Aug 18, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback J.T. Barrett (6) throws during the fourth quarter against Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Lions add former Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett to coaching staff

The Detroit Lions named former Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett to their coaching staff as an offensive assistant on Saturday.

Barrett, 27, played with the Buckeyes from 2014-17, winning 38 games as a starter. He threw for 9,434 yards, ran for 3,263 more and accounted for 147 touchdowns.

Despite his successful college career, Barrett wasn’t selected in the 2018 NFL Draft. He signed free agent contracts with the New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers but never saw any game action.

The Steelers released him in August 2020, and he went on to play in The Spring League. He signed with the Edmonton Elks of the Canadian Football League in January, but an undisclosed injury ended his playing career. He was moved to the retired list in May.

Detroit has two Ohio State alumni on the roster on offense and two on defense: offensive linemen Taylor Decker and Jonah Jackson, defensive end Jashon Cornell and cornerback Jeff Okudah.

–Field Level Media

Oct 12, 2019; Champaign, IL, USA; A Michigan Wolverines helmet sits on the back of the bench during the second half of the game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Michael Allio-USA TODAY Sports

Former Michigan coach Gary Moeller dies at 81

Gary Moeller, a longtime football coach best known for succeeding Bo Schembechler at Michigan, died on Monday.

Moeller was 81. A cause of death was not specified.

Among his 23 years associated with the Wolverines, Moeller spent five seasons (1990-94) as their head coach. He was also the head coach at Illinois (1977-79) and the NFL’s Detroit Lions (2000).

Moeller’s Michigan teams went 44-13-3 in his five-year head coaching stint, including three Big Ten Championships and a 4-1 record in bowl games. He led Michigan to a 9-0-3 record and a Rose Bowl victory in 1992.

From 1990 through 1992, the Wolverines won 19 straight conference games, setting a Big Ten record.

“The football world lost a great man in Gary Moeller,” current Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said in a statement. “Coach Moeller cared for his players and his teams and was devoted to the University of Michigan. He gave a lot to the game of football, excelling as both an offensive and defensive coordinator and head coach in the college and NFL ranks. We have lost a wonderful family man.”

Harbaugh overlapped with Moeller from 1982-86, when Harbaugh played quarterback and Moeller was the defensive coordinator on Schembechler’s staff. Moeller then served as the Wolverines’ offensive coordinator from 1987-89 and took over the top job when Schembechler retired from coaching.

Moeller resigned as head coach in May 1995 after he was arrested for disorderly conduct at a restaurant in Michigan. After two seasons as the Cincinnati Bengals’ tight ends coach, he coached the Lions’ linebackers until being promoted to interim head coach during the 2000 season when Bobby Ross resigned mid-year.

Moeller’s Lions went 4-3 during his interim stint.

–Field Level Media

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Devin Funchess (11) against the Houston Texans during their preseason football game on Saturday, August 14, 2021, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Wm. Glasheen USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Apc Packers Vs Texans 1426 081421wag

Lions sign Devin Funchess, move him to TE

The Detroit Lions signed erstwhile wide receiver Devin Funchess on Tuesday and have converted him to tight end.

The 6-foot-4 Funchess, who sports 21 career touchdown receptions as a WR, hasn’t played in an NFL game since 2019.

Funchess, 28, was selected by the Carolina Panthers in the second round of the 2015 draft. His best season came in 2017 when he caught 63 passes for 840 yards and eight touchdowns.

Funchess signed a one-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts in March 2019 but played in just one game after breaking his collarbone in Week 1 on Sept. 8, 2019. That was his last appearance in an NFL game.

Funchess then signed a one-year deal with Green Bay in March 2020, but he opted out of the 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic. He never suited up in the regular season for the Packers, who released him in August 2021.

He spent time on San Francisco’s practice squad during the 2021 season.

Funchess has 164 career catches for 2,265 yards.

–Field Level Media

Jan 9, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions defensive tackle John Penisini (98) walks off the field just after the second quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Lions DT John Penisini announces retirement

Detroit Lions defensive tackle John Penisini announced his retirement from the NFL on Saturday.

“I have made the decision to retire from football,” Penisini wrote on Instagram. “I’m definitely going to miss my teammates and the coaching staff but I’m glad I got to experience it. I’m happy and excited for whatever life has for me. For my family, friends, teammates, coaches and all the people who supported my dream along the way I appreciate and love you guys.”

Penisini, 25, recorded 35 tackles and one sack in 16 games (12 starts) during his rookie season in 2020. He had just 14 tackles in 16 games last season.

Penisini was a sixth-round pick in 2020 out of Utah.

He is the second Lions player to retire this week. Undrafted rookie cornerback Jermaine Waller retired in the middle of mandatory minicamp.

–Field Level Media

Feb 14, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA; The NFL shield logo is seen at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Former Lion Rockne ‘Rocky’ Freitas dies at 76

Rockne “Rocky” Freitas, an 11-year NFL pro and a 1972 Pro Bowl selection, has died. The longtime Detroit Lion was 76.

Freitas played from 1968-1978, the first 10 years in Detroit, with his final season coming with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1978.

He started every game from 1969-1976 at right tackle for the Lions.

A native of Hawaii, Freitas spent more than two decades after his playing career furthering education at the University of Hawaii, including as their interim athletic director for part of 2012.

In a statement, University of Hawaii president David Lassner called Freitas’ heart “as big as the rest of him.”

“Regardless of his job, he was always ready to step in and help with whatever needed doing,” Lassner said.

–Field Level Media

Oct 4, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; A general view of Ford Field before then game between the Detroit Lions and the New Orleans Saints. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

USC athletics chief of staff takes front-office job with Lions

Southern California’s chief of staff for athletics, who had a key role in the football program, is heading to the Detroit Lions.

Brandon Sosna, part of USC’s staff since December 2019, will become senior director of football administration in Detroit, The Athletic reported.

Sosna followed USC athletic director Mike Bohn from the University of Cincinnati to Los Angeles and was given oversight of the football program. He reportedly was a key player in luring new Trojans coach Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma following the 2021 season.

Forbes named Sosna to its “30 under 30” list in 2020. Sosna has NFL experience, working under then-general manager John Dorsey with the Cleveland Browns in 2017-18 in areas such as salary cap management, contract negotiations and player valuations.

Lions coach Dan Campbell confirmed Sosna was joining the Lions but told reporters Thursday he wasn’t prepared to discuss Sosna’s responsibilities.

“I would rather just go a little more in depth later on about all that,” Campbell said. “I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t think I was gonna be talking about that right now, so I don’t want to talk out of place with it.”

Sosna is a 2015 graduate of Penn with a degree in political science.

–Field Level Media

Detroit Lions first-round drat pick Aidan Hutchinson talks with reporters on Friday, April 29, 2022, at the Allen Park practice facility.

Lionspicks

Lions sign No. 2 pick Aidan Hutchinson to $35.7M deal

The Detroit Lions signed No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson to his slotted rookie contract, a four-year deal worth a guaranteed $35.7 million, his agent said Monday.

It includes a signing bonus of $23.2 million. The Lions have a fifth-year option, standard for agreements with NFL first-round picks.

Hutchinson is signed in time for the Lions’ rookie minicamp this weekend.

The Lions also reportedly agreed to terms on a four-year deal with seventh-round pick Chase Lucas. The cornerback signed a contract worth $3.76 million.

The Lions drafted defensive players with six of their picks in the 2022 NFL Draft.

–Field Level Media

Apr 28, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson after being selected as the second overall pick to the Detroit Lions during the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft at the NFL Draft Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL draft winners and loser: Rare ‘W’ for Lions

The NFL is a copycat league in which teams borrow or flat-out steal concepts that have worked out well for other teams.

That never was more evident than on Thursday in the first round of NFL Draft. Some teams followed the new-age model the Los Angeles Rams used to win a Super Bowl last season. The Rams threw conventional wisdom to the wind as general manager Les Snead followed a win-now approach and gave away most of his draft currency.

In essence Snead traded for a Lombardi Trophy, and that’s something no team is going to turn down.

Some other teams quickly grabbed onto the Rams’ model. The Dolphins, for example, gave up a slew of draft picks to acquire wide receiver Tyreek Hill from the Kansas City Chiefs, so Miami had to sit out the first round.

But that doesn’t mean the old-school way of building a team through the draft has been forgotten. Not every team did what the Rams and Dolphins did. In fact, stockpiling picks may still be the preferred method.

An unprecedented eight teams had multiple picks in the first round, and first-round picks usually translate into instant starters. There were a lot of trades after the draft began, leaving many mock drafts looking useless.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the winners and losers in the first round.

DETROIT LIONS: Ordinarily, I would say a team drafting at No. 2 shouldn’t get too much credit for making an easy pick. However, given the embarrassing draft history of the Lions, nothing was out of the question. This time, though, Detroit got it right.

Although No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker might end up being a superstar in Jacksonville, the Lions lucked out when defensive end Aidan Hutchinson was available. First, he’s a Michigan kid, and that will play well at the box office. Second, Hutchinson can rush the passer, and the Lions were desperate for that. Third, Hutchinson doesn’t have the ceiling that Walker does, but he also doesn’t have the same kind of floor.

The Lions followed that up by trading up to take Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams at No. 12. That’s a coup because Williams might have been the best receiver in the draft. Yeah, he tore his ACL late last season and probably won’t be able to play until around midseason. That’s fine because the Lions aren’t expecting to turn things around immediately.

NEW YORK GIANTS: General manager Joe Schoen didn’t do anything exciting in his first draft, but that’s the exact approach he should have followed. After making questionable decisions on skill-position players in recent years, the Giants got back to basics.

With the fifth overall pick, the Giants took Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, and with the No. 7 selection, they drafted Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal. There is nothing exciting there, but that’s not a bad thing.

Thibodeaux easily could have gone at No. 1 or 2 because he can rush the passer. Neal will bring some much-needed protection for quarterback Daniel Jones. Thibodeaux and Neal will start right away, and the Giants might have come out of the first round as the NFL’s most improved team.

Think about it: During some of the best years in franchise history, the Giants were built around solid offensive lines and pass rushers such as Lawrence Taylor and Michael Strahan. The Giants walked out of the first round with two cornerstones.

CAROLINA PANTHERS: There was a school of thought around the league that Carolina owner David Tepper, who is not the most patient man, was going to force general manager Scott Fitterer to use the No. 6 pick on Liberty quarterback Malik Willis.

Maybe Tepper has more patience than anyone realized. Or maybe his thought process gave way to common sense. Whatever, the Panthers made the right call in drafting North Carolina State offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu. That’s as solid a pick as the Panthers could have made. Ekwonu will give Carolina its first reliable left tackle since Jordan Gross retired after the 2013 season.

Yeah, that means Carolina fans can look forward (maybe that’s too strong a word in this case) to another year of Sam Darnold at quarterback. But that’s a better alternative than drafting Willis too early and surrounding him with a bad team.

Earlier this week, Tepper reminded the media he said he expected coach Matt Rhule would take five years to rebuild when he was first brought on board. Rhule is entering his third season. He still doesn’t have a solid quarterback, but at least he’s not stuck with a quarterback who would have set the rebuilding process back.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: General manager Mickey Loomis has never been afraid to gamble. That’s especially true now that coach Sean Payton is gone. The Saints entered the night with the 16th and 19th picks. Loomis traded up with the Washington Commanders to get the No. 11 pick.

The Saints used it on Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave. If Loomis hadn’t made the deal, Olave would have been gone and the Saints, who need to surround quarterback Jameis Winston with weapons, might have been out of suitable options because the wide receiver pool was drying up.

Loomis’ second pick of the night wasn’t as flashy, and some may question how quickly offensive tackle Trevor Penning can contribute because he played at Northern Iowa. But keep this in mind: Loomis once drafted guard Jahri Evans out of Division II Bloomsburg (Pa.). Evans turned out to be a four-time All-Pro and a six-time Pro Bowler.

LOSERS

GREEN BAY PACKERS: If ever a team was expected to address a certain position coming into a draft, it was the Packers and a wide receiver. After trading Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders, Green Bay was running extremely thin on wide receivers for Aaron Rodgers to target.

But, somehow, the Packers managed to come out of the first round without a wide receiver. Instead, they brought in two defensive players from the University of Georgia. Linebacker Quay Walker was drafted at No. 22 and defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt, who has had some off-field problems, was taken at No. 28.

Did the Packers whiff on getting a receiver? Maybe. Maybe not.

With receivers coming off the board at a rapid rate, the value just wasn’t there for the Packers. But a couple of things need to happen to straighten out a potential mess. The Packers need to get a receiver with some upside in the second or third round.

More important, Rodgers is going to have to make that receiver look good right away.

HOUSTON TEXANS: The history books say that 2002 was Houston’s expansion season. They might have been wrong. Look at Houston’s current roster. It’s actually worse than it was in 2002.

The Texans drafted LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. at No. 3 overall. That’s a violation of the cardinal rule that you don’t draft a cornerback in the first five.

Deshaun Watson is gone and Davis Mills is Houston’s current starting quarterback. There is a reason why Mills wasn’t taken until the third round in 2021. The Texans also entered the draft with the No. 13 overall pick. They traded it to Philadelphia and wound up with Texas A&M guard Kenyon Green at No. 15. Green may end up being a solid player, but has a guard ever turned around the direction of a franchise?

The Texans went 4-13 last season. They’ll be lucky to win four games this year.

NEW YORK JETS: Commissioner Roger Goodell didn’t get as many boos from Jets fans as he did back when the draft was held at Radio City Music Hall. He should have. The Jets had a chance to get Thibodeaux and fill their biggest need.

Instead, they made the same mistake the Texans did and drafted a cornerback too soon, taking Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner at No. 4. The Jets also veered off the track from their biggest needs at No. 10 when they chose Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson. He’s a nice player, but he doesn’t fill a huge need.

The Jets finally did get a pass rusher when they traded back into the first round to get Florida State linebacker Jermaine Johnson II at No. 26. He has lots of potential, but he’s far from a sure thing.

The Jets came into the draft with a great chance to improve. At the end of the night, they didn’t look much better.

BALTIMORE RAVENS: The Ravens drafted Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton at No. 14. That’s anywhere from five to 15 spots too high.

Yeah, Hamilton was a productive college player, but there are questions about his ability to be an impact player on the next level: What about that 4.7 time in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine? And is Hamilton a safety or a linebacker?

Baltimore’s biggest need heading into the draft was on the defensive line, where the Ravens haven’t used a first-round pick since Haloti Ngata in 2006. Coming out of the first night of the draft, defensive line still is Baltimore’s biggest need.

On a night when the Ravens made multiple trades, drafting Hamilton wasn’t their only puzzling move. They traded Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, a 1,000-yard receiver last year, to the Arizona Cardinals. At least the Ravens made one move that made some sense when they used the No. 25 pick on Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum. It’s hard to find a center that turns out to be a bust.

–Pat Yasinskas, Field Level Media

Dec 5, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson (88) catches a pass for a touch down in front of Minnesota Vikings cornerback Bashaud Breeland (21) at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

Lions pick up TE T.J. Hockenson’s fifth-year option

The Detroit Lions exercised the fifth-year option on tight end T.J. Hockenson’s rookie contract Tuesday.

The move guarantees Hockenson will earn $9.4 million in 2023.

Hockenson, the eighth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, has played in 40 games (35 starts) over his first three seasons in Detroit. He has 160 career receptions for 1,673 yards and 12 touchdowns.

His best year so far was 2020, when he started all 16 games, caught 67 passes for 723 yards and six touchdowns and was named to his first Pro Bowl.

Hockenson’s 2021 campaign was cut short in December when he required thumb surgery. He finished the season with 61 catches, 583 yards and four touchdowns in 12 games (all starts).

–Field Level Media

Oct 17, 2021; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Ravens free safety DeShon Elliott (32) celebrates a defensive stop with cornerback Marlon Humphrey (44) against the Los Angeles Chargers during the second half at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Lions to sign ex-Ravens S DeShon Elliott

The Detroit Lions agreed to sign former Baltimore Ravens safety DeShon Elliott to a free agent contract, NFL Network and CBS Sports reported Wednesday.

The deal is reportedly for the 2022 season, and he could make a maximum of $3.65 million, per CBS Sports.

Elliott, who turns 25 next week, played for the Ravens since being selected by Baltimore in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of Texas. He missed the entire 2018 season after breaking his forearm and played only six games in 2019 because of a knee injury.

He started all 16 games in 2020, recording a career-high 80 tackles along with 2.5 sacks and four passes defensed. He again had health problems last season when he sustained biceps and pectoral injuries in Week 8 against Minnesota, ending his campaign after just six games (23 tackles, one interception, one sack).

In his 28 career games (22 starts), Elliott has 109 tackles, 3.5 sacks and one interception.

–Field Level Media