Bob Quinn Defends Lions' Big Three Free Agent Signings

A splashy offseason yielded little on the field.

Will Burchfield
December 31, 2019 - 9:46 am
Coleman, Flowers

© Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports


Coming off a 6-10 season last year, the Lions didn't mess around in free agency.

General manager Bob Quinn made a trio of splashy moves on the very first day, investing a combined $157.6 million in Trey Flowers, Justin Coleman and Jesse James. He'd go on to spend a total of about $180 million in free agency, according to Spotrac, the fifth biggest tab in the NFL and by far the biggest of Quinn's tenure. 

The results were ... varied. 

Asked about Detroit's free agent acquisitions at Monday's wrap-up presser, Quinn said the Lions got the production they expected. And he went out of his way to defend his three big moves. 

Trey Flowers

Contract: 5 years, $90 million ($56 million guaranteed) 

There's no denying that Flowers started slow after missing most of the offseason program recovering from shoulder surgery. But he found his stride in October and wound up producing the type of numbers he was known for in New England: 7.0 sacks, 8.0 tackles for loss, 33 solo tackles and two forced fumbles. Whether that's worth $18 million per year -- the third highest salary among defensive ends -- is a different question. 

Quinn: "I think Trey Flowers played exceptionally well. I think Trey the first couple of weeks of the season was still kind of battling through the shoulder thing. But once he turned it on, I think he played really well for us in all aspects – run defense, pass defense, quarterback hits, hurries, sacks."

Justin Coleman

Contract: 4 years, $36 million ($17.9 million guaranteed)

This felt like a reach right away. Coleman was a good nickelback in Seattle. The Lions decided to pay him like the best in the game, hoping he'd shine in a shutdown secondary. He faded after a strong start, and Detroit's defense allowed the sixth highest passer rating in the NFL. Coleman finished with 13 passes defended, one pick and three forced fumbles, while allowing a passer rating of 94.8. 

Quinn: "Justin Coleman is another guy that we signed. He played really, really well at the beginning part of the season, had a little bit of a lull mid-year and then kind of played really good towards the end of the season again. So I think I’m good there." 

Jesse James

Contract: 4 years, $22.6 million ($10.5 million guaranteed)

Another reach, and in this case a total flop. The Lions thought James had a higher ceiling than what he was able to show in Pittsburgh. James did, too. His production in his first year in Detroit -- 16 catches, 142 yards, no touchdowns -- placed him outside the top 50 tights end in the NFL. He lost playing time to T.J. Hockenson, but James did nothing to earn more when he was on the field. 

Quinn: "Jesse James needs to get more involved in the offense. I think when you sign a tight end in the offseason and then you draft one in the first round, it’s kind of hard. It was kind of a hard thing for Jesse. But I know Jesse is excited about going forward with a really deep tight end room and that’s going to be a big part of our offense going forward.”