June 25, 2024

It would be crazy of the Detroit Lions to not try to steal a legitimate shutdown corner from the Super Bowl champs.

Ever since Matt Patricia chased Darius Slay out of town four years ago, the Detroit Lions have lacked a true number one cornerback. Perhaps at last, a youthful successor to Slay could come from a deep draft class at the position. However, it could be asking too much to expect a rookie to face the top receiver on the opposing team each week.

In 2023 free agency, general manager Brad Holmes immediately set about overhauling the Lions’ secondary. First action was to sign three-year contract with Cameron Sutton. with the previous two seasons, Sutton had established himself as a starter with the Pittsburgh Steelers, thus it was reasonable to assume that he would take another step to become the Lions’ undisputed top cornerback.

That was not the case. Sutton’s first season in Detroit was underwhelming. Despite facing several excellent wide receivers in the final stretch, he lacked the necessary tools to have an effect, which negatively impacted the Lions’ pass defense.

Next season, Sutton will have a chance to bounce back. However, he must be overtaken in the hierarchy, and to put it simply, he cannot regularly face the opponent’s top wide receiver.

Holmes undoubtedly had Sutton as the starting cornerback for the Lions the previous campaign. There’s nothing wrong with the fact that he was merely incorrect. Good general managers are not perfect all the time. However, if the Lions are to advance and play in the Super Bowl the following season, their cornerback problems in 2023 must end.

L’Jarius Sneed might be franchise-tagged by the Kansas City Chiefs, keeping him off the free market. That would set you back $19.8 million, and it’s probably just a stopgap measure until long-term negotiations begin. However, the Chiefs have a track record of underpaying cornerbacks, as evidenced by the four picks they have made in the last two drafts. Thus, there’s a good chance he’s been given permission to go free.

Sneed spent his first three seasons with the Chiefs mostly playing in the slot. However, he moved outside last season and began routinely covering the starting wide receiver for the opposition. As the closest defender, he gave up a 56.2 passer rating and a 51% completion rate. Pro Football Focus gave him a top-30 overall grade.

Penalties are a problem for Sneed. He received 17 flags during the regular season, the most of which were for pass interference and being handsy. But when weighed against the alternative, the Lions should embrace that aggressive style. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and new defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend ought to find a collaborator who can lessen penalties without compromising Sneed’s strengths.

Everything hinges on the Chiefs approving Sneed’s release. If he does, though, the Lions ought to be all in on him and prepared to provide him with an offer he can’t reject.

According to “Breaking Bad,” Sutton was a cheap shot to sign a top-tier cornerback during the previous offseason. No more skipping steps on that front this time. Irrespective of position, Sneed ought to be the top player on the Lions’ list of prospective free agents.

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