Michael Perez/Associated Press
We kick things off with the most surprising move of the offseason—Chris Houston's release.
The "mutual" decision, as Houston told Ryan Autullo of the Austin American-Statesman, signaled the end of Houston's four-year tenure and raised a multitude of questions about the Lions' cornerback depth.
The most prominent being are the Lions really willing to run with the second-year Darius Slay and an aging Rashean Mathis as the starters?
With Brandon Flowers off to San Diego, it appears the answer is yes. That could be viewed as a negative, but Slay's offseason is inspiring hope that he can capitalize on his potential. In that same vein of hope, Detroit is betting that Mathis will continue the pace set by his resurgent 2013.
The lack of depth should still concern the faithful until we see both in pads. However, this decision made to cut because Houston's injury is something he's been dealing with since high school, per Mlive.com's Gillian Van Stratt. Plus, toe recoveries have a difficult-to-peg recovery time, meaning Houston may not have contributed at all this year.
So the front office ripped off the band-aid in one pull. The Lions will absorb the $1.3 million cap hit in 2014 and endure a further $3.9 million punishment in 2015, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. While the dead money is tough to swallow, the uncertainty of whether Houston could recover any time soon made it a necessity. You can't carry a $5-million-a-year player without any confirmation of his future.
Plus, the Lions were able to sign first-round pick Eric Ebron under contract with the $3.5 million. And in turn, the move meant the Lions aren't under the gun to reach an extension with Ndamukong Suh anymore. The Houston release, in a roundabout way, gave them the tiniest bit of leverage in the ongoing negotiations.
Houston had some good years in Detroit, like when he only allowed opposing passer to post ratings of 65.9 in 2011 and 78.7 in 2012. But his lingering toe injury, combined with a defense that will require a more attacking style from their cornerbacks, especially with his No. 1 cornerback contract, required the Lions to remember the fun times fondly while making the best decision regarding their future.