Moves the Detroit Lions Will Regret Not Making This Offseason
It has been a busy NFL offseason for the Detroit Lions. The Lions made several moves to help improve the team and position it for success going forward, highlighted by signing wide receiver Golden Tate (pictured).
Yet there were other moves where Detroit didn't pull the trigger. While all the roads not traveled wouldn't necessarily lead to success, it's hard to look at some of the missed opportunities and not wonder what could have been.
Hindsight will prove 20/20 in the end, and looking ahead is still a bit fuzzy. Yet here are five moves the Detroit Lions will wish they had made this offseason.
Not Getting Ndamukong Suh a New Deal
This is the keystone of all the missed opportunities. Failing to reach a contract extension with star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh inhibited the ability for the Lions to accomplish much more than they already have.
In fact, the inability to get a new deal done with Suh largely prevented many of the other potential moves here.
Suh's massive $22.4 million blot on the 2014 salary cap ties up the team's spending ability. A contract extension would spread out his cap hit over several seasons, thus freeing general manager Martin Mayhew to spend some of that money on other assets.
The negotiations have been more hot and cold than a Katy Perry tune. Suh had a lengthy agent search that held up early talks, but the discussions still appear trapped in molasses:
Every day that ticks by continues to shift the leverage firmly into Suh's favor. Mayhew and team president Tom Lewand have already trimmed all the available other fat off the roster. Any more cuts are really going to hurt.
Suh's camp holds the winning hand right now. That can only mean the price will be higher than it could have been with an earlier accord.
Had the two sides reached a deal before the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, or the onset of free agency, the Lions could have been much more active players in the free-agent market.
Not Making a Change at Tight End
Detroit brought back erstwhile starting tight end Brandon Pettigrew with a four-year, $16 million deal after the veteran couldn't find greener pastures in free agency.
While that deal is relatively reasonable for a tight end of Pettigrew's caliber, the Lions should have gone in a different, and cheaper, direction.
With the emergence of rookie Joseph Fauria as a red-zone demon and all-around receiving threat, Pettigrew's role in the Detroit offense is likely to be focused on blocking.
There were other, more appealing options.
Jeff Cumberland re-signed with the New York Jets for three years and $5.7 million. While he's not much of a blocker, as noted by B/R's Ryan Alfieri, he is a player the Jets are counting on to make a big leap to succeed Kellen Winslow's role as the primary tight end.
A player with that sort of talent, for a significantly lower price tag, would have been nicer than the same old Pettigrew. As noted by one clever Twitter follower of B/R's Michael Schottey, Pettigrew's hands aren't exactly reliable...
re: Pettigrew nicknames, well-played. RT @Chadwickett: Droptimus Prime is my favorite— Michael Schottey (@Schottey) March 14, 2014
There were other more appealing, less expensive tight end options too:
- John Carlson, signed for two years and $4.65 million in Arizona
- Ben Hartsock, still unsigned
- Clay Harbor, re-signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars for two years and $3.5 million
All those options, as well as Cumberland, rated higher on Pro Football Focus' (subscription required) tight end scoring than Pettigrew. He signed for more money than all of the others combined.
Being More Aggressive in the Safety Market
Cutting longtime starting safety Louis Delmas created an opening that the Lions looked to quickly fill in free agency. However, after the initial free-agency dust settled, the Lions were still in search of a starting-caliber safety.
Detroit did finally come to terms with former Raven James Ihedigbo, but that only came after courting several other free agents.
Both Chris Clemons (pictured) and Thomas DeCoud visited Detroit, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, after the free-agency signing period began, but neither left team headquarters with a contract.
Failing to Add a Linebacker
One of the prevailing themes of Detroit's offseason is that new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin wants to add a legitimate third starting linebacker.
Mayhew talked about it during his combine press conference, available on the team's website. More recently, as reported by Kyle Meinke of MLive.com, head coach Jim Caldwell mentioned the need to upgrade the pass rush by adding a "flamethrower" of an outside linebacker.
The free-agent options were not strong to begin with. Guys like Calvin Pace, Shaun Phillips and Mike Neal aren't exactly needle-movers, but all represent pass-rushing upgrades over the likes of holdovers Ashlee Palmer (pictured) or Tahir Whitehead.
With Suh's aforementioned contract situation still unresolved, the Lions have no ability to even scrap the heap for limited players like James Harrison or James Anderson.
This is one area where the draft can ease the pain of missing out in free agency or make Mayhew look prescient in waiting. Here are outside linebacker options for each of the first four rounds:
- First round: Anthony Barr or Khalil Mack
- Second round: Kyle Van Noy, Demarcus Lawrence or Carl Bradford
- Third round: Jordan Tripp, Trevor Reilly, Telvin Smith or Marcus Smith
- Fourth Round: Shaq Barrett, Christian Jones, Ronald Powell or Howard Jones
Some of those players offer versatility to play either defensive end or linebacker. Of course, that blessing can also be the "tweener" curse. If that winds up being the case, Lions fans are going to rue not addressing the outside linebacker need more prominently.
Still No Proven Kicker
Pop quiz, hotshot...if the season started today, name Detroit's starting placekicker. No Google or Bing allowed.
If you didn't name either Giorgio Tavecchio or John Potter, you're not alone.
Right now, those two would stage a camp battle to be the rightful heir to the 30-plus-year throne of Eddie Murray and Jason Hanson. Let's just forget about the underwhelming David Akers experiment of 2013.
It would help erase Akers' performance if the Lions had made a bolder statement than sticking with two unestablished youngsters on futures contracts. But that's where Detroit sits today.
Granted, the free-agent-kicker market wasn't exactly hopping. Of the top 13 free-agent kickers, according to Rotoworld, per Nick Mensio, all but three re-signed with their old teams. One of the three unsigned is Akers, who will not be back.
Now the Lions are going to go to battle with the Tavecchio/Potter winner or, perhaps, a rookie like Cairo Santos or Jeff Budzien.
Maybe, just maybe, last season's preseason fan sensation "Kickalicious," aka Havard Rugland, will make a triumphant return. Even so, the Lions will not have any experienced options to line up for game-winning kicks this fall.
All contract information is from Spotrac. You can follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffRisdon.