Still unsettled with his depth at cornerback, Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew went down a familiar road and brought back a veteran with previous ties to the Lions.
According to Tim Twentyman of the Lions official site, Mayhew signed 33-year-old cornerback Drayton Florence on Thursday, just two days before the Lions kick off the preseason schedule against the Cleveland Browns.
The #Lions have signed CB Drayton Florence. He was with Detroit two years ago. Played for Carolina last season.— Tim Twentyman (@ttwentyman) August 7, 2014
The signing marks the second time in as many Augusts that Mayhew has signed a veteran cornerback. Halfway through the month last summer, the Lions gambled on then-32-year-old Rashean Mathis, who won a job and then eventually established himself as a key part of the Detroit defense. He is now penciled in as a starter at one cornerback spot for the 2014 season.
Florence, who spent 2013 with the Carolina Panthers, previously played in Detroit during the 2012 season. He saw time in just eight games and made three starts, with seven passes defended and one interception.
His return to Detroit is a clear sign that Mayhew and the Lions aren't yet satisfied with how the cornerback group looks.
Mathis, now 33, and Darius Slay, a second-round pick from a season ago, should be cemented in as starters, while fourth-round pick Nevin Lawson and veterans Dwight Bentley and Cassius Vaughn figure to have the inside track at roster spots.
Chris Houston, a mainstay of the Detroit secondary since 2010, was released in June.
Florence may end up battling with Jonte Green and Chris Underwood—two young cornerbacks with limited experience—for a place on the final 53-man roster.
The timing of the signing—after several days of camp—suggests Florence will get a legitimate crack at making the team.
Last season, Florence played in 14 games and made five starts for the Panthers. He defended nine attempts, picked off two passes and scored one touchdown—a 38-yard pick-six of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
Advanced statistics were kind to Florence's 2013 season.
According to Pro Football Focus, Florence finished last season ranked No. 19 overall among cornerbacks. He played 600 snaps and allowed a 54.4 completion percentage (29th) and 68.8 passer rating (16th).
|Total||NFL CB Rank||DET Leader|
|Comp %||54.4||29th||Mathis (48.7)|
|Yards Allowed||413||27th||Bentley (369)|
|Passer Rating Against||68.8||16th||Mathis (83.9)|
|Passes Defensed||9||76th (tied)||Mathis (15)|
|Tackle Efficiency||13.5||17th||Mathis (8.7)|
|PFF Rating||+8.0||19th||Mathis (+6.2)|
Source: Pro Football Focus
Mathis, Detroit's highest ranked corner from 2013, finished No. 26.
As Carolina's nickel cornerback, Florence spent the majority of his time working on the perimeter. Just four of his 600 snaps came against the slot, as Captain Munnerlyn handled nearly all of the interior duties.
Florence is also a willing tackler, having finished last season ranked 17th among cornerbacks in tackling efficiency. He missed just two total tackles.
He'll now have a shot to win a job for a secondary that finished 23rd in passing yards allowed and 19th in opposing passer rating in 2013. The Lions made very few big moves at the position, save for spending a fourth-round pick on Lawson and cutting Houston.
There's always the chance that at age 33, Florence's skills have eroded. Rarely are impact players available at this point in August, when 32 teams with 90 roster spots can offer 2,880 jobs. Still, very few thought Mathis was going to make a difference last August, and he ended up as Detroit's best corner in 2013.
Florence can't be expected to do the same, but he does add veteran depth for a position the Lions clearly don't feel comfortable with. Yet.
Zach Kruse covers the NFC North for Bleacher Report.