Missing Pieces the Detroit Lions Could Still Get

Dean HoldenAnalyst IJune 3, 2012

Missing Pieces the Detroit Lions Could Still Get

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    The Detroit Lions are nobody's Super Bowl favorite, and for good reason.

    Oh sure, they're widely considered top-10, playoff material. They're even considered as potential Super Bowl contenders by people in both the local and national media.

    But it's difficult to find them considered ranked as even the best team in their division, much less the best in football.

    Much of that has to do with questions about their focus and health, but a lot more has to do with the fact that even at full strength, the team has some question marks.

    This is, of course, the nature of the salary cap, but the Lions are not exactly loaded up with imposing playmakers at every position.

    At least not ones with a proven track record of playing 16-plus games at a time.

    With the understanding that the Lions are comfortable enough with the team to enter the season as is, and that the salary cap does not allow the Lions to go crazy with spending, there are still a number of available (and theoretically available) players who could strengthen what few weaknesses the Lions have left.

    Depending on your perspective on trades and future roster cuts, there could be countless players that would fit well with the Detroit Lions that are "available."

    And realistically, none of them are going to be guys that put the team over the top. Football doesn't work that way. But here are six players that are, at least, likely to fit in and bring some value.

Mike Jenkins

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    The Lions are reportedly interested in trading for cornerback Mike Jenkins, according to ESPN.

    The Dallas Cowboys are reportedly not interested in trading Jenkins, despite his reported unhappiness in Dallas and the Cowboys' use of a top pick on Morris Claiborne.

    This puts us at a serious impasse, but if the situation changes, Jenkins could be a significant upgrade to the Lions' unproven secondary.

    Jenkins is a good-but-inconsistent cornerback who is speedy and scheme-versatile. He made a Pro Bowl (albeit as an injury replacement) in 2009, and at age 27, it's safe to say the game hasn't passed him by yet.

    But even if the Lions can manage a trade for him, Jenkins is in the last year of his contract, and the Cowboys aren't going to let him go for just a seventh-round pick when they might get a better compensatory pick just for keeping him until he walks in 2013 free agency.

    That makes trading for Jenkins a very risky proposition, especially if the price is high. And even if he works out, he might be gone in 2013.

    Of course, while it's a high risk, it could also be the missing link in the Detroit Lions secondary if the stars align.

Oshiomogho (O.J.) Atogwe

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    The Lions like safety O.J. Atogwe, and Atogwe likes the Lions, according to Lions Insider.

    The same was true in 2009, but the Lions were not in a position to match the five-year, $32 million contract he earned with the St. Louis Rams.

    But even the Rams only thought he was actually worth two years of that contract, and the Washington Redskins only held onto him for a year after that. In fact, Atogwe has been signed to two different five-year contracts since 2009, and yet here he is as a free agent again.

    Does that mean the soon-to-be-31-year-old Atogwe is declining? Or was he a square peg in Washington?

    It's tough to say, but since Atogwe played out two years of a $32 million, five-year contract and one year of a $26 million contract, his asking price is moving in the right direction.

    For a team whose safety position is arguably in a more unstable condition than any other position, Atogwe would be both an upgrade as a starter and a steady veteran influence.

Ronnie Brown

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    Like Atogwe, Ronnie Brown is a team the Lions have previously been interested in, according to ESPN.com.

    Of course, that was in an early-season reactionary move to replace Mikel Leshoure, which will hopefully not be an issue in 2012.

    But still, the Lions continue to lack a solid short-yardage back, considering Keiland Williams' uninspiring performance in the role last year.

    Brown has never really been a top-tier running back, but to the Lions that means he won't come with a top-tier price tag. He can still be an effective situational back, and the Lions learned last year that it is impossible to have too many effective running backs, in any capacity.

Jason Brown

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    The Lions need to upgrade their interior line with some size and run-blocking ability.

    They also prefer to stock their line with players that can play both guard and center.

    Given those criteria, 320-pound G/C Jason Brown makes a lot of sense. Brown is inconsistent and not always focused on the line, which is partially why he's still around in free agency. But he is getting offers (h/t Baltimore Ravens blog), and he might not be just a depth player in Detroit.

    It's unlikely that Brown would just step in and replace a fixture like Dominic Raiola, but he could provide the long-awaited replacement for Stephen Peterman while also serving as an insurance policy in the unlikely event that Raiola were injured.

    If the Lions can get Brown in town on a one-year deal, it's at least worth kicking the tires.

Andre Carter

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    Rule No. 1: You can never have enough pass-rushers.

    Rule No. 2: You can never have enough pass-rushers.

    The Lions live by this creed, and if nobody else wants him, Carter could fit right into it.

    It's well documented that the Lions generate a good pass rush, but they also wore down a bit at the end of the year, which would seem to indicate a need for more depth. Veteran Andre Carter has been an up-and-down player throughout his career, but it might be worth it to see if he's still up.

    The biggest issue with Carter is where to put him. He's not exactly laden with upside at age 33, and the Lions are not exactly laden with roster spots on the defensive line, especially with Ronnell Lewis joining the position. 

    And considering Carter's 10-sack season in 2011, his asking price might be more than it should be.

    But hey, you can never have enough pass-rushers.

Andre Goodman

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    As much as I don't want to see Matt Millen's legacy anywhere around the Detroit Lions, one of his third-round picks is floating around in free agency.

    He's not likely to be a starter, much less a silver-bullet solution to the Lions' secondary woes. But despite the dark cloud hanging over the day he was drafted, he has quietly made a pretty solid career for himself with the Dolphins and Broncos.

    I suspect the reason Goodman hasn't been signed yet is because he's asking for more money than he frankly is worth.

    Despite putting him on this list, I only see him as a veteran tryout for training camp. He probably still thinks he's a starter and wants to be paid and placed on the depth chart accordingly. I can understand that, but it's June and he's still without a team, so it might be time to take what he can get.

    From the Lions, that would probably be a small one-year contract. He's probably not worth rolling the dice otherwise.