Rounding Up Detroit Lions' Offseason Buzz, Post-Minicamps
The Detroit Lions don't have any more team activities until training camp kicks off next month, and so we are left with a choice.
Do we bemoan our lack of fresh material to break down or do we celebrate what we have and dig into the latest buzz surrounding the NFL franchise from Detroit?
Let's go with the glass-is-half-full approach. People with sunny dispositions and a positive outlook on life live nine years longer than curmudgeons (per absolutely nothing).
Whatever your motivation is for diving in, click through to find out the five stories buzzing around the Lions, post-minicamps.
Is Brandon Flowers a Possibility?
As soon as Brandon Flowers hit the open market, rumors started flying about his potential landing spots. Not surprisingly, Detroit was, and is, a heavily speculated destination for the seemingly high-profile cornerback.
But before the fanbase starts jumping for joy, let's dive deeper into why a franchise would cut a "Pro Bowl corner" in the prime of his career.
Flowers has regularly ranked among the best at his position, finishing in the top seven of Pro Football Focus' position rankings four straight years from 2009 to 2012. However, last season was easily his worst outing since his rookie year, and also, coincidentally, his only Pro Bowl season, thus the quotes.
He allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete two-thirds of their passes targeted on his man, resulting in a jaw-dropping 101.6 quarterback rating. Even worse, he allowed as many touchdowns as passes defensed (5) and only recorded two interceptions (one in the playoffs).
For comparison purposes, Chris Houston's allowed completion percentage was six points lower, and his allowed passer rating only six points higher. And nobody would have put Houston in the 2014 Pro Bowl.
The culprit? The new coaching staff's press-man style defense, an approach similar to the one brought to town by defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.
Darius Slay Is Prepared for a Bigger Role
So if the Lions bringing in Flowers isn't the answer to Detroit's cornerback problem, where should the Lions turn? Free agency? A trade?
By all the accounts that have streamed out of Allen Park, the patch might already be on the roster, because Darius Slay has been announcing his presence with his play.
By now, many of you know that Slay spent time with Hall of Fame defensive back Rod Woodson this offseason, breaking down tape and learning the tricks of the trade. It appears to be working, as Kyle Meinke of Mlive.com pointed out, which has been corroborated by MLive colleague Justin Rogers and the Free Press' Drew Sharp.
Slay was a second-round pick for a reason. He has good size (6'1", 190 pounds) and blazing speed, as indicated by his 4.36 40-yard dash at the combine (per NFL.com).
But the key word that keeps coming up this offseason is confidence. The transition to the NFL is tough for most positions, but none more so than cornerback, and confidence has a lot to do with that.
Besides the lessons from Woodson, Austin's press-man system is a great fit for Slay. He won't have to think as much as he did in the prior zone-based scheme, meaning he can get out of his head and onto the field.
If Slay can continue to just play football, his confidence and his impact will continue to build in a defense that sets him up to succeed. And that could be one of the final pieces Detroit needs for its playoff puzzle.
Theo Riddick Wants a Piece of the Action Too
Another youngster making waves this offseason has been running back Theo Riddick.
My favorite sleeper for the upcoming season: DET RB Theo Riddick— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) June 2, 2014
In the former system, that type of performance might have gone wasted, but Joe Lombardi will be borrowing heavily from the New Orleans style he learned under Sean Payton. Last year alone, the Saints gave four running backs at least 50 carries.
This seems to be a perfect marriage of talent, hard work and opportunity. If Riddick can seize the moment, the Lions' offensive quiver will go from full to overflowing.
Ndamukong Suh Still Hasn't Signed an Extension
Arguably the biggest concern facing the Lions heading into the offseason was Ndamukong Suh's $22.4 million cap hit. The number is cap-stifling at best and also leaves the Lions without any insurance on their best player if he decides to walk next season.
Four and a half months after the Super Bowl, Suh and the Lions are in the exact same place.
Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com reports that the two sides are still talking about the deal and also attempts to bring the fans back from the ledge by reminding them that quarterback Matthew Stafford's deal didn't get done until the summer.
The reminder does help reduce the collective heartburn among the fans, but it does little for Detroit's salary cap.
What wasn't included in our Brandon Flowers discussion was the money required to sign him. The release of Chris Houston cleared enough space to sign tight end Eric Ebron, but it certainly didn't give Detroit enough room to give Flowers the type of money he is likely to require.
According to OverTheCap.com, Detroit currently only has $406,300 to play around with. The minimum salary for a veteran with six years of experience is $730,000, per spotrac.com. Without a Suh extension and thus a lessening of his immense cap hit, Detroit won't be able to make any play for the cornerback.
The Rookies Aren't Being Handed Anything
The consensus after the Lions moved up to take linebacker Kyle Van Noy was that Ashlee Palmer's days as a starter were numbered. The same conclusion was drawn when Detroit drafted kicker Nate Freese in the final round.
Well, not that Freese would take Palmer's spot. You know what I mean.
Anyway, it appears that neither will be handed the spot they desire without first earning it.
The Free Press' Dave Birkett passed on that Palmer has had a strong offseason. He isn't sulking about his lot but rather battling to keep his first team reps that he's garnered thus far.
Palmer's attitude is impressive. However, it remains to be seen whether he has improved enough to keep the talented, versatile Van Noy off the field. Palmer is probably better suited as a valuable reserve and possibly as a run-stuffing rotation player, and that's likely how this will all play out.
As for Freese, the reports are slightly more concerning. If he doesn't beat out Giorgio Tavecchio for the starting kicking slot, he will be out of a job altogether.
After connecting on all 20 of his attempts in college, Freese missed a couple during OTAs. However, it was Tavecchio's turn for a disappointing performance during minicamp, as he missed at least two field goals, according to ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein.
The Detroit-invested-a-draft-pick argument for Freese to win the job is short-sighted. Head coach Jim Caldwell and general manager Martin Mayhew do not care about the pedigree of seventh-rounders, only wins.
Brandon Alisoglu is a Detroit Lions featured columnist who has written about the Lions on multiple sites. He also co-hosts a Lions-centric podcast, Lions Central Radio. Yell at him on Twitter about how wrong he is @BrandonAlisoglu.
All statistics, rankings and grades are courtesy of ProFootballFocus.com and require a subscription.
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