Detroit Lions: 4 Non-Lion Free Agents GM Martin Mayhew Should Target
GM Martin Mayhew has already confirmed his interest in bringing back free agents Stephen Tulloch and Cliff Avril, as well as Calvin Johnson who will be a free agent after next season. These three men are at the top of the Lions' priority list this offseason.
When it comes to the NFL Draft, it doesn't matter if Matt Millen or Martin Mayhew is making the picks: Detroit will continue to draft for the best available. So if you're hoping for the Lions to automatically select the first best defensive back or offensive linemen to address needs, don't get your hopes up.
Since 2010, Detroit has become a more and more intriguing landing spot for free agents. After striking gold with players like Kyle Vanden Bosch, Nate Burleson and Stephen Tulloch, Mayhew says he wants to be aggressive in this season's free agency.
Considering their financial straits for the next few years, it's unlikely the Lions will sign all these players. Doesn't mean they can't be contacted, though, right? Here are four players outside of their own organization that the Lions should consider signing this 2012 offseason.
Brandon Carr, Cornerback, Kansas City
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Brandon Carr is a great fit for the Detroit Lions for plenty of reasons.
Considering the financial bind, Martin Mayhew will be searching for quick-fix signings instead of big home-run deals. Don't expect any Prince Fielder-esque contracts in Detroit for a while.
Carr is a great solution with those circumstances. After four seasons, the 25-year-old has surprised many after being a fifth-round draft selection in 2008. Carr formed one of the better young cornerback duos in the league lining up alongside Brandon Flowers. After many issues with the Chiefs' coaching staff and front office over the course of his career, Carr will be looking for a new place to play.
The Lions more than likely will bring back Eric Wright to pair back up with Chris Houston. With a healthy and productive Houston on the field, Wright was much better when playing in the slot. Aaron Berry, Alphonso Smith and Wright all spent time on the edge getting torched by top-flight offenses in the absence of Houston. Carr could fill that void on the outside playing the opposite edge as Houston, while Wright could be plugged into his best spot at the nickel.
With Detroit on the upswing and the chance to start back in his home town on a playoff team, the Lions will be a very intriguing option for the Flint native and Grand Valley State standout. Other teams will express interest in Carr, but it's no question the Lions should be high on his list of options.
Michael Griffin, Safety, Tennesee Titans
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As long as Jim Schwartz is the head coach, expect one or two Tennessee Titans to be rumored as a target in free agency every year. Detroit is 2 for 2 in adding former Titans to the roster with Kyle Vanden Bosch and Stephen Tulloch.
Since drafting Louis Delmas in 2009, the Lions have been shuffling around safeties and trying to boost play in the secondary. Amari Spievey is a good depth player, but it's clear he's not the play-making safety the Lions need. Delmas missed the last five games of the regular season after injuring his knee on Thanksgiving against Green Bay. The defense subsequently surrendered monster performances to quarterbacks Carson Palmer, Drew Brees and Matt Flynn.
Detroit signing Michael Griffin is a win-win scenario for both sides.
Griffin is a ball hawk, a hitter and a leader, but most importantly he's extremely durable, having never missed a game in his five-year career. He's had extremely productive seasons in Tennessee, especially 2008 (75 total tackles, 7 interceptions, 11 passes defended, 1 forced fumble) and 2010 (108 total tackles, 4 interceptions, 12 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles).
Since Mayhew's rebuilding era, the Lions have been plagued by injuries in the secondary. Griffin would provide sure stability at strong safety next to Delmas.
Mayhew can afford signing Griffin to a nice multi-year contract without further damaging the Lions' pocketbook. Jim Schwartz will make a strong pitch in hopes to sign his former safety. You can bet that ex-Titans Vanden Bosch and Tulloch will be helpful in that process as well.
Ted Ginn Jr., Wide Receiver/Return Specialist, San Fransisco 49ers
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Don't worry, I'm not going to try to convince you Ted Ginn Jr. is a valuable receiver. Since being the ninth overall pick by the Miami Dolphins in '08, he has put up less than mediocre numbers as a wideout.
Granted the new kickoff line makes kickoffs seem pointless, Stefan Logan never provided much spark or production in Detroit's return game. Minus a kickoff return TD against St Louis in the 2010 season, Logan has been far less than spectacular. He's a tough runner with good vision, but he definitely lacks that home-run gear in the return game. Also, considering he'll be a free agent this offseason and is turning 31 this year, it's very likely the Lions will be looking for someone new to provide a spark on special teams.
Ginn is not a reliable offensive player. The Lions maybe could use him on bubble screens or other special offensive packages.
But he could play a huge part in the Lions' return game.
Ginn is recovering from a late-season knee injury, but he should be healed by the start of next season. San Fransisco has a better and younger return man in Kyle Williams. Even after his errors in the NFC Championship game, Williams showed he has enough ability to be a game-breaker for the 49ers.
The Lions' special teams had a bad season all around in 2011-12. Kicking, punting, return, coverage, you name it, the Lions were far less than impressive on all units.
Detroit frequently had a long field to deal with on offense after touchbacks or short returns. The offense already showed how dangerous it could be with a lack of a running game and a long field to play with. Ginn is a definite upgrade returning kicks and would certainly provide a spark for all units.
Considering his lack of production as a receiver, his contract won't be much of a harm. He's a very good returner, but he's not Devin Hester. A nice one- or two-year deal would keep both sides happy.
Cortland Finnegan, Cornerback, Tennessee Titans
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Cortland Finnegan is arguably a top 10 cornerback in the NFL. He's produced some quality seasons with the Tennessee Titans, including the popular label as a pest around the league. Despite all these positives including the ties to Jim Schwartz, it's highly unlikely Finnegan will end up in a Lions uniform next season.
According to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, the Titans have said they'd consider franchise tagging Finnegan, which would be worth $10 million for one year. The former seventh-round 2006 selection has butted heads plenty of times with Tennessee management, including one instance where Finnegan walked out on his team during training camp this season. He insists he's seen his final days in a Titans uniform.
Off-field antics as such have earned Finnegan a negative reputation around the NFL. On the field isn't much better after many altercations with receivers around the league, including his fight with Andre Johnson.
The Lions dealt with enough unsportsmanlike conduct penalties this season. They don't need any more with a headache like Finnegan. These unfavorable labels and the request for a high contract makes him unattractive to the Detroit Lions. He's a fine player, but not worth the money he's demanding.
So why ponder bringing him? Well, anybody is an upgrade from Aaron Berry, right?