Now that the NFL draft is over, and the off season has begun evolving into the pre-season with OTA’s and training camps just around the corner, lets review the whole off season and see where Detroit stands. We’ll also take a look at some last minute spots that should be addressed before training camp starts this summer. Everyone is handing out “draft grades,” but in this article we’re going to give the Lions an “offseason grade” based on your vote, and your opinions, as well as a few of my own.
The Lions began the off season with some house cleaning, releasing guys like LB Larry Foote, CB Phillip Buchannon, DT Grady Jackson, and DE Jared Devries. They also signed RB De De Dorsey to a contract. Then just before the free agent market opened, they traded for Corey Williams giving up the Lions 2010 fifth round selection, while picking up a seventh round pick that was later used to pick up Willie Young out of NC State.
In the first transaction the Lions got a starting DT in Corey Williams, and a developmental guy in the seventh round who Lions appear to be poised to turn into an outside linebacker, all for a fifth round 2010 draft pick. I’d call that one an excellent move by Mayhew and company. I really don’t expect Young to see much time at DE, he’s 20 lbs too light for the position, and with his height he will get no leverage on opposing LT’s in the NFL. No this guy is a Cunningham project pick, and if he sees any playing time at all as a Lion it will only add to the Williams trade value.
The Lions second two moves were very well publicized so I wont go into great detail. Obviously we all know the Lions made two big moves the moment free agency opened with the signing of Kyle Vanden Bosch and Nate Burleson.
These two guys will see immediate starting time in the lineups, with Vanden Bosch expected to bring a pass rush back to Detroit, and Burleson expected to add another receiving threat to the offense. Since the Lions gave up nothing but money, these two picks are nothing but great news to Detroit Lions fans.
The Lions then did some more house cleaning, and resigned TE Will Heller, added free agent WR Brian Clark and, released DT Dewayne White. All solid moves here. Clark and Heller will add to the mix to make the 53 man roster, while White has just been too injury prone, and unproductive last year.
Next, the Lions signed LB Vinny Cirrucu and CB Jonathan Wade as a special teams aces. They then traded for CB Chris Houston with Atlanta, and yes this was another case of Mayhew driving a hard bargain on a trade (that depends on Huston’s performance as a Lion) as well as another win for the talent on the Detroit Lions roster.
The Lions then offered tenders to some of the better hold over players from 2009, signing; DE Copeland Bryan, CB Deangelo Smith, LB Zach Follet, T Corey Hillard, TE Jake Nordin, and RB Cedric Peerman. Not all of these guys will make the final 53 man roster, but obviously some of them may have a shot if they impress through the pre-season. Guys like Follett are expected to make a contribution and compete for a starting job this year.
The next two moves were trades, the first was with San Fransisco for backup QB Shaun Hill, in exchange for the Lions' 2011 seventh round pick. The second was for guard Rob Sims, from Seattle for a 2010 seventh round selection as well as a DE nobody knew we had in Detroit on the practice squad.
It's not news, once again Mahyew robbed the Seahawks on this trade since Sims was rated the No. 3 Left Guard in the NFL last year. He just didn’t fit the new zone blocking scheme Pete Carroll and the Seahawks are implementing. And all I can think about here is, I’m so glad we’ve gotten over the whole “zone blocking” thing in Detroit.
Hill is a great backup with the ability to play and win without much time with the first team to prepare. He’s about as good a backup as you get in the NFL, almost too good because he could create a QB controversy if Stafford is injured again, like he did in San Fransisco with Alex Smith. Let's just hope we have to worry about having two solid QB’s to chose from in 2010. As for Sims, yet another starter for a fifth round pick, can’t argue with that.
Next up, the Lions signed yet another free agent special teams ace in Dante Wesley. Wesley, like Follett is a guy known for making crushing hit’s on kick off return coverage. Last year he was actually suspended because of a hit that was deemed too much. Now I’m not saying I hope that happens some more, but this guy is going to bolster a coverage unit that desperately needed help in 2009. Again another solid pickup by Mayhew and company.
The Lions then got out the dustpan and broom and released CB Kevin Hobbs, G Daniel Loper, S Kalvin Pearson, and CB Brian Witherspoon. Obviously the secondary and guard positions played terribly last year so all of these moves make perfect sense.
They also resigned DE Jared Devries and Jason Hunter. Hunter was a stand out from last year, and Devries was one of the only other decent guys drafted during the Millen era left on the roster. Devries was solid in his career before last year so it will be interesting to see if he can regain his old form. If so the Detroit front four this offseason looks to be the most improved in the NFL and potentially the best in the NFC North.
Most recently, the Lions shipped Ernie Sims to the Eagles in exchange for Broncos, TE Tony Scheffler. This move was puzzling at first given Sims' talent and draft position, but he simply wasn’t fitting into the new defensive scheme as he was drafted to be in a Tampa 2 defense. Last year he was either injured or under performing in the new defense Gunther Cunningham installed.
Tony Scheffler on the other hand is a serious weapon at the TE position. This plus the fact that the offense is installing a two TE set that will include both Pettigrew and Scheffler in 2010, make this trade make a lot of sense.
The draft was yet another strong showing for Detroit. Netting at least two starters, but possibly three in 2010. Plus two very solid developmental guys, and one WR who will probably chip in on punt and kick off returns from day one. I’m not going to go into the whole draft in detail because everyone knows who Detroit selected. But given the new additions to this team both over the off season and now Martin Mayhew and the Detroit Lions are in a very solid position headed into the preseason. There are really only a couple of needs to address at this point.
Positions That Still Need Help
GUARD: Obviously Stephen Peterman will be looked at to start at Right Guard, and Rob Sims will be the assumed left guard, but what if they get injured? Last year Peterman’s injury basically marked the end of any semblance of an O-Line for the Lions. The Lopers and Dylan Gandy didn’t help much there being very weak replacements. Obviously the big hog mollies can use a break so rotation and depth is important.
I would love to see the Lions sign someone like Brandon Carter out of Texas Tech to be a guard on the roster. He was in one of my mock drafts and I’m shocked he wasn’t drafted. Must be the crazy face paint scared all those rich NFL team owners. I have a strong suspicion that Jason Fox may actually be asked to play inside this year before moving to one of the tackle positions later. So where he plays will also affect the Lions need in 2010 at Guard.
CB: Ok the draft is over, PLEASE, for the love of god, call up Adam Jones and give him the second shot he deserves!
S: Daniel Bullocks may have been re-signed, but lets face it he’s basically on his last chance in Detroit. If he can’t stay healthy and contribute he will be history next year. As for the free agent veterans available, anybody have one that Detroit should look at?
OLB: Zach Follett is a beast, and I really hope he makes an impact with his chance at making the starting line up this year. Having said that, Follett is still an unproven guy on the starting defense and should he not succeed or be injured, they will need help. Lets face it too, it’s very likely he will struggle to find his rhythm at the NFL level at first. Hopefully he’ll catch on but I’d rather see the Lions get some help here. Who should Detroit look at?
I have to admit, I never thought I would be this happy with the Lions offseason progress five months ago. Sure I know, have another sip of the silver and blue Kool-Aid. But this time I have to say it’s for real. I know it because there’s finally chatter from around the NFL that the Lions aren’t going to be the "guaranteed win opponent" they have been in years past. Having said that I’m going to make a bold prediction and say the Lions will win nine games this year. And given last years 2-14 mark, that’s a huge improvement. I say this earns Mayhew and Company a Solid A for this offseason so far.