It can be a long month for those who are waiting, a tenuous time for players not under NFL contract yet for 2020. And for the Detroit Lions and other teams deciding on what players to retain or outside free agents to pursue.
Based on general manager Bob Quinn’s prior history, don’t expect the Lions to re-sign a ton of their free agents. Last year, Detroit re-signed five players, and of those, only three played for Detroit in 2019: Steve Longa, Don Muhlbach and Romeo Okwara.
This year, the Lions aren’t expected to be massive free-agent spenders. Other than a couple of free agents, there aren’t many of their own who are going to command big-time money, either.
With that in mind, here's a look at all of Detroit’s free agents and their chances of ending up back with the Lions in 2020.
QB Jeff Driskel: He played decently for the Lions as a backup quarterback until landing on injured reserve. He completed 59% of his passes for 685 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions in his three starts -- although the meltdown against Washington stands out. Considering Detroit has David Blough and Kyle Sloter under contract and could be in the market for a more established or higher-potential backup in the draft and free agency, Driskel might be looking for another home in 2020.
RB J.D. McKissic: McKissic found a role with the Lions last season, rushing for 205 yards to go with 233 yards receiving. His usage fizzled as the season wore on, though, and Detroit started to use Bo Scarbrough and Ty Johnson. Over The Cap projects the original-round tender for a restricted free agent, which McKissic is, at $2.144 million. Tough to see Detroit committing that to McKissic. The Lions could bring him back for less if he were open to it.
WR Danny Amendola: Amendola had one of the better seasons of his career, catching 62 passes for 678 yards. The Lions need a slot receiver, and coach Matt Patricia loves Amendola's passion and that he gets what the Lions are trying to build. At age 34, he shouldn’t command a salary much more than the $4.25 million he made last season. The biggest question would be whether Amendola wants to return or go to a playoff contender.
WR Jermaine Kearse: Kearse came to Detroit from the New York Jets to resurrect his career, and had the inside track on the No. 4 receiver job until a horrific leg injury ended his season in the preseason opener. If the 30-year-old is healthy, maybe he returns on a near-minimum deal with little guaranteed.
TE Logan Thomas: Thomas outperformed Jesse James, who was given a long-term contract last offseason. His status could depend on how confident the Lions feel about Isaac Nauta progressing in Year 2. If they're confident, they might choose to go with Nauta. If not, they should be interested in bringing Thomas back on a similar deal to last season’s veterans minimum.
OL Kenny Wiggins: He was Detroit’s backup interior lineman, but rotated with Joe Dahl and Graham Glasgow. The Lions clearly liked Wiggins enough to do this, even though it was an odd arrangement, and could choose to bring him back at a lower-than-midlevel price point. It might not come until later, though, as he’s recovering from biceps surgery that will keep him out for a while.
OL Graham Glasgow: Detroit’s most dependable offensive lineman, who has versatility at guard and center, Glasgow seemed in line for a good-sized extension. Then the Lions rotated him throughout the season. Considering he said in December it’d be “dumb” not to test free agency, he’s headed to the open market. He should get more there than the Lions are going to be willing to pay.
OL Oday Aboushi: Aboushi started two games after Wiggins and Dahl were injured and played well enough for Detroit to consider bringing him back in his same reserve role. The potential growth of Beau Benzschawel could scuttle that.
DT Mike Daniels: Detroit signed Daniels after he was cut by Green Bay and paid him $8.1 million. It didn’t pan out. Daniels kept getting hurt, playing in just nine games with 10 tackles and a sack. Detroit would be ill-advised to pay that price again for Daniels, who said he would like to return to the Lions. At a much cheaper price, it could make sense. What happens here could be dependent on what Damon Harrison does as well.
DT A'Shawn Robinson: The Lions’ 2016 second-round pick became a good run-stopper but never a dual-threat interior lineman. He had 172 tackles in his four seasons in Detroit, with five sacks -- two of which came as a rookie. While the Harrison situation could change perspective, Robinson should test the market and is likely to command a decent price.
DL Darius Kilgo: The Lions held on to Kilgo even though he was injured all season. He could be back for the league minimum or the Lions could choose to get younger.
DT Jamie Meder: There’s some confusion, depending where you look, whether he’s an unrestricted or restricted free agent. Either way, likely the only way he ends up back in Detroit is on a near-minimum contract.
CB Rashaan Melvin: He won the starting job opposite Darius Slay out of camp. By the end of the season, he was outplayed by rookie Amani Oruwariye. Melvin had no interceptions, 11 pass breakups and 68 tackles, but often struggled in coverage -- partly due to a lack of pass rush. Considering Oruwariye's potential, the money Detroit should spend elsewhere and the possibility of using a high draft pick on a corner, Melvin should not be a priority unless the Lions can get him cheaply.
S Tavon Wilson: Wilson took a pay cut going into last season and then outplayed his contract. A safety who can play down in the box and is good against the run, Wilson should command more than the $1.2 million base salary he made last season. Detroit likes to use three safeties, and Wilson is both a valuable piece on the field and a leader off of it. There’s a chance he could rise out of Detroit's price range, but otherwise the Lions would be wise to bring him back.
S Miles Killebrew: Although he can play safety or linebacker, he never solidified a spot; he does provide Detroit with a quality special-teams player. Is that enough to bring him back with a new special-teams coach and players such as C.J. Moore, Steve Longa, Jason Cabinda, Dee Virgin and Mike Ford under contract? It’s possible -- but the Lions could choose to roll with the special teams-first players they know will be back.
P Sam Martin: Martin is one of the best punters -- if not the best -- in Lions history, and rebounded from a couple of struggling years to average 45.3 yards per punt last season. He’s also a consistent kickoff specialist. The Lions signed two punters -- Matt Wile and Jack Fox -- to futures deals. That combined with Martin commanding a good salary means he’s likely to play elsewhere in 2020.
LS Don Muhlbach: Quinn tried to replace Muhlbach in 2016, using a draft pick on Jimmy Landes. That failed. If Muhlbach wants to return, the Lions should bring him back. At age 38 and splitting time with his family between Michigan and Texas, the question will be whether Muhlbach wants to play one more season. Because if he does, it should be in Detroit.