Lions Rumors

Lions Sign 15 UDFAs

With the Lions kicking off rookie minicamp yesterday, the team was busy adding 15 undrafted free agents to their roster:

Per Tim Twentyman of the team’s website, Lions Brad Holmes expressed enthusiasm about their year’s UDFA class, with the GM noting that three unspecified players were actually on Detroit’s draft board.

One of the team’s most notable additions is Steven Gilmore, the younger brother of former NFL DPOY Stephon Gilmore. The Marshall product had nine interceptions and 34 passes defended during his five collegiate season, and his ability to play multiple positions in the secondary (plus special teams) could give him a strong opportunity to earn a roster spot.

The Lions used a third-round pick on Hendon Hooker, but that didn’t stop them from adding a QB in free agency. Adrian Martinez had a prolific showing at Nebraska before transferring to Kansas State, where he paired an underwhelming 1,261 passing yards with 627 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. His passing inconsistency led to him going undrafted, but the Lions could get creative with how they use the dynamic runner.

Speaking of, Keytaon Thompson was a backup quarterback at Mississippi State before transferring to Virginia as a wideout. He was productive in the slot during his two seasons as Virginia, hauling in 131 receptions for 1,569 yards.

Lions Sign Hendon Hooker; QB Not Expected To Play In 2023

Along with the previously-reported deals for offensive lineman Colby Sorsdal and wide receiver Antoine Green, the Lions announced on Friday that they have signed quarterback Hendon Hooker to his four-year rookie contract.

The Tennessee alum was one of the wild cards in this year’s draft class, given his productive time with the Volunteers. An ACL tear which ended his final college season, along with his age (25) were factors which worked against him at the draft, and they led to his slide down the board to No. 68 overall. It was at that point in the third round that the Lions selected him, leading to questions about starter Jared Goff‘s long-term prospects with the franchise.

In the immediate future, however, the latter (who was made aware of the Hooker selection in advance) is secure atop the QB depth chart. Hooker’s recovery from the ACL injury, along with his acclimation to the pro game in general (something of particular importance given the unique Tennessee scheme he is coming from) is expected to keep him sidelined for the 2023 campaign despite positive reports on the former front.

“Really, this is a redshirt year for him,” Lions head coach Dan Campbell said of Hooker on the Green Light with Chris Long podcast (via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press). “He’s got to get this leg right first and then he’ll learn under Jared, and then let’s see what happens. If he can eventually become your two or maybe down the road, later on, it’s more than that, but it’s going to be a long time.”

Sitting out the first year of his rookie pact will make the age factor even more prominent in evaluations and expectations of Hooker, though Campbell recently stated that his age was not a detriment to the team’s willingness to draft him as a potential Goff successor. With the latter on the books for two more seasons, a patient approach could prove to be a fruitful one for Detroit.

The Lions are considering an extension for Goff, however, which could delay Hooker’s opportunity to ascend to the QB1 spot. Given the team’s success on offense in 2022 with Goff at the helm, a repeat performance this season could leave Detroit with an interesting decision to make under center with respect to their setup for 2024 and beyond. In any case, that season is the earliest in which appearances from Hooker can be expected.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/10/23

Teams are moving quickly on inking their Day 3 draftees to their four-year rookie deals, with this process involving a slot system that does not feature many complications for late-round players. Here are the latest such agreements to commence:

Atlanta Falcons

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Detroit Lions

Jacksonville Jaguars

New England Patriots

San Francisco 49ers

Washington Commanders

Johnson transferred back to the west coast after a freshman year at Miami (FL). He established himself as one of the most versatile players in the country while in Eugene, contributing for the Ducks on defense as an edge rusher and on offense as a tight end. Carolina drafted him for his defensive potential.

Moody is the expected replacement for Robbie Gould, who departed in free agency this spring after six years with San Francisco. Likewise, New England moved on from punter Jake Bailey after a couple of internal disagreements. Baringer is expected to take over for the one-time All-Pro punter.

Lions Sign DL Christian Covington

Although Christian Covington‘s 2022 season ended early, the Lions will give him a shot to bounce back. The well-traveled defensive lineman agreed to terms with the Lions on Wednesday, according to his agent (on Twitter). The Lions have since announced the signing.

An eight-year veteran, Covington has worked as a rotational defensive lineman and occasional starter throughout his career. He topped 500 defensive snaps in both 2020 and ’21, but a torn pectoral muscle ended his second Chargers season.

Covington, 29, has mostly served as an interior D-line presence for his various teams. A 2015 Texans draftee, Covington later journeyed to Dallas, Cincinnati and Los Angeles. He has 32 starts on his resume. Covington worked in the Bolts’ 3-4 defense but was part of 4-3 schemes with the Bengals and Cowboys in the two years prior, making for a fit in either alignment. Pro Football Focus rated Covington as a plus run defender in the late 2010s and slotted him as a middle-of-the-pack interior D-lineman in 2021.

The Chargers gave Covington two one-year contracts, both for the league minimum. Considering the pec tear ended Covington’s 2022 season after four games, it stands to reason his Lions deal will check in around the same financial territory.

In 2021, Covington totaled a career-high 52 tackles and forced a fumble. The Bengals gave the 289-pound defender a career-most 14 starts in 2020. Beyond that season, however, Covington has never started more than six games in a single slate.

Detroit has made a number of defensive augmentations this offseason, which is understandable given its last-place ranking last season. The Lions have added more notable players on the second and third levels. They signed three starter-caliber DBs (Cameron Sutton, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Emmanuel Moseley) and drafted Brian Branch in the second round. They also made linebacker Jack Campbell a surprising first-round pick. Up front, the Lions did use a third-round pick on D-tackle Brodric Martin. Beyond that and the re-signing of John Cominsky, the Lions have stood pat up front. Covington will be given a chance to catch on as a rotational presence for Dan Campbell‘s team.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/9/23

Teams are moving quickly on inking their Day 3 draftees to their four-year rookie deals, with this process involving a slot system that does not feature many complications for late-round players. Here are the latest such agreements to commence:

Cincinnati Bengals

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

  • OL Colby Sorsdal (fifth round, William & Mary)

Jacksonville Jaguars

New England Patriots

Seattle Seahawks

An additional quintet of fifth-round picks is now under contract. Last year, the slot system pegged Round 5’s contracts between $4.1MM and $3.9MM over four years, with full guarantees ranging from $361K to $243K.

Brown finished his Fighting Illini tenure with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, including a 1,643-yard slate as a senior. He joins a Bengals team that did not outbid the Broncos for Samaje Perine and had been expected to ask Joe Mixon for a pay cut. Post-draft, Zac Taylor issued a vote of confidence for Mixon to be back. Abdullah combined to tally 19.5 sacks and 31 tackles for loss during his final two seasons at Louisville.

Lions Waive WR Stanley Berryhill

The Lions have now cut ties with three of the four players who received gambling suspensions last month. The team handed wide receiver Stanley Berryhill his walking papers Tuesday.

A UDFA who caught on with the Lions last year, Berryhill incurred a six-game gambling ban. While Berryhill’s punishment was not as extreme as the indefinite suspensions — which will last at least one season — given to wideout Quintez Cephus, special-teamer C.J. Moore and Commanders defensive end Shaka Toney, Berryhill will hit the waiver wire.

Jameson Williams is the only gambling policy violator left on Detroit’s roster. The 2022 first-round pick, who joined Berryhill in receiving a six-game suspension, obviously is not at risk of being cut. Berryhill, however, played in four games last season but saw just six offensive snaps. The Falcons signed the Arizona alum as a UDFA; he made his way to the Cardinals’ practice squad in September and landed on the Lions’ P-squad in October.

The Lions have also fired at least three staffers — believed to be a strength and conditioning coach and two equipment managers — for violating the NFL’s gambling policy. Unspecified league employees have also been canned for violating the policy, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes. After decades of dormancy on the gambling suspension front, seven players — also including Calvin Ridley and former defensive back Josh Shaw — have received bans since 2019.

Detroit, which also waived cornerback Mac McCain and defensive lineman Demetrius Taylor, did not draft a wide receiver until the seventh round (North Carolina’s Antoine Green). Josh Reynolds remains on the Lions’ roster, and the team reunited with Marvin Jones — a Lion from 2016-20 — in late March. Kalif Raymond, Tom Kennedy, Trinity Benson and 2022 UDFA Maurice Alexander round out the rest of Amon-Ra St. Brown‘s potential supporting cast. The Lions cut McCain with a failure to disclose a physical condition designation, KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson tweets.

NFC North Notes: Hooker, Bears, OL, Packers

Hendon Hooker‘s age (25) likely served as one of the factors for his fall into Round 3. The ACL tear the Tennessee product sustained in November undoubtedly led to him tumbling out of the second round, his widely viewed floor. The Lions now have a developmental quarterback who, despite being drafted seven years after Jared Goff, is barely three years younger than the Detroit starter. Dan Campbell did not view Hooker’s age as a major issue.

We did go into this offseason saying that we wanted to bring in some competition at quarterback,” Campbell said during an appearance on Green Light with Chris Long podcast (h/t Pro Football Talk). “We didn’t know exactly where that might be, who that would be at the time, but we did like Hooker. We knew he was coming off the injury, but there was something about him that was appealing. He’s very mature; he looks the part; he’s got a big arm. H’s just got to learn to play in the NFL. He’s a pro, now, and I like the fact that he was older. We all kind liked the fact that he was older. I think you want your quarterback to be more mature.”

The Lions have begun discussions on a Goff extension. For now, the third-year Detroit starter is tied to his Rams-constructed deal that runs through 2024. Although Hooker should not be viewed as an heir apparent just yet, his rookie deal runs through 2026. Here is the latest from the NFC North:

  • The Bears are set to hold a center competition between Cody Whitehair and Lucas Patrick. GM Ryan Poles said he is comfortable with either the longtime guard — who began his NFL career as a center — or the 2022 free agency pickup at center, Courtney Cronin of tweets. Whitehair, 31 in July, has started 107 games for the Bears, who drafted him in the 2016 second round. He spent the first three seasons of his career at center and has been on the radar to move since the Nate Davis free agent signing. A two-year Packers starter, Patrick started only five Bears games during an injury-plagued 2022 season.
  • Chicago will also move Teven Jenkins from right guard to left guard, Cronin adds (on Twitter), to accommodate Davis. The free agent pickup worked as the Titans’ starting right guard from 2019-22. Jenkins will soon move to a fourth O-line position. The Bears tried him at both tackle spots and dangled him in trade talks last year, but they saw the 2021 second-rounder show promise at guard last season. The other new Bears full-timer up front last season, Braxton Jones, is not moving from left tackle. Despite the addition of first-rounder Darnell Wright, Bears O-line coach Chris Morgan said (via Cronin) the team will keeping Jones at left tackle going into training camp. Wright logged more starts at right tackle (27) than left tackle (13) at Tennessee.
  • Set to hold their rookie minicamp later this week, the Lions will arrange for XFL return man Darrius Shepherd to try out. The XFL announced Shepherd, who also caught 48 passes for 519 yards with the St. Louis BattleHawks this season, will attend the Lions’ rookie camp. The 27-year-old wideout, a former UDFA out of North Dakota State, played for the Packers from 2019-20 but did not see NFL game action over the past two years.
  • One of the signees from this year’s International Pathway Program, the PackersKenneth Odumegwu, has never played organized football, Matt Schneidman of The Athletic tweets. The program, which expanded to two divisions (NFC North, AFC West) for the first time this year, provides an extra practice squad spot for an international player.

Eight Players Join NFC North, AFC West Teams Via NFL International Player Pathway Program

Established in 2017, the NFL International Player Pathway (IPP) program “aims to provide elite athletes from around the world with the opportunity to earn a spot on an NFL roster.” This year, eight international players joined NFC North and AFC West teams (per the league’s website):

  • Bears: OL Roy Mbaeteka, Nigeria
  • Lions: TE Patrick Murtagh, Australia
  • Packers: DL Kenneth Odumegwu, Nigeria
  • Vikings: DL Junior Aho, France
  • Broncos: DL Haggai Chisom Ndubuisi, Nigeria
  • Chiefs: OL Chukwuebuka Godrick, Nigeria
  • Raiders: DL David Ebuka Agoha, Nigeria
  • Chargers: DL Basil Chijioke Okoye, Nigeria

The NFC North and AFC West were the two divisions that had yet to participate in the program, and this is the first year that the NFL is opening the program to two divisions. The IPP program allows these teams to carry an additional international player on their practice squads during the regular season.

“To see this hugely talented group of players be allocated to NFL rosters is very exciting, and a testament to the success of the NFL’s global football development programs for international athletes,” said NFL executive Peter O’Reilly. “The International Player Pathway is a critical program in identifying, supporting and enabling athletes from around the world and we look forward to seeing each players’ NFL journey unfold as they become global ambassadors for the sport.”

Per, the six Nigerian players participated in Osi Umenyiora‘s The Uprise initiative and were participants in the NFL’s inaugural talent camp in Ghana. Alumni of the IPP program include Eagles offensive tackle Jordan Mailata, Commanders defensive end Efe Obada and defensive tackle David Bada, and Raiders fullback Jakob Johnson.

NFC North Notes: Vikings, Lions, Savage

The Vikings have multiple departure candidates still on their roster. The Dalvin CookZa’Darius Smith holding patterns may persist, with’s Albert Breer noting the Vikes have informed other teams they are in good enough shape cap-wise to hold onto both veterans. This will be contingent on a bit more work being done, as OverTheCap credits the Vikings as holding $1.2MM in cap space. Cook is due $10.4MM in salary, and the Dolphins’ Devon Achane third-round pick complicates a previously discussed trade. The Vikings could take a Bengals path and prepare for a pay-cut ask, but we have not heard that is in the works yet. Smith, who asked to be cut earlier this year, is tied to a $9.45MM base. The Vikes have he, Danielle Hunter and UFA addition Marcus Davenport in the fold. The Vikings remain open to moving either player, though Breer adds they might need to pick up part of each’s salary — similar to how the Bears proceeded with their Robert Quinn trade last year — to make such a move worthwhile in terms of compensation.

Here is the latest from the NFC North:

  • Between free agency and the draft, the Lions have revamped their secondary. Detroit signed Cameron Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley and C.J. Gardner-Johnson before drafting versatile DB Brian Branch in Round 2. The Eagles had moved Gardner-Johnson to safety last season, but he primarily played slot corner under Aaron Glenn in New Orleans. The Lions DC is planning to use CJGJ frequently in the slot this season, Justin Rogers of the Detroit News notes. It will be interesting to see how the Lions manage the workloads for Gardner-Johnson and Branch, considering both have experience — albeit one of them at the college level only — of working in the slot and as a safety.
  • In the wake of the NFL’s gambling investigation producing four Lions suspensions, the team released recently re-signed special-teamer C.J. Moore and wideout Quintez Cephus. Those two were not the only Lions employees dismissed as part of their involvement in this scandal. The team also fired staffers, and Breer adds a strength and conditioning coach and two equipment managers were let go. Receivers Jameson Williams and Stanley Berryhill were also suspended, but they are still with the team.
  • The Packers moved some money around in Darnell Savage‘s contract recently, and Field Yates of indicates the restructure created $5.5MM in cap space (Twitter link). Savage is attached to a fifth-year option salary in 2023. The Packers converted $4MM of Savage’s option salary into a signing bonus and tacked on four void years to the former first-round safety’s deal, ESPN’s Rob Demovsky tweets. If the Packers do not re-sign Savage before the 2024 league year begins, they will be hit with $5.5MM in dead money due to the void years now on this contract. The Packers, who absorbed a record-tying $40MM in dead money by trading Aaron Rodgers last week, are still near the top of the league in cap space. They hold just more than $17MM in room as May begins.

Lions Contemplating Jared Goff Extension

After the Lions drafted one of the more high-profile quarterbacks in this year’s class, questions were raised regarding the long-term future of Jared Goff in Detroit. A new deal keeping him in place could be on the horizon, though.

During an appearance on 97.1 WXYT-FM, general manager Brad Holmes confirmed that extension talks have begun between the team and Goff’s representatives. “Yeah, we’ve had internal dialogue there,” Holmes said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press“We’ve had dialogue with his agent and we’re in a good place right now.”

Goff, 28, earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2022 for his impressive performance in guiding the Lions to a late-season push for a playoff spot. The former first overall pick posted his highest passer rating since 2018, and went nine straight games to close out the campaign without throwing an interception. However, he is only under contract for two more seasons (at cap hits of $30.975MM and $31.975MM), and the absence of guarantees in 2024 would make it easy for the team to move on that year.

For that reason, many have pointed to this season as being Goff’s last in the Motor City. Prior to the draft, no talks had taken place regarding an extension, which seemed to leave the door open to an eventual successor being drafted. The Lions did indeed add a signal-caller, selecting Hendon Hooker in the third round after a somewhat surprising fall down the board. The Tennessee product generated first-round buzz but was expected to hear his name called no later than the second round.

Hooker is coming off a torn ACL which will limit his availability as a rookie. That will hinder his acclimation to the pro game, something which is of particular concern considering his age (25) upon arrival in the NFL. Holmes confirmed that the reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Year will essentially have a redshirt campaign as the No. 3 quarterback in 2023.

“Obviously he’ll be a rookie and he’s going to have to transition into playing in a different type of scheme, but we’re really excited about his upside, so how NFL ready are a lot of quarterbacks that you acquire?” Holmes added. “And that’s just part of the normal development process and again, just a testament of I think we have the right situation for him, just to come and sit back, see how Jared and [backup] Nate [Sudfeld] do things and just develop.”

Expectations will be raised for the Lions’ offense, which added running back Jahmyr Gibbs in the first round – later than they were willing to draft him – this season. Another strong campaign from Goff could make his financial situation even more interesting (and the team’s decision with him more difficult), especially with his potential replacement now in the fold.