How Aaron Berry Cut Changes the Detroit Lions' CB Situation

Dean Holden@@Dean_HoldenAnalyst IJuly 24, 2012

This could have been the face of the Detroit Lions' secondary. Instead, it's the face of the Lions sending a message.
This could have been the face of the Detroit Lions' secondary. Instead, it's the face of the Lions sending a message.Handout/Getty Images

With training camp approaching, we all thought the Detroit Lions nightmarish offseason was finally coming to a conclusion.

It was, and is, but Aaron Berry apparently decided to send the thing off right with one last arrest. And this one wasn't "he got caught with marijuana in his car." Berry allegedly pointed a gun at people.

Obviously, any Lions fan would prefer their players to stay out of trouble during the offseason, but one of the only things to cling to is that no Lions player had been arrested for any sort of violent crime.

It was all traffic stops and substance abuse before this, and while DUIs can have potentially violent results, they are not violent crimes in nature or intent.

Waving a firearm around as an act of intimidation, even without pulling the trigger, is on a completely different level. You can't chalk that up to a youthful lack of maturity. There is a much bigger issue there, and the Lions, recognizing that, made the call to cut Berry from the team, just as his career had the opportunity to really take off.

It's the right move, and some will decry it as hypocritical or a double-standard that the Lions would cut Berry, an undrafted player in 2010. After all, they're keeping Nick Fairley and Mikel Leshoure, a 2011 first- and second-round pick, respectively, despite also being arrested twice.

Well, it's true that they were both arrested twice. That's what prompted head coach Jim Schwartz to address the team and let them know this stuff is not OK.

And after Schwartz addressed the team about these issues, and the Lions began facing white-hot media scrutiny, Berry got arrested for DUI, and was frankly lucky to not have been cut then. But then he decided it was a good idea to wave a gun around during an argument, mere hours after a massive shooting tragedy.

Not only were Berry's arrests the most violent in nature, they were also the most ill-timed, both coming at a time when everybody on the team should have known better. Leshoure and Fairley, meanwhile, are laying low or actually attempting to repair their images.

So Berry is gone, and the Lions are better for it. But they also have some very big questions to answer now. Former undrafted player or not, Berry had the inside track at a starting job this season, with a whole lot of unproven depth sitting behind him.

Now that unproven depth is going to have quite the battle on its hands in training camp. The contestants for Berry's spot are Jacob Lacey, a young veteran from the hapless Colts; former second-round pick Alphonso Smith, who has played sparingly; and rookies Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green.

Before Berry was cut, it looked like he had the best chance to start, with Bentley and Lacey pushing for his job as well as the nickel corner position. Given the Lions' well-known aversion to rookie cornerbacks, Lacey would appear to have the inside track here. But if we could just hand the job to the veteran and move on, it wouldn't be a training camp battle, would it?

One way or another, it certainly appears as though Bentley is slotted for a starting position eventually; Berry's departure may have just sped up the process. But Bentley is not even nearly the Lions player most impacted by this move.

That honor goes to Alphonso Smith and Jonte Green, two players most likely to be fighting over the last available roster spot. While Smith and Green can't afford to rest on their laurels just yet, the fact that another roster spot just opened up should make them both feel a whole lot better about their respective situations.

Of course, that assumes the Lions maintain their current roster configuration throughout training camp. The Lions were relatively confident with Chris Houston and Berry holding down the starting positions, with Lacey, Smith and the rookies jockeying for position after that.

That was enough talent there to get them by and enough upside to set them up long-term. But depending on how much the Lions were truly expecting to get out of Berry, this might be a situation where it's time for the Lions to make a trade or scour the waiver wire or free agency during roster cuts.

In other words, it's entirely possible the Lions' replacement for Berry is not actually on the roster right now. But before the Lions make the jump to sign (potentially expensive) new blood, they'll need some time in training camp to determine their comfort level with the guys they have.

In addition, Greenwood is reportedly injured and set to start training camp on the physically unable to perform list after tearing an abdominal muscle in OTAs in May. There is no clear timetable for his return, and if it's a long-term injury, it might again prompt the Lions to seek help elsewhere.

Regardless of what happens, the one thing we can say for sure is that losing Berry, despite being the right call circumstantially, will sting between the lines, and it destabilizes what was already the least-stable unit on the team.

The result of that could be a steep downgrade in talent, or it could be an opportunity for somebody (Lacey or Bentley, most likely) to excel, when they otherwise wouldn't have gotten much of a chance.

In the short term, it just raises the stakes and makes training camp a lot more interesting. With Berry out of the picture, there is no clear frontrunner at any cornerback position after Houston.

It may truly be a five-man battle for the other starting spot. And there's only about a month left to settle it.