Fans and media around this time normally are speculating about new draft and free-agent options for the Detroit Lions. Given the team's winning ways and current playoff pursuit, the regular offseason chatter has been extremely quiet.
However, it's never too soon to look forward to the future, right?
The Lions are sitting with a 10-4 record and a first-place spot in the NFC North with two games left on the schedule. Looking ahead, this team is not a finished product. With free agency coming into play, injuries and age, this front office will have a lot of holes to fill.
We all know Detroit drafts according to the best options available, but here are the biggest positions in need of an upgrade after the 2014-15 season.
1. Offensive Line
Last season, the Lions were one of the NFL's best in terms of protecting their franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford. They only surrendered 23 sacks and 68 hits. Fast forwarding to this year, it's been a completely different story.
Stafford has been sacked 39 times and has been hit 80 times. Detroit's offensive line has vastly underachieved, and the play and health of the protection has been a major reason why.
The Lions have dealt with too many injuries on the offensive line this season. They lost tackle Corey Hilliard for the season after he injured his foot in Week 1, per Kyle Meinke of MLive.com. Detroit has also dealt with injuries to linemen Riley Reiff, Larry Warford and LaAdrian Waddle who also is done for the season after tearing his ACL against the Vikings, per Dave Birkett of Detroit Free Press.
Detroit will definitely be in the hunt for new young linemen this offseason. Guard Rob Sims and longtime center Dominic Raiola are both free agents at the end of the year. Rookies Cornelius Lucas and Travis Swanson have shown they need more time to develop. Look for the Lions to add more help sooner rather than later.
2. Defensive Line
For years, the focal point and driving force of Detroit's defense has been its front four. They've been one of the most productive and fearsome units, which has resulted in the Lions forming the No. 1 defense in the NFL.
Looking at the Lions' upcoming free agents, however, their biggest questions arguably concern the future of their defensive line.
The talk of the town has been whether star tackle Ndamukong Suh will return to Detroit next season. Rumors have run wild all season on other possible destinations, per Adam Schefter of ESPN, but Suh has kept his future plans extremely quiet thus far.
After watching defensive superstar J.J. Watt cash in on a monster deal, per Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com, it's clear retaining Suh won't be cheap or easy. The Lions made it pretty difficult on themselves by waiting so long to negotiate a deal, so as time goes on, more leverage will side with Suh.
Defensive ends Jason Jones and Ziggy Ansah are the only linemen under contract with the Lions next season. Linemen George Johnson, Nick Fairley and C.J. Mosley will all be free agents this coming offseason along with Suh. It's hard to imagine each one of these players returning next season, so expect some new faces to be added to the front four during the draft.
The Lions passed on a first-round cornerback in the last draft in favor of tight end Eric Ebron. Coming into the year, Detroit was extremely thin in the secondary, and it got even tougher in the first few weeks.
Young cornerback Bill Bentley and rookie Nevin Lawson ended their seasons on a short note due to injuries. Bentley tore his ACL in the season opener, and Lawson dislocated his foot the very next week against the Carolina Panthers, per Sean Yuille of SB Nation.
While dealing with those injuries, however, the Lions have witnessed growth and production from their secondary. Budding cornerback Darius Slay has made tremendous strides since his rookie year last season with 15 passes deflected and two interceptions.
After trying to find a formidable safety tandem for years, Detroit has finally struck gold with Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo paired together. The two have combined for a league-best 10 interceptions between them.
Even with the team's success, the Lions haven't seen enough from Bentley or Lawson to know how they'll be in the future. Veteran Rashean Mathis is 34 and will be a free agent at the end of the season. The Lions could certainly be in search of some help at corner, especially with a deep class this offseason.