The Detroit Lions are staring at an extensive rebuild after they finished at the bottom of the NFC North with a losing 5-11 record. They have their work cut out for them if they hope to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
The team is already making changes: Dan Campbell took over the head coaching job, and he has already started working with general manager Brad Holmes.
This offseason marked the end of an era in Detroit. The Lions' franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford has been shipped off to the Los Angeles Rams in a trade that brought Jared Goff to the Motor City. As a result, Lions fans can look forward to a new signal-caller when the NFL season starts in a few months.
But what else do the Lions need to do to in order to make it back to the playoffs? Here are three trades that could take the Lions from the bottom of the NFC North to the middle of the playoff picture?
The Lions should target Linebacker Corey Littleton (Las Vegas Raiders)
Cory Littleton's stats slightly dropped when he switched fromLos Angeles Rams to the Las Vegas Raiders last year. But let's not forget that he averaged a coverage grade of 87.3 during his time with the Rams.
Littleton is not the kind of linebacker who will come storming across the line to rack up TFLs. Instead, he is a high-energy force in the mid-back field, and he practically plays like a member of the secondary sometimes.
Detroit's defense was woeful last season, and it was one of the worst units in the NFL. The group ranked 27th against the run and 28th against the pass. The sheer volume of tackles that an in-form Littleton generally makes over the course of a game would surely help boost those unsightly numbers.
When he's firing on all cylinders, Littleton is still a tackling machine, as few players are able to slip past him.
After a disappointing season in Las Vegas, Littleton has already had to restructure his deal with the Raiders, and coach John Gruden might be willing to listen to offers for him. But to pry him away from Gruden's clutches, the Lions will likely need to give up a second-round pick in 2021 and a third-round pick in 2022.
Wide receiver Michael Thomas could transform the Lions' offense
At 30-years-old, Marvin Jones Jr. proved he still has gas in the tank during the 2020 season, and he's a viable option in the WR2 slot for the Lions.
Still, with WR1 Kenny Golladay set to leave Detroit after the team failed to franchise tag him this week, the Lions need of a top-tier wideout for incoming QB Jared Goff.
The Saints are in the process of restructing their salary cap space, and it just so happens that Michael Thomas is one of the team's top earners. Thomas penned a 5 year, $96 million contract with the Saints two seasons ago. He has already reworked this deal, but he's still an expensive player.
If the Lions could pull off a trade to bring one of the game's elite receivers to Detroit, this move would go a long way in the team's journey back to the playoffs. The Lions would probably need to trade a 2021 first-round pick and a 2022 second-round pick to get Thomas.
Though the Saints might not want to give up a player of Thomas' caliber, the team's financial situation makes this trade a possibility. The Lions would need to convince the Saints' star receiver that Detroit is a solid destination, so the team would need to make extensive upgrades in addition to this trade.
Defensive tackle Deforest Buckner (Indianapolis Colts) would be a huge upgrade
If the Lions are committed to the process of becoming a playoff contender, they need to address their issues on defense.
Deforest Buckner is an elite defensive lineman, so he's the kind of player the Lions should prioritize.
Buckner is capable of collapsing pockets singlehandedly, and he can create the kind of pressure at the line that the Lions so desperately need.
Convincing the Colts to part ways with one of their star players could prove to be difficult. The Lions might need to surrender their 2021 second-round pick and their 2022 first-round pick, but Buckner is the kind of player that doesn't come around often. Success comes at a price, ao the Lions should do whatever it takes to add elite players at any cost.
What do you think of these picks? Would these three players give the Lions a shot at making it back to the playoffs? Sound off in the comments below.