Pros and Cons of the Detroit Lions Pursuing CB Brandon Flowers

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Pros and Cons of the Detroit Lions Pursuing CB Brandon Flowers
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The Detroit Lions are deciding internally whether or not the club wants to make a legitimate offer to Pro Bowl cornerback Brandon Flowers, who was released by the Kansas City Chiefs last Friday. 

According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, the Lions are "seriously considering" taking their best shot at signing Flowers:

Detroit will have company in their pursuit. Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reported the Lions are one of 10 teams that have "reached out" to Flowers. Despite interest from the likes of Detroit, Baltimore, Minnesota and Atlanta, Wilson maintains that discussions remain at an infant stage, and that a deal is not imminent

Flowers, who turned 28 years old in February, made his first career Pro Bowl in 2013. He was scheduled to enter the fourth year of a six-year, $49.35 million extension he signed with Kansas City, but a decline in performance and fit within the Chiefs defense made Flowers expendable. 

The Lions are likely players for Flowers in part because they did their own housecleaning on Friday, when Detroit cut cornerback Chris Houston. Over the last four years, Houston played more snaps than any other Lions cornerback. 

Below, we will run down the pros and cons of the Lions' run at Flowers. 

 

Pros

Lions Need CB Help

"Need" is probably a strong word here, as the Lions have some young, interesting pieces at the cornerback position. Darius Slay is a second-round pick (2013) who is expected to start, and the likes of Bill Bentley (third round, 2012), Nevin Lawson (fourth round, 2014) and Chris Greenwood (fifth round, 2012) were picked in the first five rounds of recent drafts. There is young depth at the position. 

However, with young depth almost always comes great uncertainty. As it stands now, Slay will start opposite veteran Rashean Mathis, with Bentley, Lawson and 26-year-old Cassius Vaughn in the running for the third corner slot. It's a group with promise, but also one that could get beat up pretty badly if things go south next season. 

Detroit Lions: Current Cornerbacks
Career Games INTs Passed Defended
R. Mathis* 152 30 118
D. Slay 13 0 5
B. Bentley 17 0 5
C. Greenwood 3 0 0
J. Green 24 1 7
C. Vaughn 54 5 19
N. Lawson 0 N/A N/A
A. Hester 0 N/A N/A
M. Seisay 0 N/A N/A

*Only CB on the roster over 26 years old

Adding Flowers would give the Lions a steadying presence. A second-round pick in 2008, Flowers has started 87 games over the last six seasons. Over that span, he has 17 interceptions, 93 passes defended and three defensive touchdowns.

Remember, the Lions play in one of the most receiver-heavy divisions in football. Flowers might not solve all their problems in the secondary, but he'd provide another veteran presence to help combat the passing arsenals in the NFC North. 

 

Flowers' History

Rare are the opportunities when 28-year-old Pro Bowl cornerbacks become available in June. The Chiefs made a football and business decision in letting him go, but let's not forget Flowers is just one year removed from being widely considered one of the game's top 10 cornerbacks. 

Over a four-year stretch from 2009 to 2012, Flowers received top-seven grades at his position during every season from Pro Football Focus (subscription required). He ranked fifth among cornerbacks in 2009 and 2011, second in 2010 and seventh in 2012. He fell all the way to 87th last season, but still made the Pro Bowl—likely on the back of his previous seasons. 

In Focus: Brandon Flowers' Career, Via PFF
Snaps Passer Rating Against PFF Grade CB Rank
2008 835 72.9 -5.9 96th
2009 1016 65.0 +18.5 5th
2010 985 65.0 +20.2 2nd
2011 996 90.6 +12.0 5th
2012 882 65.6 +13.7 7th
2013 887 103.9 -5.9 87th

Source: Pro Football Focus

One could argue Flowers has hit his peak and is now in decline. It's possible his best days are in the rearview mirror. But might one miserable season after four elite years point to 2013 being more of an anomaly than the start of a trend? For a team like the Lions, it's probably worth finding out. 

Believe it or not, the Lions haven't used a first-round pick on a cornerback since Terry Fair in 1998. Now, Detroit could have an opportunity to add a player that has performed like a first-rounder for several years. It's an attractive option for a club that isn't far away from becoming a major player in the NFC. 

Also, keep this in mind: Lions senior defensive assistant Gunther Cunningham was in Kansas City in 2008, the year Flowers was drafted. There should be a level of familiarity with the player inside Detroit's coaches room. 

 

Cons

Poor Fit?

Flowers makes sense for Detroit on paper, as we alluded to above. He's a talented (and available) player at a position of need. But does he fit what the Lions want to do on the field?

According to Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star, Flowers was released in part because he no longer fit into the Chiefs defense, which required its cornerbacks to play press-man coverage. The 5'9", 187-pound Flowers struggled with jamming and rerouting receivers at the line of scrimmage in Bob Sutton's defense.

The Lions, for all intents and purposes, are likely to be a heavy press team in 2014 under new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. 

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"I feel like we'll press more this year," Slay said back in March, via Kyle Meinke of MLive.com. "Way, way more. Probably every play."

Signing Flowers could be fitting a square peg into a round hole for the Lions, who now want to play a style of defense that history has shown is a problem for the smallish Flowers. Detroit needs big, physical cornerbacks to play Austin's way.

And there'd likely be few solutions from having him man the slot, his most likely position in Detroit. Plugging Flowers inside, where his ability against the run can be maximized, creates other problems, as he also struggled covering the slot last season. According to Pro Football Focus, Flowers allowed 33 receptions on 48 targets for 345 yards and one score against the slot in 2013. His passer rating against finished at 96.5, only a tick better than Detroit's man slot corner last season (Bentley, 100.7). 

The Lions' pursuit of Flowers is evidence that the club thinks he could fit into Austin's defense. Austin might be driving the pursuit, but everything about the situation from an on-the-field perspective points to a poor overall fit between Flowers and the Lions. 

 

Money Talks

Money plays a factor in every negotiation, and the simple fact remains that Detroit has very little of it to offer. In fact, the team needed to release Houston last Friday in order to get first-round pick Eric Ebron under contract. Could the Lions even make Flowers a competitive offer?

USA TODAY Sports
Flowers was a Pro Bowler in 2013.

More than likely, most of the nine teams in contact with Flowers will have more cap room to work out a deal. The Lions have roughly $2 million left under the cap, which doesn't allow much wiggle room in terms of developing an attractive offer. If another club expresses strong desire to sign Flowers, the Lions will be mostly helpless in winning a bidding war. 

It's also worth wondering how much the Lions actually value Flowers. 

According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the Lions don't view Flowers as a "sure-fire solution to their secondary woes," and internal opinions remain split on whether or not he's a fit for the defense. That doesn't sound like a strong endorsement for Detroit making a financial investment in him. 

The Lions are not in a strong negotiating position to acquire a player like Flowers, who is clearly coveted around the league. If there's indecision inside the Lions about his fit, there's likely to be a team or two with more cap space willing to sign him first. 

 

Zach Kruse covers the NFC North for Bleacher Report. 

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