Vikings’ Rivals Look Poised to Make Another Run in 2024

Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff (16) raises his arms as the Lions beat the L.A. Rams, 24-23 in the wild-card round of the NFC playoffs at Ford Field in Detroit on Sunday, January 14, 2023.

The 2023 season in the NFC North ended with a result that we haven’t seen since the division’s existence began in 2002.

The Detroit Lions completely turned the division upside down by capturing their first NFC North title and first division crown since 1993. Of course, their season ended in disappointment after blowing a 17-point halftime lead in the NFC Championship Game, but could the Vikings’ rivals make another run in 2024? All signs are pointing towards yes.

OC Ben Johnson to Remain with Vikings’ Rivals

Rivals
Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson watches a play against Seattle Seahawks during the first half at Ford Field in Detroit on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023.

Since Ben Johnson took over the offensive coordinator role in Detroit in 2022, the Lions have put together back-to-back seasons in which they’ve ranked among the NFL’s top five teams in terms of both points scored and total yards. This comes after they finished 20th or worse in both categories during three of the four seasons from 2018-2021.

This offseason, Johnson has been oft-discussed as a head coaching candidate, and he has interviewed for each of the final two vacant jobs in Seattle and Washington. However, on Tuesday morning, news came out that Johnson is opting to stay in Detroit as the offensive coordinator for another season.

Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reported the news, tweeting, “Lions OC Ben Johnson informed the #Seahawks and #Commanders that he’s staying in Detroit, per sources. Johnson is still only 37 and will be a hot head coaching candidate again next year. But first, he wants to take another shot at bringing a Lombardi Trophy to Detroit.”

A main reason why the Lions would see regression in 2024 revolved around the idea that they could lose both Johnson and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn to head coaching jobs (thus putting them in a similar situation to that of the Philadelphia Eagles from 2022 to 2023). Instead, it looks like both coaches will still be around for next season.

An Exorbitant Amount of Cap Space

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Detroit Lions
Sep 17, 2023; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell looks at the scoreboard in the third quarter of their game against the Seattle Seahawks at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions already had one of the more talented rosters in the league during the 2023 season, and they could get even better once free agency begins in March. Currently, according to Over the Cap, the Lions are slated to have just over $58.6 million in cap space for this offseason, ranking fifth in the NFL.

Now, keep in mind that OTC indicates that the Lions only have 38 players under contract, so they’ll be chewing up a lot of that open room just by filling out the offseason roster with smaller deals. Nevertheless, the major point stands that Brad Holmes will have some money to spend.

They have all this money despite many of their major contributors being under contract for next season. For the offense, Jared Goff, Jahmyr Gibbs, Sam LaPorta, David Montgomery, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and four of their five starters on the offensive line will be around. Meanwhile, on defense, they still have names like Alex Anzalone, Brian Branch, Jack Campbell, Aidan Hutchinson, Kerby Joseph, and Cameron Sutton under contract.

Their secondary still was a bit of a liability in 2023, allowing the sixth-most passing yards this past season, but they have the money to seal up many of those holes in free agency.

Draft Capital

(From left) Lions coach Dan Campbell, team president Rod Wood and GM Brad Holmes walk off the field after training camp on Wednesday, July 26, 2023, in Allen Park.

The Lions have managed to improve their roster while also retaining much of their draft capital for next season. In fact, Detroit is set to have eight selections in the 2024 NFL Draft, including four selections in the first 100 picks. They have each of their own picks as well as the Vikings’ third-round pick because of the T.J. Hockenson trade back in 2022.

Detroit has made the most of their draft picks in recent years, which is a big reason why they’ve found the type of success that they did in 2023. Here are the players they’ve selected in the top 100 over the past two years:

  • R1, P2 (2022): EDGE Aidan Hutchinson
  • R1, P12 (2022): WR Jameson Williams
  • R2, P46 (2022): DL Josh Paschal
  • R3, P97 (2022): S Kerby Joseph
  • R1, P12 (2023): RB Jahmyr Gibbs
  • R1, P18 (2023): LB Jack Campbell
  • R2, P34 (2023): TE Sam LaPorta
  • R2, P45 (2023): S Brian Branch
  • R3, P68 (2023): QB Hendon Hooker
  • R3, P96 (2023): DT Broderick Martin

Not only can the Lions improve their roster during the free agency period, but given their recent draft history, it almost seems like a lock that they will land an immediate impact player or two with their picks this spring.

In total, it appears that the Detroit Lions aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and the Minnesota Vikings have a daunting task in front of them to try and leap-frog them in the standings during 2024.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference, Over the Cap, and Tankathon helped with this article.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.

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