As the rebuild continues for the Detroit Lions, they have already taken one big step this offseason. Anthony Lynn won’t be back, and Dan Campbell will have to decide whether he will call plays next season or the new offensive coordinator will assume the responsibility. Who will be the quarterback of the future is another question for the Lions, although there’s one obvious blueprint they should follow.
Go figure that in a year where the Lions land the No. 2-overall pick, there isn’t a quarterback prospect who will go anywhere near that spot. If Detroit stands pat, their most likely options will be either Aidan Hutchinson or Kayvon Thibodeaux. However, that doesn’t mean the Lions won’t take a QB in the first round.
Detroit owns the Los Angeles Rams’ first-round pick due to the Jared Goff–Matthew Stafford trade. Likely, one of Sam Howell, Desmond Ridder, Malik Willis, or Carson Strong is available wherever that pick ends up falling. If the Lions are even slightly smitten with any of those prospects, why not take a swing?
There are other needs on the roster, and plenty of stars emerge after being selected late in the first round. But none of the Lions’ biggest problems get solved without a franchise quarterback. If they do their due diligence and aren’t enamored with any of the quarterback options on the board, so be it. If there’s any inkling that there could be a franchise quarterback at that spot, though, they’d be foolish not to take a shot.
Even then, the “instant starter” label shouldn’t be applied. Goff will be back next year running the show. He wasn’t tremendous by any measure last year, and he isn’t the future of the franchise. But it’s unlikely Detroit’s quarterback conundrum goes away this offseason with one snap of the finger. They are playing the long game in this rebuild, even if that’s tough to digest for some fans. Veterans like Matt Ryan and Jimmy Garoppolo could become available this offseason, but the Lions shouldn’t be in those discussions.
They aren’t a Ryan or Garoppolo away from relevance. Goff isn’t appealing to many Lions fans unless he’s the placeholder. Because of that, it would be wise for Detroit to hang on to him for next season. However, it gets tricky with backup Tim Boyle, who will be a free agent.
Campbell and the coaching staff seemed pleased with Boyle’s progression after each start he made this season, but if the goal is to find the next franchise quarterback, Boyle isn’t that answer. He’s a good story and a great teammate, but this isn’t the feel-good-story type of business. If the Lions view Boyle as a viable backup, sure, bring him back. If not, there’s no reason to sweat over losing him to someone else in free agency.
The glue guys in a locker room certainly matter. But this isn’t about next year, it’s about the next decade and beyond. If the Lions can carry Goff into next season as the starter with whoever they draft late in the first round as the backup, they should run with that.
Some fans would like to explore the free-agent market. Names like Teddy Bridgewater, Andy Dalton, Jameis Winston, and Trevor Siemian will be available. But are any clearly better than Goff? No. Are they franchise-altering signal callers? No. When the answers are as simple as that, the idea isn’t worth exploring much further. Whether it’s this year or next, the solution for the Lions will likely come through the draft.
Detroit has found some gems on offense in Amon-Ra St. Brown, T.J. Hockenson, and D’Andre Swift. The offensive line is slowly but surely molding into shape as well. They still need a piece of two up front and a couple more solid weapons at wideout. But, most importantly, they need the quarterback that can steer the ship. If the Lions draft a quarterback late in the first round this year and it’s a whiff, so be it. They can’t sit idly by and watch others solve the riddle, like the Los Angeles Chargers with Justin Herbert and the New England Patriots with Mac Jones. If it takes more than one hack, who cares. All that matters is finding the guy for the long haul.
The Lions are a franchise starving for results and craving a franchise quarterback. Their best option for this offseason is bringing back Jared Goff and taking a swing at a QB in the first round this year with the pick they obtained from the Los Angeles Rams. Give the fanbase some hope and some optimism. Detroit will carry little excitement into the new season if they run it back with Goff and Boyle.