After finishing a regular season which lacked a single cheer, the Detroit Lions started the offseason making a lot of noise.
First, came the hiring of new head coach Jim Swartz. Followed closely by the acquisitions of Bryant Johnson, Grady Jackson, and Phillip Buchanon, who all signed with Detroit as unrestricted free agents.
Once the free agent signing spree slowed, Detroit General Manager Martin Mayhew made two additional acquisitions via trade. In late March, the Lions sent former starting quarterback Jon Kitna to Dallas in exchange for cornerback Anthony Henry. Defensive tackle Cory Redding was also dealt, going to Seattle for linebacker Julian Peterson.
Obviously, the move which received the most headlines was selecting quarterback Matthew Stafford, with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft.
All of the above, combined with a recent logo and uniform change, had people in Detroit talking about the 2009 season, not the infamous 0-16 blemish of a year ago.
The Lions also made three critical roster changes in May and June, that I think will make a big impact on this team in 2009.
Detroit native Larry Foote left Pittsburgh and signed a one-year contract with the Lions. Foote will play middle linebacker for Detroit this season, filling what was a glaring weakness in the Lions' defense.
As a five-year starter at inside linebacker (2004-2008) with the Steelers, Foote ranked among the team leaders in tackles for his final four seasons and led the team in tackles in both the 2005 regular season (123) and postseason (24). At the age of 29-years-old, the eight-year pro still has a lot of football left in him.
On June 1st, the Lions added another local talent to their roster. Former University of Michigan standout offensive lineman Jon Jansen signed a one-year deal with Detroit. Jansen has spent his entire professional career with the Washington Redskins, who released him this year do to growing concerns over his health.
Jansen, a former Pro Bowl selection, has missed the majority of the last two seasons with nagging injuries. Yet, he claims he is in good health and ready to compete this season. If Jansen is indeed healthy, he will start for the Lions in 2009. Possibly replacing Jeff Backus at left tackle.
A month later, Mayhew made another trade. Sending safety Gerald Alexander to the Jacksonville Jaguars in return for Dennis Northcutt.
Northcutt has spent the majority of his career with the Cleveland Browns. Where he was an outstanding punt returner and a capable wide receiver.
While the Lions don't plan on using him too much in the passing game, he will bring an element back to Detroit's special teams unit that it hasn't had since Desmond Howard dawned the Honolulu blue and silver seven years ago.
Although these three acquisitions did not receive much ink in the media world, and were left out of most sports talk show conversations, they will be crucial to Detroit's performace this season.