Lions Have Sign $62 Million Defensive End in Edge Rush ‘Overhaul…


The Detroit Lions’ defense improved significantly in 2023, albeit their pass rush was often inconsistent.

With the Lions expected to restructure its edge-rushing corps this offseason, USA Today’s Jeff Risdon feels a three-time Pro Bowler would be a natural addition as a counterbalance to star Aidan Hutchinson. Risdon suggested that former Cleveland Browns edge rusher Za’Darius Smith may be a “under-the-radar” acquisition to replace some of the seasoned leadership the Lions would lose this offseason.

Lions tap to add ‘Productive’ Risdon anticipates substantial changes to the Lions’ pass-rushing corps this summer, as numerous veterans are anticipated to leave in free agency.

“With the Lions overhauling the EDGE position—Julian Okwara is already in Philadelphia, and both his brother Romeo Okwara and Charles Harris are free agents—the Lions could be in the market for a more productive veteran looking for one last shot at the Super Bowl.” Risdon wrote, “That’s Smith.”

Risdon observed that Smith appeared to be receiving minimal attention ahead of the start of free agency in March, particularly for a guy who has 15.5 sacks over the previous two seasons. This might be due in part to Smith’s dropoff in 2023, when he had only 5.5 sacks and 27 total tackles despite playing alongside the more productive Myles Garrett.
However, Smith might be a valuable addition to a squad that has failed to find a reliable pass rusher opposite Hutchinson. Hutchinson, a second-year player, recorded 11.5 sacks, accounting for over 30% of the team total. No other player recorded more than five sacks throughout the year.

Smith might provide the stability that the rest of the team lacks outside of Hutchinson, Risdon noted.

“Smith, now 33, is no longer the Pro Bowler from the Packers a few years ago that Lions fans might recall,” he said in a statement. “However, he’s still an effective outside-in pass rusher who can finish in the backfield and plays with positional discipline.”

Smith, who signed a three-year, $42-million contract with the Minnesota Vikings two years ago, may be a more cheap acquisition for the Lions after signing a one-year, $10.5-million contract with the Browns last year.

Lions add to their defense
The Lions have already made some defensive moves, signing Canadian Football League player Mathieu Betts to a deal. Last year, the CFL’s previous Most Outstanding Defensive Player had 18 sacks in 18 games for the British Columbia Lions, choosing the Lions over possible NFL suitors.

Betts’ agent, Sasha Ghavami, told the Detroit Free Press that he received offers in both leagues and that Detroit was the best match for him. They’ve been interested in him since he worked out for them.

“There’s a great fit. I believe he is the sort of player they are looking for: high-energy, high-motor, and willing to give it his all. And I believe it was another opportunity for him to enter the NFL and work his way up the ranks. He’s confident in his ability, and I believe he simply wants the opportunity.”

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