NFL Around the League first reported the news Thursday:
Lions sign CB Drayton Florence. He was in Detroit in 2012, played for Carolina in 2013.— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) August 7, 2014
Florence could serve as a veteran replacement for Chris Houston, whom the Lions released earlier in the offseason.
The 33-year-old cornerback has enjoyed a long and productive NFL career. He's racked up 20 interceptions and 104 passes defensed over the course of 11 seasons as both an outside corner and nickelback. Florence should also have some level of familiarity with the organization, having played for the Lions in 2012.
Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press gave his insight on the Florence signing:
Florence adds some depth to the thinnest position on the team.— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) August 7, 2014
We talked about him here a little bit last week, he'll compete with Cassius Vaughn and Jonte Green for the No 4 CB spot— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) August 7, 2014
The Lions could be a very dangerous team in the NFC North if they can get a productive season from the secondary. They went 7-9 in 2013 and gave up 246.9 passing yards per game, 10th worst in the league, per NFL.com. However, they ranked 14th in the league in opposing quarterback rating (85.0), which shows the team may not be that far off from developing an above-average pass defense.
Florence should be able to shore up a secondary that has a few concerns despite the level of talent already in camp. Former Pro Bowl cornerback Rashean Mathis is the headliner of the Lions' current group, but he is 33 years old and hasn't recorded an interception since the 2011 season.
Mathis has also missed 12 games over the past three seasons, so there are some durability concerns as well. Florence has the same age concerns as Mathis, but he's played in at least 13 games in all but one of his professional seasons, which was coincidentally with Detroit.
Darius Slay is a promising young cornerback, but the 23-year-old started just four games as a rookie and will need to show improvement to cement his status as a sure-fire starter.
Florence's versatility and experience should push Slay and third-year pro Bill Bentley to develop as corners while also providing the team the coverage and depth it needs at this crucial position. With an explosive offense featuring the likes of Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush, a ball-hawking secondary could allow the team to quickly improve upon last year's disappointing losing record.