The Detroit Lions have added one of the best free agency rushers. It fits the team’s scheme and personality like a glove.
The Detroit Lions re-signed several of their key free agents and made some direct signings at cornerback, but on Tuesday night, they went to the offensive side of the ball to deliver their last cannonball – signing back David Montgomery to a three-year contract.
Much like Jamal Williams – the player who is expected to replace Montgomery – Montgomery is a running back who thrives among tackles. He is capable of playing all three crises, showing great hands as a receiver and solid efficiency as a pass protector. Montgomery is known for his ability to break tackles and is one of the best players in the league right now.
Per PFF, during his four seasons in the NFL (51 starts), Montgomery broke up 185 tackles, the fifth-most in the league over that time. Per POD friend Brett Whitefield (Fantasy Points data manager), Montgomery is tied for first in forced tackle rate, among all running backs with a 125+ carry last season.
Additionally, as Whitefield points out in the above tweet, the Bears had one of the worst rushing offensive lines in football last season, while the Lions boast one of the best units in the NFL. The combination of open gaps and a runner who can not only run past them but break tackles along the way had to be very attractive to general manager Brad Holmes and coach Dan Campbell.
Montgomery will pair up with D’Andre Swift on Lions, starting in the background and forming the complementary Thunder and Lightning duo. The pair’s ability to stay on the field in all positions makes them outwardly interchangeable, even though they are different backcourt styles. That luxury of being able to fully unlock the offensive playbook, aside from running backs on the field, is something offensive coordinator Ben Johnson should drool over.
Don’t get too caught up in trying to visualize whether Montgomery or Swift is the “rookie”: the way Black works, the expectation is that they both see entry-level shots.
After Montgomery and Swift, recently re-signed Craig Reynolds will be entering his third season with the team and is currently the team’s RB3. After Reynolds, Jermar Jefferson appears to be next in line, and while he shone as a starter, he only landed on the practice squad last season. Greg Bell injured his hip less than a week into his rookie season and spent the year on injured reserve. His contract is still attached to the team, but there have been no updates on his status with the organization since the 2022 training camp.
With four, possibly five players racing in the roster, the Lions will be looking to add at least one or two players to the competition. Add to that that Swift is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and the Lions may be looking to draft his replacement this season. Adding a player who could challenge Reynolds for the RB3 role and potentially replace Swift as the starting entrant in 2023 is still on the table for the Lions.
So when might you target the Lions back in the draft?
I’d say the conversation about spending draft capital to pick Bejan Robinson in the first round might be over, but drafting a second-round back could certainly be in the realm of possibility. It’s also possible for the Lions to wait until day three and look to develop a young running back — and the UDFA post-market draft is usually full of rough diamonds worth bringing to camp.
As with most of Holmes’ signings this offseason, he filled a roster vacancy in free agency, but the support players in this position group are in a contract position so that their replacements can be selected at any time in the draft if the value is there.