The Lions and the rest of the NFL are just 6 days away from having to be in compliance of the NFL Salary cap, which is currently set at $123 Million. That is also when the Free Agency period starts and insane contracts are handed out that usually are regrettable with in about a year, maybe 2.
The Lions have a lot of holes to fill and not much money to use to fill them, unless they can get Matthew Stafford extended and save them about $10 Million more in cap room. However, it does look like they will, then only sign a few players that will eat into the cap significantly, then back fill the rest of the roster.
The biggest needs are apparent, Safety, Cornerback, Outside Linebacker, Defensive End, Wide Reciever, Running Back. There are also plenty of cheaper options at some of the positions that could stretch their dollar and provide enough value that the team could still make a playoff push next year.
Here is a breakdown of where the positions stand and an option of what they could do:
- Safety: Resign Louis Delmas, despite past injuries he is still an impact player when on the field. Take a look at Ed Reed, a player that has been a winner and playmaker for years. He is also a leader that could very much help this team. Corey Lynch from the Chargers would be the other, cheaper option to Ed Reed. He would also instantly be a starter on this defense.
- Cornerback: The Lions drafted as many CBs last year as they have recievers over the past decade. But this is still a huge area of concern. They need to resign Chris Houston, the only constant back there, and he has been very solid in his time in Detroit. The other options AFTER resigning Houston (it is a must) would be something splashy like Brent Grimes from Atlanta or Dominique Rogers-Cromartie. If that is done, the big question mark on D becomes a quick strength, but with money an issue, bringing in a solid but unspectacular guy like Greg Toler from Arizona could still impact this area.
- Outside Linebacker: Deandre Levy and Justin Durant are both free agents and both won’t be back. Once again, I think resigning their own player is best and the Lions can pick one of the two (I see them as interchangeable so it doesn’t matter) to resign, look for a bargin in Free Agency on another or just go with Ashlee Palmer or another internal option. [update: about 2 hours after posting this, the Lions announced the signing of Deandre Levy, good for him and for them.]
- Defensive End: first, let another team pay Cliff Avril $11 million dollars a year for 5-6 years, he was a solid player but is the best available DE in a weak DE market. The Lions have proven that Ends are not the most difficult to find, they can be had from late in the draft or off the scrap heap, look at Lawrence Jackson and Willie Young for example, both of which are also free agents. But the Lions can draft a DE in the 2nd or 3rd round, pick up a vet like Dwight Freeney for a year or two. If there is a position that gets as much acclaim as DE and has as many replaceable players as DE, I don’t know what it is.
- Wide Reciever: Finally an offensive position and its the one the Lions seem to pay the most attention to, yet it is still an issue. Mike Thomas came over from Jacksonville last year and can be a 3rd/4th receiver, but don’t expect Mayhew to count on both Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles to come back completely healthy so expect him to try to find a middle of the road, Brian Hartline type receiver in late March after all the dust and excitement has settled.
- Running Back: Reggie Bush. Sign him. He will not command a large salary or long term deal, but he will be a great complement to Mikael Leshoure and offers what the Lions were missing with out Jahvid best last year, speed to the outside and pass catching out of the backfield. Done.
And there you have it…the answer to all the Lions problems. I will have another article up discussing the signings as they happen, almost all new research since I’m pretty sure the Lions will do almost none of the above, because that is who the Lions are.