The Detroit Lions offseason plans are getting started a little earlier than expected. With a 17-point halftime lead in the NFC Championship Game, the Lions looked poised to play in the Super Bowl for the first time. Alas, the upstart Lions couldn’t close out the game against a far more experienced 49ers team that’s been there before. The good news is that the 2023 season could be just the beginning of a glorious era in Detroit.
Lions Bright Future After NFC Championship Game Loss
If we look closer at a 2023 Lions season review, we’ll find one of the NFL’s most remarkable seasons. Even if the Lions were preseason favorites to win the NFC North, it’s important to remember that Detroit is just two years removed from going 3-13-1. Dan Campbell turned the franchise around and changed the culture in a near-miraculous fashion.
While blowing a lead in the NFC Championship Game will be a bitter pill to swallow, the Lions still come out of it with one of the strongest foundations of any team in the NFL to build upon for 2024 and beyond.
Jared Goff is the Guy
The 2023 season may have started with lingering questions about Jared Goff. But he’s left no doubt that he is Detroit’s quarterback for the foreseeable future.
Goff finished second in the NFL in passing yards and fourth in passing touchdowns during the regular season. Not only is he a viable starting quarterback, he’s a top-10 quarterback who is 4-4 in the playoffs. Goff has proven himself to be the answer to Detroit’s quarterback questions, and at age 29, he could continue to be the answer for many years to come.
Part of Goff’s success has to be attributed to the offensive playmakers the Lions have put around him. Ahead of the 2023 season, the Lions had a proven running back in David Montgomery and a wide receiver in Amon-Ra St. Brown who was coming off his first Pro Bowl selection in 2022. Montgomery rushed for over 1,000 yards during his first season in Detroit while St. Brown took another step forward and proved to be an elite wide receiver.
However, the Lions have so much more than that. Rookie tight end Sam LaPorta is already a top-10 tight end, perhaps better. Rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs also emerged as a dangerous, multi-dimensional weapon for the Detroit offense. Speedster Jameson Williams also made strides during the second half of the season and could still fulfill his potential as a former first-round pick. That gives the Lions a quintet of playmakers around Goff that compares favorably against any group in the league.
It’s no secret that Detroit’s defense wasn’t exactly a strength of the team in 2023. But that unit had some moments of brilliance during the season. It was also among the youngest defenses in the NFL.
Of the 11 starters in the NFC Championship Game, seven have three years of experience or less. It’s a young unit that Campbell will be able to mold, especially with eight players on the two-deep who were selected within the first three rounds of the NFL Draft in the last three years. In other words, the Lions have a defense that’s both young and brimming with talent.
Filling the Holes
After being one of the best teams during the 2023 season, the Lions now have a chance to win the 2024 offseason. Detroit will have over $55 million in cap space at the start of the season. The Lions also have a limited number of key players who are set to become free agents. Offensive linemen Jonah Jackson, Graham Glasgow, and Halapoulivaati Vaitai are headed for free agency while just one defensive starter will be a free agent in 2024.
In other words, the Lions have a limited number of pressing needs compared to other NFL teams. They also have far more spending money than most teams. This will allow Detroit to be aggressive in free agency while also picking and choosing the roster’s biggest needs. With a youthful defense, a reliable quarterback, and a set of dynamic offensive playmakers already in place, the building blocks are in place for the Lions to be even better in 2024 and beyond. While the collapse against the 49ers stings, we haven’t seen the last of the Lions as a Super Bowl contender.