The NFL's annual game of musical chairs—free agency—didn't take long to affect the Detroit Lions. On Wednesday the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed free-agent cornerback Eric Wright away from Detroit. It was not a huge surprise. Wright had a productive 2011 and was one of the top 10 cornerbacks available.
That said, he is not an elite player. Which is why the Lions wanted him to stay, but were not going to get in a bidding war with anyone over him.
The loss makes a tenuous situation at cornerback even more so. Wright is obviously gone. Brandon McDonald is a free agent and could walk at any time given the right deal. Alphonso Smith has worn out his welcome and has been trade bait for several weeks.
That leaves the Lions with only three cornerbacks under contract: Chris Houston, Aaron Berry and Don Carey. Houston I trust, but Berry not so much; and who is Don Carey?
Obviously, the cornerback position has just been elevated to the Lions' biggest concern.
They can address it via the draft, but I seriously doubt the Lions want to go into the season with only two cornerbacks, someone named Don Carey and a rookie.
Free agency is going to play a role.
The good news is that the Lions' salary cap situation is not as dire as it once was. Players restructured their deals and Calvin Johnson's new contract—as massive as it is—actually helped the cap situation this year.
Stephen Tulloch and Jeff Backus still need to be signed, so cost will continue to be a factor as the Lions try to address their need at cornerback. For this reason, I do not foresee the Lions going after any big names.
Actually, they couldn't if they wanted to because the top-tier guys have already been signed or franchised.
Here is a list of available free-agent cornerbacks that I consider to be high-value targets. Their price is right and they have proven to be solid contributors.
I had intended on including William Marshall on this list. Alas, as I was writing it, he signed with the Miami Dolphins.