Could The Detroit Lions Be An Attractive Landing Place For LaFell?
Brandon LaFell has played for three NFL teams so far in his career, having relatively productive seasons for the Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots, and Cincinnati Bengals. He signed with the Bengals last year, in part because he was looking to play for a winner. That does say a lot about the player’s motivations. With the Lions having made the playoffs in two of the last three years and having a GM that was undoubtedly part of the process that brought him to New England, Detroit could be a pleasant landing spot for LaFell to sign a longer deal.
What Does Brandon LaFell Bring To The Table?
LaFell is a 6’3 210 pound receiver who uses his big body to get off press coverage. LaFell is no plodding giant though, possessing enough speed and agility to be threatening deep, or with the ball in his hands. He also does not shy away from physical contact and could bring a physical element to the Lions downfield passing game and red zone packages. His route running abilities make him ideal for working underneath speedsters Golden Tate and Marvin Jones. LaFell has also shown the ability to move up the line up when required. He posted an impressive season with A.J. Green missing six games for the Bengals in 2016.
Brandon LaFell has the versatility to fill a possession receiver role without completely sacrificing a deep option. He is a well rounded receiver that can play both inside and outside the hash marks and has the ability to exploit any type of coverage. His size is something the Lions wide receiver group currently lacks. He formed a spectacular trio of receivers with Julian Edleman and Rob Gronkowski in 2014, with each player over 900 yards. He is more than able to work in the spaces in a defense that are left open by the attention paid to other players.
Why Might Brandon LaFell Be Available?
Brandon LaFell is 30 years old. That age is not a particularly big milestone for a wide receiver, but it does preclude a long deal for a large salary. LaFell signed with Cincinnatti because they were a team with a chance to win, and they went 6-9-1. The Bengals are notoriously cheap, and tend to sign their home grown players while looking for less expensive free agents. LaFell will likely want more than one year, and his performance merits a significant raise from his $2.5 million salary in 2016. He was coming off a bad year and the Bengals took a gamble that paid off.
LaFell has had good seasons and bad. While he is willing to play through painful injuries, he often does not perform well while doing so. He does get a case of the drops now and then, noticably losing concentration when fighting through an injury. His career drop percentage is 4.5% but there are strongly varrying seasons of good and bad. In 2016, he only dropped one pass on 107 targets. In 2015 however, he was struggling with a foot injury and had 4 drops on 50 targets. Up and down performance has been a hallmark of LaFell’s career, making him a bit of a risk to sign long term.
The Bottom Line For Brandon LaFell
LaFell would take wide receiver off the list of positions the Lions could consider in the early rounds of the 2017 draft. He would fill the third receiver role, allow the team the flexibility of moving Golden Tate between the inside and outside receiver positions. That would open up a lot of opportunities to get the ball in the hands of the Lions most dangerous weapon on offense. LaFell would give the Lions a trio of wide receivers that are all different in their specialties, but all capable of performing any role within the offense.
LaFell is likely going to be looking for more money and a longer commitment than he got from Cincinnati last year. While the Lions should not offer him a five year contract at 30 years of age, two or three at $4 million or less would be entirely reasonable.