The Lions started free agency with holes at many positions coming off of the worst season in NFL history for any franchise. The stigma of 0-16 was expected to be something the Lions would pay for in free agency and that has indeed been the case.
The Lions were active early and often in the first few days of free agency, however, they had mixed results.
First, they attempted to acquire a solid left guard by trading a future late round draft pick to the Buffalo Bills for Derrick Dockery. This deal would've been a win for the Lions and the front office, but the Bills weren't able to get the paperwork in to the league offices in time and had to release Dockery to avoid paying him a roster bonus.
The Lions still brought Dockery in for a visit and attempted to sign him that way, but he elected to sign with the Washington Redskins for less money.
The Lions also realized that Albert Haynesworth, the prize of the free agent class, wasn't going to be in their price range and wouldn't likely choose the Lions over a similar offer from another team. As a result, they were non-players for him.
Next, they tried to swing a trade for cornerback Ken Lucas of the Carolina Panthers, but Lucas nixed the deal, saying he didn't want to play for Detroit.
Then, in a stroke of genius by Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand, they channeled the same bartering prowess they displayed when fleecing the Dallas Cowboys for three draft picks (in the trade for Roy Williams), and acquired a starting cornerback for a backup quarterback in Jon Kitna that likely would've been released.
In addition to getting good value from Dallas, they managed to save $4 Million against the cap.
In between those initial happenings, the Lions brought in numerous free agents for visits. While not signing any stellar free agents, the Lions have taken a patient and business like approach to building the roster.
They intend to keep the blueprint of building through the draft and supplementing in free agency.
Overall going into Free Agency, their needs were most notable at cornerback (LCB and RCB), linebacker (SLB and MLB), offensive line (LT and G), defensive tackle, and kick returner. They also had a need for a No. 2 wide receiver, No. 2 running back, safety, and tight end.
Now they need at least one cornerback (starter or depth), a MLB, an OT and OG, a DT, a S and TE for depth. The front office certainly deserves some praise. They have done a masterful job of filling positions (getting four starters) with quality players without breaking the bank.
The trades with Dallas for Roy Williams and Jon Kitna were nothing short of amazing considering the conditions and value they received in return and the latest trade with Seattle to acquire a Pro Bowler at a position of need was awesome.
Take into account that they also were very close to trading for a standout OG (Dockery) and mentioned in discussions with Denver regarding a Pro Bowl QB (Jay Cutler) and you can see that they are determined to change things in Detroit, sooner rather than later.
Here is the current list of Lions visitors, signings, and some of the top remaining players available, along with my take on each position.
FA's Available: Jeff Garcia, J.P. Losman, Rex Grossman, Patrick Ramsey, Trent Green
Take: Rumored to be interested in J.P. Losman. Were involved in a potential deal to bring Jay Cutler. Rex Grossman has said he'd like to play in Detroit as have the top college quarterbacks that will be available in April's draft.
The Lions seem comfortable with Daunte Culpepper as the starter and Drew Stanton and Drew Henson as the backups, but will continue to look for another addition.
Visitors: Maurice Morris
Signings: Maurice Morris (Seahawks, 3 year deal)
FA's Available: DeShaun Foster, Warrick Dunn, Ahman Green, Deuce McAllister
Take: Solid pickup of a back that despite being 30 years old, has low mileage in the NFL and has proven to be successful as a backup in the past. Will likely spell running back Kevin Smith and will be a change of pace and third-down back.
Visitors: Nate Washington, Bryant Johnson
Signings: Bryant Johnson (49ers, 3 years, $9M)
FA's Available: Drew Bennett, Ronald Curry, Dante Hall, Marvin Harrison, Ike Hilliard, Ashley Lelie, Justin McCareins, Reggie Williams, Matt Jones, Torry Holt
Take: Big receiver and former first round pick who has largely underachieved after having success in Arizona. Still young and capable and could be a productive operating across from Calvin Johnson.
The Lions would be well served to pick up a guy to play the slot, either in FA or the draft.
Visitors: L.J. Smith
Signings: Will Heller (Seahawks)
FA's Available: Ben Troupe, Owen Daniels, Anthony Becht
Take: The team signed Will Heller who is a blocking tight end, however, he is more of a complement to rather than an upgrade over incumbent Michael Gaines.
FA's Available: Orlando Pace, Jon Runyan, Mark Tauscher, Kwame Harris
Take:The Lions are decently solid at T with Jeff Backus and Gosder Cherilus, however they feel that there is a potential to upgrade the LT position and would like to move Backus to guard if possible.
If not, they at least want to put better guards in place to take some pressure off of Backus. There are rumors that the Lions might re-visit the Bills about disgruntled OT Jason Peters.
Visitors: Daniel Loper
FA's Available: Richie Incognito
Take: The Lions are looking to upgrade the G position. If not through FA, expect them to address things via the draft. Loper is a young up and comer who is versatile (can play G or T) and has a history with Jim Schwartz in Tennessee.
FA's Available: Jason Taylor, Anthony Weaver, Victor Adeyanju, Kalimba Edwards, Kenechi Udeze
Take:The Lions are heavily invested in DeWayne White, who has given marginal production since signing his lucrative FA deal a couple years ago. The Lions also have some up and comers in Cliff Avril and Ikaika Alama-Francis.
They are expected to add at least one DE before the season.
Visitors: Grady Jackson, Vonnie Holliday
Signings: Grady Jackson
FA's Available: Vonnie Holliday, Tank Johnson, DeWayne Robertson
Take: The Lions traded Cory Redding, who was largely unimpressive since Shaun Rogers left town. Grady Jackson was a good pickup, but he cannot play more than two downs.
He is a very good run stopper, which is an area the Lions need much improvement in. With the trade of Redding, the Lions still have a need at DT. If they don't sign a FA, you can count on this being addressed early in the draft.
Signings: Cody Spencer (Jets)
Acquisitions: Julian Peterson
FA's Available: Derrick Brooks, Napoleon Harris, Zach Thomas, Cato June
Take:The Lions had big needs at linebacker prior to the Redding/Peterson trade and still need a MLB. The Lions are expected to address this position early in the draft. Coach Schwartz and GM Martin Mayhew have both intimated that Aaron Curry, if selected at No. 1 overall, will fill that position.
Visitors: Jabari Greer, Eric King, Phillip Buchanon, Chris Carr
Signings: Eric King (Tennessee, two years), Anthony Henry (Dallas via trade, $3.6M), Phillip Buchanon (Tampa Bay, two years)
FA's Available: Chris McCalister, Dre Bly, Deltha O'Neal, Keiwan Ratliff, Sam Madison, Samari Rolle, Ken Lucas
Take: The Lions were in desperate need for corners and tried to quickly address the need by acquiring three new players. They traded for Anthony Henry, who may end up at FS and signed Buchanon and King.
They still will likely address the secondary in the draft, although the need isn't as pressing.
FA's Available: Lawyer Milloy, Roy Williams,
Take: The Lions actually have decent players at safety but they have had trouble remaining healthy. It's unclear whether they will attempt to sign a S in free agency but if not, almost certainly will target one in the draft.
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