The story book year has come to an end for the Detroit Lions, and in the most heartbreaking of ways. After being up 24-7 in their first NFC Championship since 1991 and their first Super Bowl berth in franchise history in front of them for the taking, they fell victim to a second half surge by the 49ers, who completed one of the biggest comebacks in NFL Championship Weekend history to down Detroit and their hopes.
3 Key Lions Players Set To Be NFL Free Agents
Detroit’s magical season comes to an end.
San Francisco’s continues on. 49ers are NFC Champions.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 29, 2024
They’ll enter the off-season with disappointment, but there is plenty of reason for optimism for the team moving forward. Many of their most important pieces are under contract for at least another year, and they have the 7th-best financial situation in league being more than $61 million under the salary cap before the spring even begins.
But a couple of the starters on their vaulted offensive line have expiring contracts and are set to hit the open market, joining a handful of other contributors that they’ll have to consider re-signing.
Here are three key players from the 2023 Lions’ roster who are set to become NFL free agents in 2024:
CJ Gardner Johnson – CB
After playing on last season’s Eagles’ Super Bowl defense, Gardner-Johnson joined the Lions on a one-year deal before the start of 2023. He dealt with injury issues that began in the opening weeks, and was out until the team’s playoff run in January. He had an interception in the team’s Divisional Round win over the Bucs.
The secondary was one of the issues for the Lions during the 2023 season, and they will certainly be looking to upgrade. But Gardner-Johnson was rarely available, making his contributions to the team, both positive and negative, minimal.
Josh Reynolds – WR
Reynolds’ third season with the Lions was the most productive one of his career. His 608 yard were the second-most among wide receivers on Detroit’s roster, and his 5 receiving touchdowns were fewer than only Sam LaPorta and Amon-Ra St. Brown.
If Detroit wants to keep its high-powered offense intact, then they’ll entertain bringing Reynolds back if the price is right. Should he leave when he hits the open market, then the Lions will certainly be looking for a replacement to start opposite of St. Brown.
Both Starting Guards (Graham Glasgow, Jonah Jackson)
The Lions had the 5th ranked rushing offense in the NFL during the regular season, and scored the most rushing touchdowns of any team. They did so behind one of the best offensive lines in the league, as they allowed the 4th-fewest total sacks as well.
But the future of the unit could be in question, as the team’s two starting offensive guards have expiring contracts entering the off-season. Jonah Jackson is the younger of the two, and it remains to be seen if the team will choose to re-sign he or Graham Glasgow going forward. Or perhaps both.