NFL Free Agent Grades: Detroit Lions find CB1 in Carlton Davis

The Detroit Lions had an active Day 1 of free agency. They began by re-signing one of their players, Graham Glasgow. Later in the day, they agreed to terms with free agent Marcus Davenport, and ended the night by trading for Tampa Bay Buccaneers To land cornerback Carlton Davis. Lions general manager Brad Holmes has the work all over the place, and it's fun to watch it unfold.

The Lions got the help they needed in the secondary with this trade as the team's biggest weakness in 2023 was at cornerback and they got him for a fair price. Below are the full trade details:

Black gets:

  • CB Carlton Davis
  • 2024 sixth-round pick (either pick 200 or 220. It's not clear which pick)
  • 2025 sixth round pick

Pirates get:

  • 2024 third-round pick (92nd overall – Lions' original third-round pick, not the Vikings' pick acquired in the TJ Hockenson trade)

With Davis landing in Detroit, the Lions' secondary issues have been solved! Or are they? How did this trade turn out level wise and was it a wise move by the team?

How good is Carlton Davis?

Hey, CB 1. Yes, we said that about cornerback Cameron Sutton in 2022, but we mean it this time. Davis wasn't Tampa Bay's best cornerback either, with Jamaal Dean filling that job, but he was still a very solid cornerback at number two. In his career so far, Davis has 324 tackles, 73 pass deflections, 12 tackles for loss, nine interceptions, four fumble recoveries, and three forced fumbles.

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Davis will be the starting linebacker you can trust in man coverage against a number one wide receiver. According to PFF, in man coverage during last year's regular season, Davis allowed 15 catches on 25 targets for 238 yards, had four pass deflections and an interception, allowed a QB passer rating of 75.1 and, most importantly, allowed no touchdowns. Zone coverage is a bit of a different story for Davis, as he has allowed 31 catches for 487 yards, had three pass deflections, one interception, and allowed a passer rating of 122.3, along with allowing four touchdowns.

How does this affect lions?

This trade helps the Lions advance to the secondary, and I think it means the cornerback won't be the team's top pick in the secondary. NFL draft in April. The team will still get some help at the position, and this trade certainly doesn't mean they're done, but I see the highest they've been at cornerback now being the second round with Sutton and Davis securing the top two spots.

This trade also helps the secondary by pushing Sutton back into the second cornerback position, which suits him better and gives him a stronger chance to do well on the field. It helps the secondary overall and gives them a young veteran player, as Davis is still only 27 years old. He can continue to develop and become a solid linebacker for years to come in Detroit.

The issue with the trade is that Davis is in the final year of the three-year extension he signed with the Bucs in 2022. The Lions will likely extend Davis and rework his contract, which currently carries a whopping $14 million salary for 2024.

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Was it worth the price?

The trade overall seems very fair. The Bucs acquired a late third-round pick, freeing up some salary cap space that was needed after re-signing quarterback Baker Mayfield and wide receiver Mike Evans. The Lions get a starting point guard who could help them in a tough secondary, and they get two sixth-round picks to make up for some lost draft capital.

Now if the Lions choose to extend Davis' contract and rework his contract, that would be the biggest factor in this trade. If the Lions give Davis just one more year, it's not the best move. Their best move would be to extend Davis for another three or maybe four years, which would keep him in Detroit through 2028. How much they sign him will be interesting because the team has other players they need to re-sign first, such as forwards. Tackle Penei Sewell, quarterback Jared Goff, and wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. Putting Davis ahead of players who have been here for a while would be interesting, to say the least.

Final thoughts and class

Grade: B+

Overall, this was a good deal for both teams, and the Lions got some good help overall in the secondary. The top two spots at cornerback have now been discovered without trying to risk a rookie at a tough position early in his career. You have some depth behind them, but you're still leaving the door open for a rookie to come in and, at best, a number three guy who won't be forced to get on the field right away. This gives them the opportunity to develop behind David and Sutton.

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The team could still sign another free agent cornerback to help with depth and take a cornerback later in the draft to be a depth addition. The move changes their focus on the draft for at least a day, and means they won't have to jump to the top market in free agency. Davis will be a great addition to the team and with the biggest weaknesses being addressed early, it is clear that Holmes is ready to make the moves necessary to get the defense back on track.

If the secondary can improve in coverage, and the defensive line can generate a pass rush, this defense could make another jump in 2024. The defense made a good adjustment from 2022 to 2023, but with moves like this, 2024 could be a top 10 kind of year for this Unit.

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What grade would you give the Carlton Davis trade?

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