Detroit Lions Free Agency: Best and Worst of the Last 5 Years

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Detroit Lions Free Agency: Best and Worst of the Last 5 Years
Leon Halip/Getty Images

If the 2011 offseason taught Detroit Lions fans anything, it's that impact players do not always have to come from the draft.

The Lions entered the 2011 draft with major needs at linebacker and cornerback. They drafted a defensive tackle, running back and wide receiver in the first two rounds.

It was worrisome, since the lockout eliminated free agency before the draft. Normally, teams have a little over a month to fill glaring needs on the team with existing players before they bring in the new blood in April.

This year, the gaps stayed open until August. And then, just at the advent of free agency, Stephen Tulloch, Eric Wright and Justin Durant joined the team and took a scrap heap of a defensive back seven and made it respectable.

Granted, it isn't infallible, but it's much better than it was, and there is little doubt that the addition of these players (all of whom started every game they were available) had a major impact on the Lions' fortunes in 2011.

For all the talk about the difference in draft fortunes between Lions GMs (and if you need a refresher, check out my previous piece), equally important and striking is the differences in free agency decisions.

Don't believe me? Remember Az-Zahir Hakim, who was signed not once, but twice by the Lions, and didn't produce anything of note either time? Exactly. Free-agent busts are just as important as draft busts.

And so with that established, let's revisit the Lions' recent free-agency decisions. In doing so, I will highlight the best and worst signings (either new players or re-signed unrestricted free agents) each year, the biggest impact trade (good or bad) and the "addition by subtraction" award for the best decision to let a guy walk.

Got it? Good. Let's do it.

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