The Lions and Brockers amicably agreed to part ways Thursday, 20 days before the start of the 2023 league year.
Voted a captain by his teammates last season, Brockers played sparingly and made little impact when he was on the field as the Lions ushered in a youth movement on their defensive line.
Brockers, 32 and the oldest player on the Lions roster last season, finished with four tackles in six games and appeared in just one game after the Lions’ Week 6 bye.
He maintained his leadership role even after his benching, leading Saturday player’s-only meetings to go over the opponent’s projected opening game play script, though he conceded in January his diminished play time was “rough” on him mentally and he had a decision to make about whether to continue playing in 2023 and beyond.
“I know I can still play,” Brockers told the Free Press. “I know I can still play in this league physically. Mentally, it’s a thing that I’m kind of thinking about, but other than that, not really. I’m just finishing this year out strong and get into the offseason and see what happens after that.”
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The Lions entered Thusday with about $16 million in available cap space.
Brockers’ release affords them more room to re-sign their own free agents and be active addressing their defensive needs in free agency, while maintaining room to sign their draft class.
The Lions have 15 unrestricted free agents, including eight starters: Receiver DJ Chark, running back Jamaal Williams, guard Evan Brown, linebacker Alex Anzalone, safety DeShon Elliott, cornerback Will Harris and defensive linemen Isaiah Buggs and John Cominsky.
Buggs and Cominsky were among the linemen who played in front of Brockers as the Lions rebounded from a 1-6 start to finish 9-8, their first winning record since 2017.
Rookies Aidan Hutchinson and James Houston played as the Lions’ primary edge rushers in the second half of the season, and fellow rookie Josh Paschal joined Buggs, Cominsky, second-year tackle Alim McNeill and veteran Romeo Okwara in rotational roles on the line.
The Lions have expressed interest in re-signing Buggs and Cominsky this spring, and could use one of their five early-round draft picks to add additional muscle to their defensive front.
They could create additional cap room before the start of free agency March 15 through additional releases or by restructuring the contract of select veterans.
In March of 2021, the Lions traded a 2023 seventh-round pick to the Rams for Brockers, who was on the verge of becoming a cap casualty. Days later, they signed him to a two-year, $24 million extension that lowered his cap hit for 2021.
Contact Dave Birkett at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions cut Michael Brockers, create $10 million in cap space