This offseason is a pivotal one for the Detroit Lions. After the failure of 2012, the current regime is running out of time to build a winner. The team is at a crossroads and general manager Martin Mayhew must pull the right strings during free agency to turn them around.
Of course, success in free agency is the goal of every NFL franchise, but it's never easy. Surefire signings—like Mario Williams—often backfire and under-the-radar one's prove to be pivotal.
It's difficult to predict how a player will fit into a new team and a new system, yet that is Mayhew's task.
He'll need to focus on his own free agents first, though. The Lions have over 20 players, mostly on defense, with expiring contracts, and he needs to decide who to keep and who to let go while maintaining fiscal responsibility.
Sounds easy enough right?
It's as easy as putting together a 1,000-piece puzzle in the dark with mittens on.
Many of the Lions' free agents are veterans with key roles, so if they aren't re-signed, Mayhew better have a good plan for replacing them.
He doesn't need to replace all of them though.
Here are five players whom the Lions can't afford to lose.