued from both sides?
Yes, but this may be a case where the fit essentially doesn’t work for both parties.

Would the Lions adore to keep Jackson in house? Beyond any doubt, keeping a great thing going makes sense in most strolls of life, and certainly holds genuine on the hostile line. But fair how much would they be willing to shell out to Jackson when they as of now have so much cash tied to the rest of the line?

From Jackson’s viewpoint, he is 27 a long time ancient and coming off of a third-round rookie contract. In most cases, this can be the time for a player to strike whereas the press is hot. There may be a group out there that’s looking to overhaul their cleared out protect spot, and in case they have bounty of cash to toss at the issue, the Lions may rapidly discover themselves out of the running to hold Jackson’s services.

What about you? How do you think the Lions ought to approach Jonah Jackson this offseason?

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