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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Jeff Risdon

Players recently cut that could interest the Detroit Lions

Roster cutdowns can be an opportunity to build up a roster. Players who didn’t make one team, for whatever reason, might wind up being a good fit for another. For the Detroit Lions and GM Brad Holmes, it’s an opportunity to potentially churn the bottom of the roster even after the initial 53-man unit has been established.

Waiver claims right after the roster cutdown aren’t terribly common. but they do happen. This is how the Lions added Romeo Okwara to the roster back in 2017. There is now an opportunity for another player or two to join Okwara as a roster cutdown waiver claim who can become a long-term Lion.

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The Lions are 18th in the waiver wire order by virtue of their 9-8 finish in 2022; the waiver wire order is based on the final result of the prior season at this point. Remember: players claimed on waivers go directly to the 53-man active roster, which means someone who initially made the Lions would have to be removed from the active roster — be it a cut or a move to the injured reserve.

While I don’t expect the Lions to be very active on the waiver claim front, there are a few players who got cut by other teams that could fit roles in Detroit. Here are some that stand out as players GM Brad Holmes could go after.

Austin Watkins, WR, Browns

Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Watkins was the Browns’ version of Lions preseason superstar Dylan Drummond, but he’s got a little more going for him. At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Watkins is a bigger target. After bouncing around the XFL, USFL, CFL and a couple of NFL training camps, Watkins has some experience and finally appeared to be finding his niche.

He was a college teammate of Lions CB Starling Thomas at UAB from 2018-2020.

Cameron Tom, C, Eagles

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Tom is 28 and has been in the NFL in some capacity since being an undrafted free agent with the Saints back in 2018. You know, the Saints with Dan Campbell as the assistant head coach.

Tom has played in just 13 games and has mostly been a practice squad player. If the Lions are looking for an actual backup center who fits schematically, Tom is a decent option.

Rashard Lawrence, DT, Cardinals

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

A 2020 fourth-round pick, Lawrence was the Cardinals starting nose tackle in each of the last two seasons before injuries ended those years. Lawrence’s game has lacked consistency, but when he’s playing well, he’s a positionally sound run defender who can work well off an outside rush threat, too.

Darius Rush, CB, Colts

Indianapolis Colts cornerback Darius Rush (30) watches during Colts Camp practice at Grand Park, Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023 in Westfield.

Rush was a surprising cut by the Colts. A fifth-round draft pick out of South Carolina, Rush has length at 6-foot-2 and sub-4.4 speed. Sometimes it translated well to the field, but in others it did not. He did pull off a pick-six in the preseason, showing the playmaking panache that appeals to Lions DC Aaron Glenn.

I wrote this about Rush in the draft process for Draft Wire and still find it true. The Lions are a good environment for player development, making them perhaps his best fit.

Isaiah Land, OLB, Cowboys

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Land made major waves in Cowboys camp as an undrafted rookie from Florida A&M. He notched 10 QB pressures and one sack in 45 pass rush attempts in the preseason, too.

Much like fellow FCS pass rusher James Houston in Detroit last year, Land’s struggles on run defense and missed tackles doomed him to not make the initial 53-man roster. He’s a longer (6-3/238) and faster but less bendy version of Houston with a high long-term upside.

Bailey Zappe, QB, Patriots

Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Lions fans might recall Zappe quite well. In his first NFL start, he lit up Detroit in New England’s 29-0 win in Week 5 last year.

Zappe doesn’t have a great arm and he’s smallish. However, he’s got a quick release, throws very accurately to about 30 yards, and he’s good at finding the best option pre-snap — qualities he shares with Jared Goff. He’s a much better fit for the practice squad, as the Lions don’t really need a third active QB, but Zappe is better than guys some teams are carrying as their No. 2 QB.

Logan Bruss, OL, Rams

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Bruss was a 2022 third-round pick out of Wisconsin who missed his rookie season with a knee injury. Los Angeles ran out of patience for Bruss after trying him at both guard and tackle in this preseason.

He’s the exact type of young reclamation project that Lions OL coach Hank Fraley works well with, in the vein of Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Evan Brown.


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