Every summer after the NBA and NHL seasons have finished and the only sport left is baseball, it becomes time to convince myself that the Detroit Lions have finally made strides towards becoming a competitive football team. This offseason is no different.
Landing the top pick in the draft is small consolation for the 0-16 stinker of a season the Lions put out in 2008, and the Lions had little choice but to draft QB Mathew Stafford.
Trading drop-happy receiver Roy Williams to the Cowboys for 1st and 3rd round picks looks like quite a steal for the Lions, especially following his poor production with Dallas.
Although I was openly pulling for Rey Maualuga to be the other 1st round choice, I was pleasantly surprised when the pick was used on TE Brandon Pettigrew. A good blocker with solid pass catching ability, Pettigrew should help Stafford grow quickly into a quality NFL quarterback.
Another move that will help Stafford is the signing of former all-pro offensive tackle Jon Jansen. The Lions offensive line the past couple of years has been one of the worst in the league and adding Jansen significantly upgrades the unit immediately.
Signing wide receivers Ronald Curry and Bryant Johnson, to compliment big play threat Calvin Johnson, also appears to be a positive move. Easing the development for Matthew Stafford.
A lesser publicized move was signing hard nosed blocking fullback Terrelle Smith. I love this move and expect to see fewer negative plays in the running game. Kevin Smith and Maurice Morris should benefit greatly and form a worthy 1-2 punch on the ground.
Trading overrated and underproductive Cory Redding to Seattle for Julian Peterson just about made me jump out of my seat. Peterson has been a pro bowl caliber player for his entire career and this looks like another great move for Detroit.
In addition to Peterson, Detroit also signed line backer Larry Foote, who played last season with the super bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. The line backing unit of Peterson, Foote, and Ernie Sims should be one of the best in the division.
Pulling one over on Dallas again, the Lions shipped off disgruntled QB Jon Kitna for defensive back Anthony Henry, a solid turnover producer throughout his career.
One interesting move is the signing of defensive tackle Grady Jackson, who weighs in at over 340 pounds. The Lions really lacked a presence in the middle last year after trading away the monster that is Shaun Rogers. Jackson is on the downside of his career and may only be used as a space filler, hopefully slowing the oppositions run game.
Phillip Buchanon was signed away from Tampa Bay and could step in immediately as a return specialist. His top competition as a returner could come from rookie Derrick Williams from Penn State. Buchanan also could be the nickel corner and has shown the ability to pick off some passes.
The moves this offseason really seem to put the Lions in a better position to improve than in previous offseasons and I wonder how much that has to do with the departure of Matt Millen.
It really seems like Millens replacement, Martin Mayhew, has a well thought out game plan for straightening out this debacle of a franchise.
Unfortunately, the first step is simply getting the Lions to the point where they're no longer the laughingstock of the league. Something I feel Mayhew will have accomplished by the end of this upcoming season.
Winning in the NFL still comes down to the simple things like winning the turnover battle, converting your third down attempts, and shutting down your opponents on third down.
I'm not going to get ahead of myself and predict playoffs or anything, but I think a 6-7 win season is possible, opening things up for another year of improvement.
Whether it's Stafford or Daunte Culpepper under center, the team should be much improved, although it would be nearly impossible NOT to improve on 0-16.