A scary scene transpired during the Lions‘ Week 5 matchup with the Patriots. An ambulance transported Saivion Smith off the field, and the Lions defensive back said he feared paralysis following a collision with Patriots running back Damien Harris. Smith left the game after the next play, after falling to the turf after a routine tackle attempt on Hunter Henry. The backup DB, however, said (via the Detroit Free Press’ Jeff Seidel) he made a failed attempt to return to the stadium from the ambulance and regained arm and leg movement at the hospital. The neck injury he suffered ended up requiring spinal fusion surgery.
Smith received full Lions clearance in April, re-signing with the team that month. The 25-year-old cover man’s deal is worth $940K and contains no guaranteed money, giving the Lions — who overhauled their secondary this offseason — flexibility to move on free of charge. The Lions moved Smith to safety last season, but he offers versatility. With the Lions adding two other DBs with extensive backgrounds at both safety and corner — C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Brian Branch — Smith stands to compete for a backup role.
Here is the latest news from NFL secondaries:
- After years of shuttling Jimmie Ward between safety and the nickel role, the 49ers let the veteran defender walk (to the Texans) this offseason. They will use free agency addition Isaiah Oliver to replace Ward in the slot, per new DC Steve Wilks. “When [another Ward deal] didn’t happen, we wanted to make sure that we sort of got the best nickel in free agency, and that’s what we went out and did,” Wilks said, via The Athletic’s Matt Barrows (subscription required). “So I’m excited about Oliver. He’s long; he’s physical, can tackle, can cover. He’s going to be a good blitzer for us, everything that we do within this defense.” A former second-round pick, Oliver spent the past five seasons with the Falcons. The 210-pound defender is ticketed to work alongside outside corners Charvarius Ward and Deommodore Lenoir.
- Kelvin Joseph may be in the Cowboys‘ nickel plans. After acquiring Stephon Gilmore via trade, the Cowboys are trying Joseph in the slot at OTAs, Jon Machota of The Athletic notes. The former second-round pick has worked as an outside corner over his first two seasons, though he has only played 330 career defensive snaps. The Cowboys lost both Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown to season-ending injuries last year. While Lewis remains on the roster, Brown, a longtime slot player, is unsigned.
- Third-round Cardinals cornerback Garrett Williams received slightly more than the rookie-scale minimum to sign, per GOPHNX.com’s Howard Balzer, who notes the bumps come in Years 2-4 of his contract (Twitter link). This year’s No. 72 overall pick will earn between $1MM and $1.5MM from 2024-26. Third-rounders’ four-year deals are only partially guaranteed. Williams, a Syracuse alum, received a $1.1MM guarantee.
- The Panthers brought back safety Sam Franklin earlier this offseason, tendering him as an RFA. But the fourth-year defender agreed to sign for slightly less than the low-end tender price. Rather than signing for $2.627MM (the tender number), Franklin is back in Carolina on a one-year, $2.51MM deal, Balzer adds (on Twitter). The Panthers gave the 27-year-old DB a $1.5MM signing bonus, which is spread through 2027 via void years. Franklin has been a core special-teamer in Carolina while working as a defensive backup.