The Detroit Lions are one of the least successful teams in the NFL. Their last championship came all the way back in 1957 before the Super Bowl was even thought of. Their last division title was in 1993 in the now defunct NFC Central. Detroit haven’t even won a playoff game since January 1992.
Their most recent claim to fame in 2008 when the Lions became the first team in NFL history to go a 16-game season without picking up a single win. That season saw the end of Rod Marinelli’s disappointing tenure as head coach and gave them the chance to select a new quarterback at the top of the draft. In 2009 they took Matthew Stafford, who has propelled the Lions to three playoff appearances and restored some sense of pride within the Lions fanbase.
After the 2017 season and their first consecutive winning seasons since the mid-90s the Lions moved on from head coach Jim Caldwell, opting to hire former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. Patricia’s first season in charge was one of high expectations and inconsistency. The Lions fell to a 6-10 record, but within that season there were some bright moments. They beat the Patriots in Week 3, and picked up two wins against Green Bay.
In Madden 19’s Franchise Mode you get the chance to take the helm of Patricia’s first season, and beyond, and try to bring a title back to Detroit at long last. It won’t be an easy task though. The Lions start Franchise Mode with a 76 overall rating. This is better than just three teams and shows just how much work the roster needs to bring it up to a competitive level. The offense receives an 81 rating and the defense just a 77 rating. Neither are good, meaning you will have to try to find new talent at nearly every position. But what tools do you have at your disposal? And where should you prioritize early? Let’s start by looking at how much cap space you have to play with in Detroit.
Detroit Lions Cap Space
The Lions start Franchise Mode with 64 players on the roster and $44.7 million in cap space. This is a great starting point for a team with so much rebuilding work to be done. You will have to cut 11 players to get down to the 53-man regular season roster limit, but thankfully there are 22 players on the roster that can be released with no cap penalty.
Cutting down your roster should open up a further $3-5 million, putting you in a position to add free agents like Cliff Avril immediately and make some additions via trade if you are set on immediately improving things for the Lions. To truly overhaul the roster though you will need to be patient and wait until the end of season 1, at which point you can begin to invest your cap space in free agents. But which of your own free agents should you look to re-sign?
Detroit Lions Impending Free Agents
The Lions have 30 players entering the final year of their contract at the start of Franchise Mode. Most of these players are easily replaceable and can be allowed to leave with little fuss, but there are some who you should consider re-signing, and a handful that you would be wise to keep even with an expensive contract extension.
Defensive end Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah is the teams best impending free agent. The 2013 first-round pick has never quite lived up to his draft position, but he has two double-digit sack seasons, including 12 sacks in a 14-game 2017 season. In Madden 19 he gets an 82 overall rating and has solid pass rushing ability. The Lions are far from blessed along the defensive line and so you should consider retaining Ansah even if you have your heart set on drafting a new defensive end. Depth at this position is important so retaining Ansah and creating a rotation of pass rushers is a wise move.
Next up is running back LeGarrette Blount. At 31, Blount doesn’t have long left in his career, but he is a powerful runner that can batter his way through in short-yardage situations. That is a very important role to fill, and one that lead back Kerryon Johnson is not ideally suited for. Running backs are pretty easy to find in Madden 19, so you can probably allow Blount to walk in free agency, but you should try to find a replacement for him.
The Lions #3 and #4 wide receivers are both hitting free agency too. TJ Jones and Bruce Ellington are not going to be mistaken for Antonio Brown or Odell Beckham, but you will often find that your #3 receiver is more consistently open than the #1 guy in Madden. With two of your best receivers about to leave finding a solution to the position is vital. You can re-sign Jones fairly cheaply, but there is often good depth at receiver in the draft so you could find a long-term solution at a cheaper cost to the cap by using a mid-round draft pick at the position.
Other key impending free agents: Romeo Okwara (DE), Luke Willson (TE), Mike Ford (CB), Ricky Jean-Francois (DE)
Detroit Lions Roster Needs
The Lions are thankfully set at a few key positions. Quarterback Matthew Stafford is just starting a new 5-year contract, making any thought of replacing him impossible. They have the solid play of Taylor Decker at left tackle and a quality cornerback in Darius Slay.
Outside of those three though things are not great for the Lions. Rookie Kerryon Johnson is a nice option at running back, but as outlined earlier another option behind him would be useful to have. The duo of Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay at wide receiver is good but a third receiver is a must in Madden, as is a good receiving option at tight end so these are both positions that will need to be addressed.
The Lions have invested recently in the offensive line, but if you aren’t able to develop the young inside duo of Frank Ragnow and Graham Glasgow, then drafting an upgrade or paying up for a big free agent will be required.
The main place this team needs work is defensively. The defensive line is anchored by star run-stuffer Damon Harrison at defensive tackle, but the roster lacks a star pass rusher, and finding one should be the first priority. Several quality pass rushers are impending free agents across the league and if any of DeMarcus Lawrence, Jadeveon Clowney, or Dee Ford hit free agency then you should throw as much money as possible at one of them to ensure they come to Detroit and even if you sign one of them, you should try to add a second in the draft.
The linebackers are a bit of a mess too. Middle linebacker Jarrad Davis is young and has enough athleticism to be a solid user option, but the outside linebacker spots need an overhaul. There is a huge lack of talent in the secondary too, outside of Darius Slay that is. The #2 cornerback is 76 OVR Nevin Lawson, who is better suited to being a #4. This means you should try to find at least 2 cornerbacks as soon as possible. Drafting one would be wise, but investing in the likes of Bryce Callahan or Jason Verrett in free agency would be a smart move too. At safety the pairing of Glover Quin and Quandre Diggs is ok but both can be improved on, and Quin is 32 so he will need replacing sooner rather than later.
This Lions team is not devoid of talent, but it is particularly thin on defense and lacks a true star player. They are in a particularly tough division with the Vikings, Bears, and Packers barring their way to the playoffs too. This means that taking over the Lions in Franchise Mode is quite the task. It could take multiple seasons to build the roster up to a competitive standard, but at least you have your quarterback in place and the ability to score points in season 1, which makes the task easier than some less fortunate teams.