Detroit Lions Wish List: 5 Free Agents Who Fit the System
We know the Lions need help in the secondary, at linebacker and on offense. The Lions could also use some help at running back and eventually defensive end.
The Lions have made it known, both publicly and privately, that the Lions are looking to re-sign their own players. Like their counterparts, the Tigers, the Lions have consistently chosen the one-year deal as opposed to anything long-term.
The Lions are facing a lot of holes on their roster. Eric Wright...gone. Shaun Hill...gone. Drew Stanton...gone. Not to mention, the laundry list of players they had on IR. Added to their mounting list of concerns is the possibility that Jahvid Best played his last game in the NFL this year.
There are going to be a ton of free agents at the end of the year, so it will be interesting to see who will end up in the Honolulu blue.
Here are five free agents who fit the Lions' system.
Disclaimer: Some free agents may be the Lions' own players.
1. Cliff Avril, Defensive End
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After several weeks of back-and-forth speculation on this and attempting to play out every possible scenario in my head as to how the Leos could keep both Avril and linebacker Stephen Tulloch, but it just simply wasn't plausible without franchising one in order to keep the other.
The Lions want both Avril and Tulloch long-term. The fact of the matter is, there are still several key linebackers available for cheap. Hypothetically, the Lions could—I emphasize could—move DeAndre Levy back to the middle, or perhaps, take a flyer on a guy like D'Qwell Jackson from the Browns.
The Lions' best choice would be to take a middle linebacker via the draft if one becomes available. Zack Brown out of North Carolina seems a viable option at 23 or someone available in the later rounds.
In regards to Avril, the Lions want him and want him bad. He's made it known that he wants to come back to Detroit. With Kyle Vanden Bosh older and slower, Avril provides a much-needed shot in the arm to that defensive line.
Should the Lions sign Avril long-term, there's a good chance that Tulloch does not return. The Lions' love affair with defensive linemen could prompt a return for Avril.
2. Brandon Carr, Cornerback
Brandon Carr is one of a long list of free agent corners this offseason. While Carr's numbers are not flashy, he's still a solid enough corner who fits the Lions' wide-nine system and is arguably the cheapest corner on the market.
Carr has good speed and good hands and could be a nice complementary piece to Chris Houston should they choose not to bring back Eric Wright.
Carr also has some familiarity with the Lions, considering current Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham was a former coach in Kansas City, and the Lions are his hometown team.
3. Tyvon Branch, Safety
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Tyvon Branch is an interesting selection, considering that the safety position is not necessarily a dire need with the development of Amari Spivey.
Branch, however, comes cheaper than the other two top-50 free agents—La'Ron Landry and Michael Griffin.
The Lions need speed at the strong safety position. While Louis Delmas provides the hitting, Branch would provide the hands and speed, plus the smarts and ball-hawking ability that Schwartz loves.
Branch would fit the Lions because they ran a similar system of defense in Oakland, and he would fit contractually into the one to two-year deals that the Lions like to give out.
4. Jeff Backus, Offensive Tackle
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I figure the Lions will bring Jeff Backus back for two reasons and only two alone.
First, he will come cheap. One year, probably a million dollars or so, so he fits financially. His experience in the current regime means he doesn't have to transition and has a familiarity with the system.
Second, the Lions just flat-out don't have a replacement for him. Jason Fox has been on injured reserve the past two years. Corey Hilliard is specifically a right tackle, whereas Backus is on the left.
Being a hometown boy, Backus will likely take a discount to come back. He loves it here, and Schwartz has nothing but glowing reviews about him. However, like Kyle Vanden Bosh, Backus is getting on in years, and injuries have been an issue.
The Lions could look to find his replacement in this upcoming draft.
5. Peyton Hillis, Running Back
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Peyton Hillis is an interesting choice. I put him at No. 5 because he's the least likely to come here, but the Lions could still benefit from having him on board.
The latest reports, particularly out of 97.1 The Ticket and mlive.com, are indicating that several members of the Lions' organization think that Jahvid Best has likely played his last season in the NFL.
Hillis had a down year last year, which will drive down his asking price, and he fills a sudden need that the Lions have. And hey, it prevents them from drafting another back in the draft, so they can focus on defense.