One of the key components to the NFL offseason is success in free agency. Unlike the draft, free agency offers the opportunity to bring in more proven talent.
The Detroit Lions have imported several key players via free agency in recent years. Reggie Bush, Stephen Tulloch, Glover Quin and Nate Burleson are all 2013 starters who were acquired on the open market. So was Jason Jones, who started at defensive end before heading to injured reserve early in the season.
Unfortunately, the Lions do not have much salary-cap room to work with this offseason.
Recently, the NFL released the projected salary cap for 2014 at $126.3 million, per Tom Pelissero of USA Today.
Currently, Detroit has committed a little over $124.4 million to just 38 players. As Over the Cap breaks down the contracts, the Lions will have a lot of work to do to get under the projected cap.
That does not account for renegotiation with some players (Ndamukong Suh, Nate Burleson, Chris Houston) and potential cap casualties (Jason Jones, Corey Hilliard, Ashlee Palmer). Those decisions could free up enough cap room to address a handful of needs with some second-tier talents.
It's nice to dream about the really big fish, like tight end Jimmy Graham or defensive end Greg Hardy. But they are on the top shelf, and the Lions are forced to drink from the lower realms, if not the well.
For a nice listing of the impending free agents, check out Alessandro Miglio's informative piece from Bleacher Report.
Here are five realistic free agents the Lions should target.