The Super Bowl is over and so it begins...
As Detroit Lions fans, our offseason usually started back before our annual Thanksgiving throwdown, but this year we were offered a glimpse of what it is like to have a winning team. Our Lions had met, if not exceeded, most expectations during the 2011 season. Many people and analysts had them pegged with an optimistic 8-8 record, but we were very privileged this year to garner our first playoff berth in more than a decade.
Many outside of Detroit have forgotten that, including preseason, we got to see a team that won 13 consecutive games dating back to the 2010 season. We got to witness a 5,000-yard passing quarterback in Matthew Stafford, becoming one of only four in NFL history to do so. And how can we forget Calvin Johnson, who solidified himself as the premier WR in the NFL?
With all of the improbable comeback wins, endless highlights and a front office that finally has a vision for success, we have a lot to be excited about for the future of the Motor City football franchise. Here is the beginning of a path towards New Orleans for the 2012 Detroit Lions.
Pay this man
Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew has yet to use a franchise tag in the three years he has been with the organization. According to the Detroit Free Press, this year does not seem to be any different.
After four seasons with the Lions, DE Cliff Avril had a breakout year in 2011, which makes him the only player in this conversation at all. Again, with an interview by the Detroit Free Press, Avril was quoted saying,
“I definitely don’t want to be franchised. I’ve been in Detroit for four years, and I wouldn’t mind being there for another couple more years or whatnot. The franchise tag kind of makes it a yearly thing, and you want security. You want to know you’re going to be there for a couple years so your family can get comfortable.”
Avril will be an unrestricted free agent if both sides do not reach an agreement by the free-agency period and will definitely be the top pass-rusher available. Let's hope as Lions fans that a deal is worked on to keep this the player who compiled 11 sacks, six forced fumbles and one interception in Detroit for years to come.
For the second time in 2012, all eyes will be on Indianapolis. Bench presses, 40s and Wonderlic testing. I really get into the whole combine thing. However this year, it will be a little difficult to figure out which direction the Lions front office will be going.
I will be looking at the DBs and the hogs between the hashes.
Not much to say about this. I just wanted to make sure all dates were out there and covered. I will reiterate that reports right now are not anticipating any action by the Detroit front office, but Mayhew was quoted saying, "You never know what might happen.”
Head coach Jim Schwartz made a huge first impression on us Lions fans during his first year when he stood outside Kyle Vanden Bosch's house in Nashville, TN on opening night of free agency. During the same offseason, Nate Burleson and Chris Houston were added.
Making a splash in FA was not something we fans were used to and seeing our newly hired head coach make personnel acquisitions with this type of aggressiveness was something to admire. During the 2011 offseason, bold moves also proved to be successful in bringing in the talents of Stephen Tulloch and Justin Durant.
The salary cap this year may prove to be a challenge to work with in, but I don't see the Lions completely passing on FA. I see a lot of additions for depth purposes. There might be a lot of times we fans say to ourselves, "Who the heck is that!?" But I definitely think it is necessary to at least seek depth when you cannot afford the big names.
The biggest focus this year: Retain their current players.
The owners will hold their annual social gathering in Palm Beach, Florida to discuss whatever it is owners talk about. In our case it will be team president Tom Lewand that will represent the Lions. I am guessing that this isn't really Mr. Ford's scene.
Perhaps they can talk about the "Titus Young rule." See the video below if you have already forgotten about the touchdown catch that wasn't.
Check out the TD catch at 1:20.
Rookie Standout Titus Young
As fans, this does not mean much. Get them in shape and keep them healthy.
The "Lions Super Bowl" is what it was referred to in the past. This year, we will see the Honolulu Blue picking at 23rd and this couldn't have happened at a better time. Years and years of top-10 picks have broke the bank on our franchise, so slipping further down will only help our team in the long run.
According to many projections, the Lions are expected to pursue a few players from Matthew Stafford's alma mater, the Georgia Bulldogs. These players include Brandon Boykin, Ben Jones and Cordy Glenn. I am not going to speculate much since it seems every year they don't pick who we think they well. There are a lot of intangibles, but if it happens to be any of those players, that would mean the front office is pursuing what us fans want—DBs and OLs.
Training camp can be a cool experience as a fan. They open up the camp during certain times to allow fans and media to get a more intimate look at their favorite team. They hold many autograph-signing sessions and fans can get a closer look at the players. Every ultimate fan must experience training camp.
Can we see another undefeated preseason? I think so, even though it doesn't mean much. We beat New England with ease last year and they ended up in the Super Bowl.
It's still fun to see guys like Aaron Brown and Drew Stanton get out there and shine. Brown looked like a lock for a roster spot the past two preseasons, but I guess they see a lot more at practice than we do because he always looked like a Darren Sproles-type player to me.
I know the official start of the season is the September 6, but the start of the NFL season has become synonymous with 9/11. I felt an overwhelming sense of pride last year with all of the dedications and ceremonies to celebrate the life of our fallen heroes. Football is America and I cannot think of a better time of the year.
New Orleans, here we come. This time we will be using your field without you there. Detroit Lions, 2012 NFL champions.