Many people feel the Detroit Lions don't have a prayer when it comes to turning things around. At least not any time soon.
The Lions off-season began around the third week of 2008 season and is still very active today. With free agency opening and the NFL Draft right around the corner, the Lions need to be aggressive.
The right moves, both talent wise and financially, are crucial to their long-term success, as well as their immediate success.
A few common lines of thinking include acquiring Albert Haynesworth in free agency and drafting Matthew Stafford, the quarterback from Georgia, with the No. 1 pick in the draft. When you look at the long term I do not believe either player belongs in Honolulu Blue.
Haynesworth will tie up as much as $16 million a year. That is a lot of money for one player. If Albert rolls an ankle, the Lions are stuck with no options for their defensive line.
Matthew Stafford will also command top-quarterback money. If he is unable to perform, then the Lions are stuck with several years of poor quarterbacking. They would also lose the money the need to sign and retain quality guys.
The Lions need to make smart use of their available cap space and sign long-term solutions in the draft. Here's how they should do it:
In free agency they need to address a few holes. Free agency gives you a chance to grab a proven commodity. The biggest area of concern has been the defense, particularly against the run. That is why Hayesworth has received so much attention. The Lions need more than one player though.
Tank Johnson is a defensive tackle who converted to nose-tackle in Dallas. He has cleaned up his act by all accounts, and is a solid run stopper. He will come with a much smaller price tag than Haynesworth, allowing the Lions to use more money on other players. Johnson can also go back to being a nose tackle should they choose to switch to a 3-4 defensive scheme.
Next, the Lions should get Channing Crowder. He is not known as a big play maker, but he has been a consistent middle line backer for the Dolphins, averaging over 90 tackles per season, over the last four years. He would be a solid addition that would take pressure off of Ernie Sims. He would also allow Detroit to focus on other, more available, positions in the draft.
The Lions could also take a hard look at some of the corner backs and safeties on the market. A veteran like Chris McAllister would be a good addition, if the price is right. He's not a long term solution, but he could get the Lions through two or three years.
Next comes the draft. The Lions have five picks in the top 82. This allows them to fill holes and add depth in a hurry.
With so many needs, they need to look for starters first, then address other positions and build depth. Both issues are important, but they need starting talent.
No. 1 Aaron Curry
He is a safe pick that won't command as much money as a quarterback or left tackle. He will fit in ideally on the strong side and will be the play maker that the Lions' front seven need.
This would give the Lions one of the better line-backing cores in the NFL, something that has never been seen in Detroit.
No. 20 Alex Mack (or Duke Robinson)
I like Mack, but Duke is a solid option as well. Mack can play guard right now and make an impact immediately. He could also provide a great option for replacing Raiola when the time comes. Mack is considered a sure thing and should be good for many years to come.
This should allow Kevin Smith better running lanes, and will provide good support for Backus. I think Backus will serve his purpose for the time being. He won't look so bad with a run game that doens't allow opposing defensive ends to go after the quarterback on every play.
No. 33 Patrick Chung (or William Moore)
This pick is a bit of a reach, but the Lions need a strong safety. Moore has the physical tools and Chung has the on-field production. Take your pick. I could see a cornerback here, but I think the depth at the position allows them to grab a solid prospect later.
No. 65 Joe Burnett
I'm hoping he is still available at this point. If not, there are other guys, Dominique Johnson, Asher Allen, and more. Burnett is a solid prospect, who looks like he can be a long-term solution.
No. 82 Lawrence Sidbury
A sleeper pick. Sidbury is a beast. He's 6'3" and weighs 266 lbs. He's 10 pounds heavier than Everrette Brown and three more than Orakpo. He has longer arms than the 6'7" Michael Johnson, some of the biggest hands, and ran the best 40-yard dash in 4.64 seconds. His knock is that he is from Richmond.
He has the production and the best set of physical tools in the draft, for a defensive end. Also, he was tied for first with 28 reps on the standard bench as well. He easily had the best combine at the position and has produced on the field.
No. 129 Jarrett Dillard
A major producer at the receiver spot, Dillard isn't flashy but he plays smart and makes plays. He's an ideal No. 2 receiver or a slot receiver.
Thigpen is the answer for the return game and is a good option as a third-down back. He has good speed and is a threat whenever he touches the ball.
The kid has a solid arm and can reportedly make all the throws. He has NFL size, and looks to have enough potential to take late in the draft.
He also has the arm and size to play in the NFL. Having two young guys to teach only helps your odds of finding a diamond in the rough.