Nate Burleson Destined To Fail with Detroit Lions

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Nate Burleson Destined To Fail with Detroit Lions
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

A weekend into the NFL’s free agency season, the Detroit Lions deserve an A for effort.

What about performance?

Well, that remains to be seen.

General Manager Martin Mayhew managed to bring in some big names—Kyle Vanden Bosch, for instance—and the talent that goes along with the nameplates. Yet, at least one of the Lions’ marquee additions is a head-scratcher.

Why, oh why, did Detroit cough up serious cash for wide receiver Nate Burleson?

Since drafting super-stud Calvin Johnson in 2007, the Lions have been looking for a No. 2 receiver to take some of the defensive pressure off of the best receiver to play for Detroit since Herman Moore.

Burleson, who will turn 29 before the start of the 2010 regular season, had the second-best season of his career last year in Seattle. He nabbed 63 balls for a total of 812 yards and three touchdowns.

Thanks to the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately NFL, the Lions put up $25 million over five years—including $11 million guaranteed—for a mid-level, soon to be middle-aged, wide out.

Ouch.

No offense to the following players, but Burleson’s past performance and contract sound eerily similar to: Az-Zahir Hakim, Bill Schroeder, Mike Furrey, Scotty Anderson and Bryant Johnson.

While Burleson’s best season came under current Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan in Minnesota, to expect similar results in Motown would be absurd.

Burleson will be six years removed from that career year, in which he caught 68 balls for 1,006 yards and nine touchdowns. Six years, a torn ligament, and a gigantic Seattle contract wasted later, Lions fans are supposed to believe he is the answer at wide receiver.

Not to mention, Burleson had a healthy Daunte Culpepper tossing the pigskin around in Minnesota. Although Matt Stafford should be much improved this season, he certainly will not be Culpepper circa-2004.

Double ouch.

At best, Lions fans should expect Burleson’s stat line to be similar to that of Schroeder during his time in Detroit.

Before joining the Lions in 2002, Schroeder had recorded three seasons of 50 catches or more, highlighted by a 74-catch year in 1999. Schroeder was one of Matt Millen’s big signings—so big that fan-favorite Johnnie Morton was cut loose the same offseason.

Schroeder never recaptured his Green Bay success, and struggled mightily with Joey Harrington leading the Lions offense. In two seasons, Schroeder averaged only 36 catches and scored a total of seven touchdowns.

Schroeder failed. So did Hakim, Furrey, Anderson and Bryant Johnson. Even former-superstar-to-be Roy Williams could not get the job done in Detroit.

In other words, the Lions shelled out millions for an aging receiver destined for failure on a team that will be lucky to win five or six games in 2010.

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