Weighing the Pros and Cons of Detroit Lions' Top Free Agent Targets
NFL free agency finally kicks off next week. For Detroit Lions fans, that means the three-month wait is finally over, and we can fully immerse ourselves in the pros and cons of each target without sounding desperate.
Actually, it's the NFL. Every team that didn't just win the Super Bowl is desperate.
Heck, even the winner is usually desperate. Nothing lasts long in professional football.
Wow, I got way off topic. Click through for one final breakdown of some of the top targets from other teams on the Lions' radar.
All advanced stats, rankings and grades are courtesy of Pro Football Focus and require a subscription.
Wide Receiver Hakeem Nicks
Nicks is a talented and experienced wide receiver (read: proven) who is still only 26 years old with five seasons already under his belt.
The normally sure-handed receiver stormed the league with 24 touchdowns in his first three years and his career 14.9-yards average will give Matthew Stafford another deep weapon.
As alluded to above, Nicks isn't always on top of his game. Last year saw him drop seven passes on his way to zero touchdowns.
There's also a chance that Nicks will be expensive, as he's been linked to every team in the NFL and a few in the CFL. I haven't found a source to back up that last claim but it sure seems like the truth.
Additionally, Nicks has never finished a complete season and spends quite a bit of time on the injury list. That's a tough sell when the Lions need someone who can be consistent opposite the oft-ailing Calvin Johnson.
The talent isn't enough to outweigh the possible negative factors of health and fiscal investment.
Wide Receiver Jacoby Jones
The Baltimore Ravens need all the receiver help they can get, but they still haven't locked down unrestricted free agent Jacoby Jones. Could he provide the threat the Lions lack?
Jones is a versatile player who has lined up at wide receiver, returned kicks and punts, and could presumably shift inside a bit.
The possibly former Raven would also come cheaper than Nicks since he doesn't have his upside. He's also a bit more reliable with only seven dropped passes in the last three years.
One of the biggest reasons Jones' future isn't as bright is his advanced age. The 29-year-old wide receiver is who he is at this point, and that's a guy who can go quiet for long stretches considering he had five games with two or fewer catches.
Additionally, he isn't a red-zone threat as he averages just two touchdowns a year.
If the price tag is right, Jones could return to his best role as a third wideout and help move the chains.
Defensive End Jared Allen
Jared Allen harassed the Lions for the past six years as a member of the Minnesota Vikings. Could he reverse course and start taking to it his former employer twice a year as a Lion?
The Lions don't have anybody on the ends who is a proven pass-rusher. There is hope for the youngsters like Ezekiel Ansah, but Allen would be a bona fide threat who would have led the Lions with his 13 sacks last year.
The market for aging defensive ends hasn't been very strong the past few years, meaning general manager Martin Mayhew might find a steal if he holds out.
The unfortunate downside to breaking down Allen's continued production is finding a boom-or-bust player. He posted six negative grades lower than minus-1.0 as well as six positive grades greater than 1.0. He's either dominant or dormant.
If he's cheap, say $3 million or so, the Lions would have to entertain the prospect. Can they really count on Jason Jones and Devin Taylor if Willie Young doesn't return?
Cornerback Charles Tillman
Need another unfriendly face? Former Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman is a free agent and might fit an immediate need for the Lions.
Detroit was quite mediocre in terms of forcing turnovers. Their 22 last year was 56 less than Tillman has created over his 11-year career.
Tillman has also proven himself against elite receivers. No one player has been as consistently successful when facing off against Megatron.
Tillman's veteran experience also comes with the price of his age (33) and the body that accompanies all of that playing time. In fact, he only appeared in eight games last year.
In addition to finding a salary that could entice Tillman to Motown, his addition could come at the cost of Detroit's young talent. If Tillman starts, that pushes Darius Slay and Bill Bentley down a notch, making it more difficult to figure out what the Lions have in their green cornerbacks.
The Lions would be better off fielding their unproven depth than bringing in the aging veteran.
Safety James Ihedigbo
He may not be familiar to you, but James Ihedigbo will strike a cord with defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. Would a reunion in Detroit make sense?
He would be able to step into Louis Delmas' place as a strong presence against the run. His 78 tackles dwarf Delmas' 60, and he allowed only one touchdown in the passing game last year.
Ihedigbo's familiarity with Austin's style will certainly give him an edge as he looks to build on his best season. He also has playoff experience as a member of the Super Bowl winning Ravens of two years ago.
Despite his thumping style against the run, Ihedigbo was pretty rough in coverage last year. He earned a negative 5.8 coverage grade that ranked as the 73rd worst performance among safeties.
Detroit did fine against the run last year. The same can't be said for their passing prowess. Some past relationships are better left as memories.