Tuesday was what we like to call “a big news day” in the NFL.
It started with Aaron Rodgers deciding to stay in Green Bay on a massive $200 million contract. Then came the Denver Broncos going “all in” on a Super Bowl attempt and trading for Russell Wilson,
As a lifelong Detroit Lions fan, my first thought on both was, “How does this make the pain of being a Lions fan continue?”
The answer – it certainly doesn’t numb anything.
What’s worse, another move was made that may impact the Lions even more, and it was completely overshadowed by the star QBs.
Still, my never-ending hope for a Lions championship has led me to try and see a path forward.
My philosophy on how the Lions can win
If you look at the landscape of the NFL, there’s basically two sides of the coin to winning.
Having a clear franchise QB, or building around a rookie.
Green Bay and Denver have opted for Door No. 1. I want the Lions to opt for Door No. 2.
The Lions had a franchise QB in Matthew Stafford for more than a decade. It produced zero playoff wins or division titles.
I’m not saying that’s all on Stafford. Clearly Stafford proved this past season that the Lions franchise has a lot of issues to overcome. However, Stafford’s contract was definitely a hinderance to being able to right the ship.
Under the current NFL rookie pay scale, finding a competent young QB allows franchises to turn things around quickly. This new pay scale structure began after Stafford was drafted.
The Cincinnati Bengals reached the Super Bowl in two years under Joe Burrow. In recent years, the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams have reached the Super Bowl with a QB under a rookie contract.
Committing so little to such an important position allowed those teams to invest in other areas. It gave them needed playmakers on both sides of the ball.
Rodgers to keep tormenting us
Green Bay just refuses to go away.
The Packers have been a complete thorn in the NFC Central/North for decades and that’s likely to continue with this new 4-year deal for Rodgers.
With Chicago in a rebuilding phase and Minnesota likely heading in that direction, Rodgers leaving the NFC North could have opened the door for Detroit.
The Lions have a lot of work to do, but a Rodgers-less division could have expedited the process.
Now, he is staying in GB and likely to keep dominating the division for years to come.
The Pack are a pretty clear favorite in the North already, while the Lions sit back at .
Jaguars throw a curveball
The other big shoe to drop yesterday came from the Jacksonville Jaguars, holder of the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Despite most media outlets feeling the Jags needed a tackle, they elected to place a franchise tag on left tackle Cam Robinson for the second consecutive year. This coming off a rather mediocre 2021 season.
Why that impacts Detroit is that overnight, Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson has vaulted into the clear favorite to be the top selection in the NFL Draft.
Many mock drafts, and Michigan/Lions fans, hoped that Hutchinson would be the Lions’ selection at No. 2.
It’s unlikely that Jacksonville would draft a tackle like Alabama’s Evan Neal at No. 1 just to move him to right tackle. What franchise does that?
Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton has emerged as a common name associated with the Lions at No. 2. But, a safety, at No. 2?
We’ve seen something like this before by taking cornerback Jeff Okudah at No. 3 in 2020. That went swimmingly.
What does it all mean for my plan?
What these two pieces of information mean, is that I believe the Lions need to step away from taking a quarterback in this year’s draft.
A QB was already unlikely at No. 2, and taking one at No. 32 definitely doesn’t inspire confidence to be the future of the franchise.
Jared Goff’s contract has him pretty well locked into Detroit for the 2022 season. Burning a year of a rookie QB contract when the team is far out of the championship mix already seems like a waste.
With three picks in the top 34 this year and two first round picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Lions can stock up. Build an actual team that has some strengths away from the QB position.
Detroit’s leeway to spend on free agents also improves after the 2022 season.
The Lions clearly need a lot of help. Being able to spread the wealth to many positions of need is key. The 4-to-5-year window of that rookie contract is a prime timeline to change a franchise around.
Quarterback prospects for the 2023 Draft seem to have more promise than this 2022 crop, as well. Bryce Young of Alabama and C.J. Stroud of Ohio State are expected to be the top QB prizes.
Getting a competent rookie QB isn’t a given, but if the Lions can do that, I expect good things to start happening in Detroit.
It’s hard to ask Lions fans to be patient after years of suffering. But, I think waiting one more year to kick the turnaround into full gear is the best option.