Tracy Walker has quietly become one of the NFL’s better safeties in his first four years in the league. That lack of attention could be attributed to his playing for a Detroit Lions team that has stayed off the front pages recently as they rebuild the franchise. Now, with Walker set to hit free agency, the Lions need him back.
This is a Detroit team trying to piece the puzzle together as they go along. Head coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes know it. When going through a rebuild, the focus is on finding and developing young talent. But it’s just as essential to keep key pieces on the roster, and Walker is exactly that. He’s also a player in his prime who wants to stay in Detroit. He reflected on that in the leadup to the Lions’ regular-season finale.
“I want to be a part of this tradition that’s been started here. But, at the end of the day, that’s not up to me, honestly. I’m here just to do what I do best and do my job,” Walker said. “That’s for the upstairs and for my agents to decide. So, as far as that, I let them handle that, and I control what I control and that’s by making plays on the field.”
If Walker wants to stay, and it sounds like he does, this is a no-brainer for the front office. He didn’t have to say he wants to be part of the tradition. Walker could’ve just gone with a generic, We’ll see what happens, or I’ll go through all my options. Instead, he noted that he wants to be part of what Campbell, Holmes, and the others are building. Walker’s sentiments about Campbell are very different than what we heard about Matt Patricia’s regime. Detroit’s locker room is buying into Campbell’s message and coming together as a result of it. Look no further than Walker’s praise at the end of the season.
“We’ve had so many ups and downs this year, that I don’t think we give enough credit to Dan Campbell,” Walker said. “He’s a hell of a coach. He’s always preparing us, each and every week, to go out and compete against the best of the best. At the end of the day, I feel like things are coming together, and we see that. The moral of the story is that we continue to build every week. Last week, we didn’t have the best game, but we came back and bounced back this week.”
“I’ve gotten better because of those guys,” Walker said. “Since they’ve gotten here, I’ve seen massive improvements in my game, you know? Mentally, physically and as a man. So at the end of the day, that’s why I still want to play for them.”
While the stars are aligning for Walker to stay in Detroit on a well-earned new contract, we have seen past Lions front offices botch even the easy decisions. Holmes has made it clear how he feels about the star safety, per mlive.com.
“Tracy had already been with us obviously, but a new scheme, a new regime, new coaching staff, and he responded well here, he really did,” Holmes said. “I thought he played good football for us, and he really bought into everything that we’re doing. I was really happy for him.”
Signing Walker to a new contract should be a top priority to continue building upon this regime’s trust with its players. Campbell has said all the right things, and Holmes has started making moves to establish long-term stability. It’s important to retain those players who are part of the solution. Re-signing Walker would indicate to the other key contributors on the roster that they won’t be an afterthought moving forward.
The record in Year 1 may not have indicated it, but this team balled out for Campbell. For a franchise that’s been buried in the cellar for decades, finding the right coach is such a massive step. The next one is establishing which players are part of the foundation as they continue to build. Walker is one of those guys and deserves a big contract extension. It would be a win for the Lions, a win for Walker, and a win for the broader perception of the organization.