While the Lions could look at all three players—they need help in the backfield, secondary and at the edge—it's Abraham who is most intriguing.
Let's take a look at the pros and cons of adding him to the Detroit Lions.
Pro: He's a consistent producer
I find cutting Abraham a bit of a shock, though he was due $7 million this year—a lot for an aging veteran.
From a cap standpoint, the move makes sense, and would it shock anyone if the Falcons tried to bring him back for less?
Why would they do this? Well, the same reason he could be a smart signing for the Lions—he's consistently produced solid numbers for the entirety of his time in Atlanta. In the last seven years he has averaged just under 10 sacks a year, and the last three he has amassed 13, 9.5 and 10 sacks.
The only player on the Lions edge rusher last year who even came close to that amount of sacks was Cliff Avril, who had 7.5 total. The next closest was Kyle Vanden Bosch with a paltry 4.5.
Both players are free agents, Vanden Bosch having just been released.
The number of tackles has stayed consistent too, though relatively low overall. The last two years he's forced 10 fumbles overall, and while he's aging, Abraham is clearly still capable of putting together good numbers.
There's no two ways about it—John Abraham is old.
Drafted in 2000 by the New York Jets, he's an 11-year veteran of the league.
How much longer does he have?
Sure he's been productive during his stint in Atlanta, but we all know how quickly a player can tumble once age hits—and how sudden and out of nowhere that decline can come.
This is a young team, and while it's not as bad as it looked in 2012, it's not a team ready for the Super Bowl next year.
How long does Abraham have? And for what he might ask for, how much return on investment will the Lions get?
Con: Short-Term Solution
Hand in hand with the age issue is the simple fact that signing Abraham does nothing to fix the problem of not having an edge pass-rusher for the long term.
Yes, if he doesn't decline this coming year, he will help the pass rush, but not for very long. With a young team, is it worth it to throw money at a player who probably only will play a couple—maybe three—years?
The pursuit of a Super Bowl is a marathon, not a sprint.
We're not talking about a team which is close to a run at a title. We're talking about a team still rebuilding. One player won't push them over the edge.
Pro: He Buys Them Time to Develop Younger Players
Sure Abraham himself isn't a long-term solution, but his presence allows the Lions some time to find one.
Having a proven veteran who can put up good numbers will give the Lions time to develop younger players who are still a bit raw. Guys like Ronnell Lewis. Or it allows them to bring young players with upside back on the cheap and develop them—guys like Lawrence Jackson or Willie Young.
They will be able to develop without carrying the weight of the whole pass rush on their shoulders.
So they only get him for a few years. By the time he leaves, they will have more than a few players to replace him.
Meanwhile, you get a productive player who plays way younger than his age.
Pro: Brings Veteran Leadership to a Challenging Locker Room
Let's be honest—even Lions players think they were unfocused and got lazy in 2012.
They need help and they need help from a good character guy.
Again, even if this is just for a little while, Abraham can be another voice in the locker room, keeping guys focused and on point. An ear to talk to, a veteran to help guide the young players along and maybe—just maybe—someone who can show some of the leaders on the field how to lead off it.
It's hard to say whether this is a true "con" or not since we just don't know what he'll ask for. However, it is certain, given his production, that he could ask for more than the Lions can afford.
Which, as of now, isn't much anyway.
Really, why are we even having this discussion? The Lions have many free agents and almost no money.
If there is one problem with signing a guy like Abraham, it's going to be money—first and foremost.
Adding Abraham would be a solid move by the Lions from a production standpoint, but unless they can find a hidden reserve of money it just seems unlikely.
Of course, we all know that teams can find ways to make money out of air if they want to.
If money isn't an issue, I believe Abraham could be a great bridge player while the develop young talent.
Why not just re-sign Cliff Avril then?
Ultimately, Avril wants really big money and a long-term deal the team doesn't seem willing to give him, and really, it's uncertain if he deserves it.
If he'd take less (or less than it seems he wants, which is "big bucks"), then I'd say yes in a heartbeat. However, we've already seen him balk at that, and so he's likely to test free-agency waters.
For the right price, Abraham would be a good bridge to a long-term solution.
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