Numerous reports circulated earlier that week that the Detroit Lions had made a contract offer to free agent running back Ryan Grant and that Grant would be paying a visit to the Motor City. That visit and any chance of the sixth-year pro signing with the Lions have now apparently fallen by the wayside, and Detroit may come to regret not making a more aggressive push to secure Grant's services.
However, according to a report on Pro Football Talk, John Clayton of ESPN stated on SportsCenter Tuesday that Grant's visit was off, and it appears that financial concerns will prevent the former Green Bay Packers back from joining the Lions.
"It now looks like it will not happen because they could not come to at least a close enough monetary agreement,” Clayton said. “To Ryan, it’s not a matter of just the money. Ryan wants to make sure it’s the right situation, as far as, if he has the chance to compete for the starting job, if he does have a chance to compete if he can make the right type of money with that. More so than anything else, they just couldn’t come to at least a close enough money agreement that he would make that trip."
Grant didn't exactly post eye-popping stats for the Green Bay Packers a year ago, rushing for just over 500 yards and two scores as part of a committee attack. It may well be that the Lions didn't feel that that level of production merited more than a minimal offer, especially given Detroit's rather tenuous salary cap situation.
However, Grant has two seasons of over 1,300 total yards on his resume and is a capable receiver and pass blocker. Moreover, Grant would have provided a veteran presence with extensive playoff experience to a very young Detroit backfield.
Most importantly, with the exception of a 2010 season that ended nearly before it began due to an ankle injury, Grant has been fairly durable over the past four seasons, playing in all 16 games in 2008 and 2009 and missing only one contest a season ago.
That sort of dependability is sorely needed in the Detroit backfield. Starter Jahvid Best missed 10 games a year ago due to concussion symptoms. Given that concussion problems have dogged Best since college and the NFL's increased focus on head trauma, another concussion would likely end Best's season this year and could quite possibly threaten his career.
Backup Mikel Leshoure tore his Achilles tendon before ever seeing game action in his rookie season a year ago and was recently arrested for possession of marijuana, so counting on him to make a significant contribution this season is a risky proposition at best.
Kevin Smith, who returned to the Lions last year and played well before being limited by knee and ankle injuries, has an extensive injury history of his own. Smith has played in 16 games only once in his four-year career, and durability concerns were what led to his release by the Lions in the first place.
That creates a backfield in Motown that has some talent but also has more questions swirling about it than answers. For a team with aspirations of winning their first playoff game in more than 20 years, Grant would have provided the Detroit offense with a badly needed steadying influence at running back.
If Grant wanted guarantees about playing time that head coach Jim Schwartz wasn't prepared to make, then that's one thing. That would seem to have been a significant mistake on Grant's part, given that the chances of his seeing the field were pretty good since none of the Lions' current ballcarriers can apparently stay on it.
However, if the matter was strictly a financial one and the team simply lowballed Grant, then the mistake was Detroit's. Extra wiggle room under the salary cap can be and is created in the NFL all the time.
The Detroit Lions are attempting to reach a level of success that the team hasn't seen since Ronald Reagan was in office, and if they eschewed a chance to better their depth in a brittle backfield just to save a few bucks then it's a gamble that could well blow up in their faces.