It is the 2012/13 NFL Playoffs so you know what that means…time to look ahead at the 2013 Detroit Lions and what they may do in the offseason to try and improve!!!
Rumors and talk were swirling that Jim Schwartz and/or Martin Mayhew were headed out the door, but that is more knee jerk media and fan reaction to a disappointing season that was also wrapped in a terrible reputation off the field.
The Ford family took 7 years to fire Matt Millen, who was cemented as the worst GM in NFL history after his third complete season at the helm, you think they are going to fire the pair that had this team in the playoffs just one year ago? Schwartz and Mayhew have a lot more job security than you want them to have with this organization.
The Lions will be making some coaching changes, with the contracts not being renewed on 4 position coaches but the main parts will remain intact as Scott Linehan and Gunther Cunningham will both return to run the offense and defense respectively.
Most of the big pieces will remain intact for the Lions, but there is going to be a lot of turnover on the roster in many areas and a lot of things that happen may seem surprising, but don’t expect them to be, this team does need a makeover and as one of the oldest teams in the league and virtually no cap room, lots of players you have seen for years will not be around.
This is what I believe will happen in the coming months:
The Offensive Line:
- Jeff Backus, Steven Peterman, Dominick Raiola and Gosder Cherilus gone.
- Backus may retire, having one year remaining on his contract but his age and health coming into question.
- Peterman will be cut as he makes too much money at a position they can fill with a middle round draft pick and Jason Fox, waiting in the wings to take over.
- Raiola is an aging, past his never great prime that makes too much money. He will be cut.
- Cherilus is a free agent and may try to go for the “change of scenery” plan and probably wants more money than the Lions want to give him, as he has been adequate at Right Tackle over the past few seasons, he is always good for a few too many false starts, holds and a couple personal fouls a season, enough to enrage a fan base and no one will miss him.
- Riley Reiff will be starting at LT, Rob Sims will be starting at LG and the Lions will give Jason Fox every chance to start at RG.
- This leaves the Center and Right Tackle open and they will try to address at least one of these in free agency, possibly leaving the Center open for a 2nd round pick at the Draft to come in and start.
- However, the Lions, with the #5 overall pick and a couple of big time Left Tackle prospects available, could take one of those and have Reiff play Right Tackle and hope to have both book ends secured for years to come. This will also help protect Matthew Stafford better as it seemed he was running for his life WAY too much last season.
The Defensive Line:
- Kyle Vanden bosch, Cliff Avril, Lawrence Jackson will not be back in 2013, leaving quite a few holes on the defensive line as well.
- KVB is no longer an every down player that has a HUGE cap hit, he will probably retire, MAYBE he will restructure his contract and stick it out another year, but he will be making the veteran minimum if he does and will only be playing 35% of the snaps.
- Avril made a bet that he would at least repeat his career year he had in 2011. He didn’t, not even close. Now he wants that money he didn’t get before last year and the Lions will not be the team to pay it. Avril is a perfectly fine defensive end if he is opposite a very good end, but he is not the type of end to be the best on the team and should not be paid that way, and that is what he is looking for. Expect another team to bring him in opposite a quality DE and have more success than he would have had in Detroit.
- Lawrence Jackson is probably looking for a starting job somewhere, Detroit will not be that place. The former 2nd round pick of the Seahawks that found a career resurgence in Detroit will move on and have a chance to start but, eventually will lose that spot.
- Mentioned above, the Lions have the #5 pick in the draft and there are at least two dominant pass rushing DE’s available. As of now, look for the Lions to use this pick on either Bjoerg Werner from Florida State or Domantre Moore from Texas A&M are both very athletic and help with run defense as well.
- There are plenty of free agent DEs that can come in and help provide depth as Willie Young can rotate time at one DE to provide a speed pass rush option.
- Titus Young is cut, no one will trade even a 7th round pick for this malcontent and the Lions, despite reports that they are looking at keeping him, are simply trying to get ANYONE to give them ANYTHING for him. If the Jaguars called and offered 2 drink tickets on Southwest that expire at the end of the month, Mayhew would take that in a heartbeat.
- Nate Burleson is 33 years old and coming off a broken leg. He makes too much money, but he knows this and has already stated he will take a pay cut to stick around. Judging by Mayhew’s comments on Jahvid Best, that his biggest mistake was relying on his recovery, Burleson will only be counted on as a 4th option at receiver if he is even brought back.
- Ryan Boyles showed flashes of why he was taken in the 2nd round in 2012 but after another knee injury, counting on him to be more than the #3 slot receiver would also be a mistake by Mayhew, but expect him to recover in time for the season to start and fill that same role he had last year.
- This means the Lions will have to address the WR opposite Calvin Johnson either in free agency, which means over pay for a pending free agent like Mike Wallace or Victor Cruz (rumored to be resigning with the Giants) or GASP! Draft a WR EARLY!!!! Which has become a no-no in Lions fan’s opinions since the Millen Regime, however, they HAVE to bring in someone, either way.
- The Secondary will see some turnover, but not as much as you’d expect. The Lions had so many people play corner and safety for them this year I’m not even going to list them all, but expect all three CB draft picks to be healthy and in camp.
- They will retain Chris Houston, possibly over paying him a bit, but they will have quite a bit of cap room with the above mentioned players leaving.
- Louis Delmas will be penciled in as one starting safety but the other spot will be addressed, either in the draft, early, or via free agency, to get an impact safety next to him in case he keeps missing games. Matt Elam is projected as a late 1st round pick, a safety out of Florida, the Lions could target him at the beginning of the 2nd round if they believe he will fall to them.
- They could take a look at someone like Nnamadi Asomugha, who will be a cap casualty in Philadelphia, as some one that has lost the speed to play CB and could move to Free Safety to extend his career, like Charles Woodson did in Green Bay.
- With the first round pick, I believe the Lions will take one of the DEs I mentioned above. However, it is a possibility that they are blown away by Luke Joeckel or Jake Matthews from Texas A&M or Taylor Lewan from U of M and can’t pass on having both LT and RT figured out for years, which is a very nice situation to be in.
- However, with the new restrictions on paying draft picks, teams are more open to trading up, allowing the Lions to be great trade partners if Geno Smith is still available at the 5th pick or Matt Barkley shoots back up draft boards, they could drop back and target CBs Dee Miller or Xavier Rhodes and use the extra picks to trade up to get more offensive line help at the back end of the 1st round…or (Lions fans start screaming now) look at Keenan Allen, a WR from California.
- In the second round, the Lions could look at a safety or center that could start right away…or again, a WR.
- These options are so all over the place and that was intentional as it is way too early to try and figure it out, as players will rise and fall on draft boards, but one thing is certain, expect the Lions to draft at least 2 starters, at #5 and #36 or trading back, to get 3 starters, 2 in the 1st round and the #36 pick.
- The Lions will also use a draft pick on a punter…it has become the thing in the NFL to have a field position changing punter and the Lions will have to use a 5th or 6th round pick on a punter than can average close to 50 yards per punt…not the 41 YPP they had in 2012.
- Lions will extend Matthew Stafford’s contract, locking him up to a long term deal and decreasing his 2013 cap number which has skyrocketed due to previous restructurings to make cap room.
- Either Justin Durant or Deandre Levy will not be back, the Lions linebackers are not a position of too much concern but expect a move to be made here.
- A new kick returner will be brought in. Josh Cribbs is a free agent and a game changer and could be brought in, but so could a handful of others…I’m going to go WAY out on a limb and make the bold, jarring statement that Stephan Logan will not be back in 2013.
As you can see, if you have made it this far, the Lions have a lot of work ahead of them and many holes to fill. The good things are that the coaching staff, is still in place and has a chance to coach the Senior Bowl, which is always helpful on Draft weekend and that the main pieces of this team are still there.
Most of these holes can be filled and with a ton of money being removed from the books, they will have room to make more signings than normal in free agency and since the dollar amounts for the draft are pre-determined, unlike previous years when they have drafted near the top and had to pay through the nose to sign their picks, they can be better prepared to figure out where money needs to go.
All will agree that 2012 was a year to forget, but with the right moves, the Lions can absolutely be back in the playoffs in 2013/14 and with a better chance than they stood in 2011.