Detroit Lions: Good Free Agency, but Draft Will Make or Break Offseason
Around this time is prime for optimism and happiness with the Detroit Lions. And honestly, it's understandable. With a franchise filled with a long history of losing, sometimes you reach for anything to cheer for.
While general manager Martin Mayhew may be on the hot seat, he's made some successful adjustments to past Detroit rosters, especially through free agency. During his four years in charge of the Lions, he has acquired valuable players like receiver Nate Burleson, linebacker Stephen Tulloch and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch.
Mayhew has also made a killing with impact trades. Swapping draft picks for players like guard Rob Sims or tight end Tony Scheffler showing Mayhew's aggressive nature.
And now, more optimism is swirling through the air of Detroit with new names on the roster. The Lions were able to reel in three important plugs in flashy running back Reggie Bush, safety Glover Quinn and defensive tackle Jason Jones. Bush and Quinn fill huge needs at their position while Jones complements young budding tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.
The Lions also brought back priority players with smart contracts. Defensive end Willie Young, special team ace Kassim Osgood and safety Amari Spievey all were inked to one-year deals or draft tenders.
Most importantly, Detroit kept its secondary hopes alive, bringing back one of their most important free agents in cornerback Chris Houston. The Lions rewarded Houston with a five-year deal, keeping him around for the long-haul.
Even with all these positive acquisitions, let's keep things in perspective.
Too much optimism after free agency will shatter dreams. Offseasons are won in April through the draft, not via free agency.
Bush is a nice piece to have on offense, but don't let people like ESPN analyst Bill Polian deceive you. Polian was quick to call Detroit's offense the "next Greatest Show on Turf" after the addition of the former Dolphins running back.
Quinn is a durable playmaking safety, and Jones adds a much better rotation at tackle for the defensive line. Plus, the return of Houston gives much needed life for the secondary. But this roster is nowhere close to a finished product.
Are you satisfied with the Lions' offseason so far?
This is still at best a 7-9 football team with many other holes to fill, and another difficult schedule ahead of them. The Lions might look fine on paper, but Green Bay tackle TJ Lang sarcastically makes a decent point with a tweet of his own yesterday regarding Detroit's free agency.
Reggie Bush still needs help in front of him in order for his skill-set to work. He's valuable in the passing game, but this Lions offensive line is still weak and unsettled at many positions. Right guard and both tackles are in question with veteran Jeff Backus contemplating retirement plus many unproven players in the rotation like Bill Nagy and Rodney Austin.
It's also unclear which Matthew Stafford will be seen next season. We've seen Stafford look elite in 2011, but he's also shown flaws from last season.
The Lions also could use another cornerback to complement Houston and Quinn in the secondary, making Alabama prospect Dee Milliner that much more attractive to Detroit. Young defensive backs Bill Bentley and Chris Greenwood have shown durability issues, and it's unclear where they'll fit in this rotation. Milliner might not be the next Revis Island, but he'd complete a nice tandem with the rest of the young corners on the roster.
Detroit also needs an end to complement the defensive tackles on the line. Mayhew showed enthusiasm on the pass rushers of this year's draft. They could go early in the first round with an end like Bjoern Werner or wait until the third round for a guy like Sam Montgomery.
While the sun seems to be shining bright on the Lions, be patient. The war is won in April of the offseason. Free-agent spending only sets teams up like the imploding Philadelphia Eagles. Much more work is needed for the Lions, and we'll see how far they go.
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