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One of the ways to find free-agency bargains is to take risks on players with character issues, both on and off the field.
While the Lions have some needs that could indeed be filled by players carrying some degree of baggage, Mayhew and his staff need to exercise prudence here.
If they want to take a shot on an enigmatic talent like wide receiver Kenny Britt, the Lions need to make sure all the risk is on the player and not the team's balance sheet.
Britt could be the answer for the gaping hole opposite Calvin Johnson at outside wide receiver. The Tennessee Titans' 2009 first-rounder is just 25 and still tantalizes with game-breaking talent every so often.
Yet he's already been suspended for a series of off-field transgressions. The most recent of those came last summer, as chronicled by Dan Hanzus of NFL.com:
This becomes Britt's ninth known incident involving the police since he entered the NFL in 2009. He has made two separate visits to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss his off-the-field behavior.
Britt also suffered a serious knee injury in 2011. He has just 56 catches in the two seasons since, a combination of the lingering effects of the injury and falling in and out of favor with the now-deposed coaching regime in Tennessee.
There's nothing wrong with offering Britt a make-good deal to see if he can turn over a new leaf. The Lions should offer a one-year deal worth around $1 million—but with nothing more than the veteran minimum guaranteed. Add some incentives that can take the deal up to the $4 million range, and see how bad he wants it.
Similarly, cornerback Aqib Talib offers a lot of talent but also a lot of baggage. Talib would certainly upgrade the talent quotient, but it's not worth shelling out millions in guaranteed cash to a player with so many personal strikes already on the scoreboard.
Another wideout with potential to help is Sidney Rice, but he too must be offered very little guaranteed money. He's on the market because of a cavalcade of injuries.
Because Rice has already received a lucrative free-agent deal (five years for $41 million) in the past, he might be more willing to take a low-risk deal from Detroit. Still, the Lions need to exude caution and not overpay to entice him into the den.