Last updated: 03/14/12
For a more detailed description of the keep/cut decisions I'm making, check here.
But for descriptions with contract predictions on the Lions' current free agents, stay right here.
There's no question the Lions want to keep Avril, and there's almost as little question that he wants to stay. The issue is that contract.
The Lions could franchise tag Avril, but that would cost the Lions $10.6 million against the salary cap. Both sides would rather get a long-term deal done.
Ultimately, Ray Edwards' contract from last season is likely going to serve as a benchmark for Avril. Edwards earned a five-year, $30 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons last season, and he's comparable in every way to Avril.
Avril's camp will argue that Avril is a better player than Edwards, and that's true. The Lions will argue that Edwards tanked when he lost his supporting cast in Minnesota, and that's also true. Ultimately, I think Avril makes more than Edwards, but just enough to matter in principle.
Re-signed: Five years, $32 million
UPDATE 3/5/12: Adam Schefter is reporting that the Lions used their Franchise Tag on Cliff Avril.
The franchise tag will theoretically cost the Lions $10.6 million this season, but like I mentioned before, don't take your eyes off this just yet. There's still lots of time for a long-term deal to come about for Avril and the Lions.
Now that the Lions are finally getting things turned around, it would be a shame if Backus wasn't around to see it. The Lions will pursue him, and he will likely give the team a hometown discount on a short contract in order to stay in Detroit for the turnaround.
Backus has been in Detroit for over a decade of losing, and he's made a lot of money in the process. Now is the time for him to earn a modest contract and enjoy the turnaround.
Re-signed: Two years, $5 million
UPDATE 3/17/12: Backus did indeed get a two-year deal, though the amount I projected for him is actually what he'll be making in one year, not both.
I thought Backus' age and bicep tear would keep his price tag down much lower, but it seems like the Lions aren't too concerned about that. I can't blame them, considering we're talking about a guy with 176 consecutive starts.
It's good to have Backus back in the fold as a safety net while the Lions find and groom Matthew Stafford's blind-side protector for the next 10 years, but I have to wonder if $10 million is a price too steep to pay. That pretty much cuts down a huge chunk of the salary cap cleared by Calvin Johnson's new deal.
Carpenter has been a solid depth addition for the Lions, but I wonder about him. Carpenter was trying to earn himself a deal and perhaps a starting position last season, and it didn't materialize.
But last season, Carpenter had all of about a week to find himself a deal in a frenzy of free agency action. Now he has months. I figure there's a good chance somebody signs him away, as much as I'd like to see him back (and previously predicted he would be).
Coleman was supposed to be a quality depth player to step in if Louis Delmas got injured or Amari Spievey regressed.
Both happened, but Coleman was on injured reserve for it. Instead of being a safety net, he tore a hole in it and let Chris Harris in. There are better, healthier players for the Lions to pursue just as cheaply as they did Coleman. At this point, I'd be more comfortable allowing Ricardo Silva to remain on the roster.
UPDATE 3/15/12: Apparently, the Lions weren't content to kick Coleman's tires just once. So after an injury-addled 2011, they're giving him another shot.
I assume they got a good deal on this re-signing (like, a veteran-minimum kind of good deal), but the terms of the deal are uncertain as of yet. As long as they didn't give the guy $3 million, it's probably a solid signing.
Coleman didn't do much last year, but he was a starting-quality player before coming to Detroit, and the Lions don't really want to go another season with Chris Harris.
Davis has always done whatever it takes to remain with a team for one year on special teams.
Should be active for the Lions as many games in 2012 as he was in 2011.
No doubt Ekejiuba is an ace special teamer, but the Lions are going to be in flux at linebacker this year, and I don't think they can afford as much space for pure special teams guys as they could in the past.
There figures to be entirely too much talent on the roster at this point to continue forward with Ekejiuba. Doug Hogue can do his job, and he has more upside with the defense.
In theory, Fluellen has been cut ever since the Lions sent in their draft card with Nick Fairley on it. I firmly believe Fluellen would not have made the final cut if not for Fairley's foot injury.
Fluellen isn't a bad player, he's just a bad 4-3 tackle. Look for him to be cast as a five-technique in his new home, or possibly at tackle in a Tampa-Two scheme (like he was originally drafted for).
I've made this argument a thousand times, and I'll do it again. Graham was awesome. Ryan Donahue is at least as good, 14 years younger, and still under contract.
If he's still around in 2012, the Lions need to start looking for Martin Mayhew's corpse and traces of Matt Millen's DNA.
Matt Flynn should just hire him to play for whatever team he's up against each week.
I thought there was a reasonable chance for Hill to sign with another team this offseason, and there still is. But the Lions are being unexpectedly aggressive in their attempts to bring him back, so maybe he'll hang around after all.
Hill has certainly proven himself capable in the past, and there's no question 2011 showed the value of a solid backup quarterback. The only question is money. I figure Hill makes a little less than his last contract. Stafford has proven he is both capable and durable enough to finish a season, and that gives Hill a little less bargaining leverage.
Re-signed: Two years, $4 million
UPDATE 3/17/12: Like I did with Backus, I correctly projected a two-year deal for Hill. Unlike with Backus, I don't know how much money he's due for.
It still seems reasonable to think he'd sign for about $2 million a year, especially now that it looks like he won't have to play half the season each year.
If the Lions have any plans whatsoever of improving their secondary this season, McDonald's spot will be the first to go to a new draft pick or free agent.
That is, unless you expect them to cut the upside-laden Alphonso Smith or Aaron Berry.
It's the end of a good ride with Morris, but unless the Lions find themselves in running back Ragnarok in training camp again, they have too much talent on the roster to stick with the veteran any more.
The Detroit Red Wings have the "Mule." The Detroit Lions have the "Muhl."
There, I helped you pronounce the name of the guy who will be the Lions long snapper (still) for the next few years.
Re-signed: Three years, $2.7 million
The Detroit Free Press reported today that the Detroit Lions will not offer reserve linebacker Ashlee Palmer a restricted free-agent tender, which means he will be free to sign with any team in free agency.
Because Palmer is a RFA, he wasn't included in this initial list. However, the news of what amounts to his release by the Lions seemed noteworthy enough to include.
Palmer's release makes sense, considering the Lions would have had to tender him over $1 million to keep him as a RFA in 2012, and he only plays a marginal role on special teams. For a team as cash-strapped as the Lions, it's hard to justify playing that kind of money for that kinds of impact.
After four years, Kevin Smith is still an unknown quantity. He'll get a contract in 2012, but a low-risk one. Perhaps coming off the bench as a spell back will help him stay healthy for a full season.
Maybe not. We'll see.
Re-signed: One year, $1 million
That the Lions have already entered contract talks with Shaun Hill should be a message.
It's the same message the Lions have been sending since 2007: "We're just not that into you."
At this point, the only way Stanton ends up back in Detroit again is if he continues to castrate himself and keep crawling back to a team that has never really wanted him. There are better opportunities for him elsewhere, if he doesn't want to eternally be the Lions' third-string quarterback.
UPDATE 3/17/12: Stanton has agreed to a one-year deal with the New York Jets.
This is what I was talking about when I said he'd find better opportunities elsewhere. Not only is Stanton almost a lock to be the second-string QB behind Mark Sanchez, but if Sanchez continues to regress, Stanton could even see an opportunity to push him as the starter.
This is a great opportunity for Stanton to revive his career, which was stagnating in Detroit. But then again, he did just sign with the Jets. I hope the kid has the mentality to deal with that locker room.
Call me crazy, but I actually liked what I saw out of Maurice Stovall last season. He was a bigger factor in the preseason than he ever was in the regular season, but he's still a 6' 5" wide receiver who plays a solid game in special teams.
Not a bad commodity to stock up on. Stovall is also young, and not without upside.
Re-signed: One year, $700,000
Like Leonard Davis, Thomas is a guard. Also like Davis, Thomas will be as irrelevant in 2012 as he was in 2011.
Here we have perhaps the biggest question of the offseason. Does Stephen Tulloch stay or go?
I have been preparing myself for the probability that Tulloch leaves for his monster deal in free agency. But then I think about how I was dead wrong last season about him not coming to Detroit in the first place, and I'm a little humbled.
So I'm coming around to the idea that the Lions could get this deal done. I'm going to go ahead and predict that the Lions lock the guy up for a while. If the Lions' front office was clever enough to get him here, they're clever enough to keep him.
Re-signed: Four years, $24 million
The Lions want to keep him, he wants to stay, and the Lions have no better options at this point. Seems like a recipe for a re-up.
I doubt Wright is due for a big payday this season after spending much of last season graded as one of the worst cornerbacks in the league, so the Lions should delight in getting him back to hold down a starting job while they wait for the next big thing.
Re-signed: One year, $2 million
UPDATE (3/14/12): Maybe Wright was a little undervalued in Detroit, and this deal is pretty consistent with my hunch that the free-agent market goes crazy for cornerbacks in the wake of the most prolific passing season in NFL history.
But we're talking about a deal that involves Eric Wright, the No. 2 corner on a team that gave up over 900 passing yards in the two most important games of the season, getting over $7 million a year.
I get that the Bucs have money to spend this offseason, and I can see Wright being worth a fair amount of money (more, even, than I predicted). But this has to be considered a gross, knee-jerk overpayment.