Ranking the Top 5 Free Agents the Detroit Lions Should Look at in 2013
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Due to the Detroit Lions' disappointing season, NFL draft talk has already started in Motown. With more holes than a Swiss cheese factory, they can't expect to fill all their needs through the draft. Free agency will be key in 2013 as well.
General manager Martin Mayhew hasn't exactly been known as a wheeler and dealer in free agency during his tenure. He's opted to sign under-the-radar players on the cheap.
The Lions have tried to cultivate their talent, not buy it. After a miserable season, perhaps a change in strategy is needed.
I'm not suggesting the Lions run out and sign a big-name star just to make a splash, but they need to target players with a proven track record. Better yet, how about signing some veterans who have actually won something?
Those types of players have valuable lessons to share with the Lions' young stars.
Here are five free agents whom the Lions should absolutely target in 2013.
5. Tracy Porter, CB
Porter showing off his latest interception.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Tracy Porter represents an interesting possibility for the Lions. He's a solid veteran, Super Bowl champion/hero and young enough to have his best years ahead of him.
Even better, he could be affordable. His price tag is low because of his health risk. He missed six weeks this season due to a seizure disorder, according to rotoworld.com.
As of November 23rd, he was cleared to play but hasn't. The reason is because the Denver Broncos defense has emerged as one of the best in the NFL without him. He's an NFL starter, but right now he doesn't have a job.
If he's medically cleared, the Lions should give him a job. Their situation at cornerback isn't as dire as last year, but it can get better. Porter would compete for the starting job and offer valuable depth.
He's not a shutdown corner, but he is quick and athletic and gets the most out of his ability.
They'd have to build medical safeguards into his contract, but if the seizure disorder is under control, there's no reason the Lions shouldn't pursue him.
He'd upgrade the secondary immediately.
4. Mike Wallace, WR
Wallace on the verge of another big play.
Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
Is there any chance the Lions sign Mike Wallace? No, probably not. The financial implications of such a deal are probably too risky for them to consider.
However, that doesn't mean it wouldn't make sense from a football perspective.
Their offense is inconsistent and lacks a complementary threat to Calvin Johnson, despite being the best passing attack in the NFL in terms of yardage per game.
Johnson is an elite talent, but opposing defenses are able to keep Detroit's other receivers in check.
Now with Titus Young and Nate Burleson on their way out—and Ryan Broyles an injury question mark—the Lions have a serious need at wide receiver.
Wallace's price tag might be high, but the Lions have nearly 30 players who will be free agents this offseason. Depending on whom they keep, they might have some cap space to spare and he'd be a perfect fit.
They need someone to stretch the field, and Wallace is the best in the NFL at it.
Plus, he's won a Super Bowl and has played his entire career for one of the best franchises in the NFL. Needless to say, he knows how to win.
If Mayhew went out and signed Wallace, I would immediately check the temperature of hell. It would be getting pretty cold down there.
More than likely, the Lions will target someone like Danny Amendola, who is a very good possession receiver with great hands but is not a dynamic playmaker like Wallace.
3. Andy Levitre, OG
Levitre has been the model of consistency for the Bills.
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Andy Levitre would be the antithesis of a big-splash signing, but he'd be a significant upgrade from Stephen Peterman, the Lions' current right guard.
Peterman and the entire right side of the line have been the weak link for Detroit for several years now. It's time for Mayhew and Jim Schwartz to stop giving "their guys" a pass and bring in someone who can actually make a difference.
He's never made a Pro Bowl, but ESPN rates him the 10th best guard in the league (Peterman is 26th).
Levitre has started every game of his four-year NFL career with the Buffalo Bills. He's durable, intelligent and tough. He's also a big reason for their rushing success regardless of who is carrying the football—Fred Jackson or C.J. Spiller.
According to ESPN:
He is a good athlete that wins with technique, toughness and intelligence. He lacks great strength and size for the position. Levitre gains leverage with quickness and taking proper angles on larger defenders. He utilizes active hands and excellent pad level in pass protection.
The Lions only carry three guards on their roster currently. Of those three, Rob Sims is the only keeper. Peterman and Dylan Gandy can go. Levitre's age (26), experience and durability make him a very attractive replacement.
2. Michael Johnson, DE
Johnson celebrating another sack.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Defensive end should be a big concern for the Lions this offseason. They balked at paying Cliff Avril what he wanted last season, and chances are the two sides won't be any closer at the end of this one. To make matters worse, Kyle Vanden Bosch is on the decline.
He might be suited for a secondary role on the field while maintaining his leadership role in the locker room—or the Lions might opt to release him.
Michael Johnson, the Cincinnati Bengals' promising DE, offers the most bang for the buck. At 25, the four-year NFL vet is having his best year with eight sacks, a fumble recovery and an interception (ESPN).
He's also never missed a game.
He's already better than Vanden Bosch and has the potential to be better than Avril, too.
When drafted, Johnson was raw and lacked technique. For that reason, he fell to the third round. He's spent the last three years honing his skills and is clearly on the rise.
At 6'7" and 270 pounds, he's an absolute beast and could prove to be one of the best defensive ends in the NFL in the next two or three years. The Lions would be wise to get him now.
If the Bengals are foolish enough to let him get away.
1. Dashon Goldson, S
Goldson is on the verge of elite status. ESPN.com
If the Lions are having trouble deciding what to do with Louis Delmas this offseason, they should take a look at Dashon Goldson, the San Francisco 49ers' starting safety.
He's a big reason why their defense is so dominating. Always a fearsome hitter and run-stopper, Goldson has also developed into a ball-hawking cover man as well.
He has 14 interceptions in the last four years (ESPN).
More importantly, he's durable. He's only missed two games in four years. That sentence should be in bold, highlighted and underlined so the Lions don't miss it.
He won't be cheap, and the 49ers would be crazy to let him walk. However, he had the best season of his career in 2011, and they didn't sign him to an extension.
Smart business on their part or an indication that he could be snatched away from them?
The answer to that question will be revealed this offseason, but the Lions should make every effort to sign him. Goldson would not only provide insurance for the brittle Delmas, but he'd immediately become the best safety on the team and make their defense a whole lot better.