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Never Too Early: A Look at an Ideal 2011 Detroit Lions Offseason

. .Correspondent IJanuary 17, 2011

Never Too Early: A Look at an Ideal 2011 Detroit Lions Offseason

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    The Detroit Lions ended the 2010 season on a bang, winning their last four games en route to a fairly successful 6-10 season.

    The season had its ups (snapping virtually every Millen era streak) and its downs (getting robbed in week 1), but overall the Honolulu Blue and Silver showed leaps and bounds improvement, and I for one am finally convinced that the team is headed in the right direction.

    There is always a next step though... For this go around in 2011, you need to be in the playoffs. That's right - the Lions in the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

    This can be done, I'm positive. But this group of kids out there won't be able to do on their own.

    Here are some ideal (but realistic) moves I can see the Motor City Kitties making to be playing a 2nd week in January.

     

    Note: I'm well aware of the CBA and that no team can sign free agents until a new one is made. This preview is under the hope that a new deal will be signed prior to March 5th.

Free Agent Signing #1

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The Detroit Lions sign CB Nnamdi Asomugha to a 4 year - $69,000,000 contract

    If the Lions plan on pushing the expectations in 2011, they will need to push Old Ford's checkbook too. This one needs to get done, and needs to get started at 12:00:00 on March 5th, 2011.

    Going into the offseason, the Lions might not have a Cornerback, let alone a Shutdown Cornerback... Chris Houston's rookie contract is expiring and he says that though he loves Detroit, he plans on testing free agent waters.

    Nnamdi Asomugha is arguably the 2nd best Cornerback in the NFL and he just became an unrestricted free agent thanks to an odd contract clause.

    It would be amazing to have 'Asomugha Island' on the best receivers in the NFL, but there are a lot of teams who would love to have him. It would take a record breaking effort, but I do think that The Schwartz can and will get this done.

Free Agent Signing #2

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    The Detroit Lions sign RT Ryan Harris to a 2 year - $11,000,000 contract

    It may just be me, but I want a completely redone Offensive Line. If we plan on calling our franchise QB 'injury prone', we are going to need some solid proof, and adding Harris would definitely help.

    So far this year Gosder Cherilus and Corey Hilliard have split time due to injury and ineffectivness. They have both been average RT's, but most of Best's large carries were to the left side, and due to our QB's being all right handed, they have seen and avoided much of the rush caused by the two.

    Harris is considered one of the best RT's in the NFL. He was ranked #5 by nfltouchdown.com and he will be a free agent in 2011.

    The Josh McDaniels era is over in Denver, and the new regime has said they aren't likely to re-sign him.

    I don't see this being a midnight contact on Schwartz's list, but he'd be a fantastic addition.

Free Agent Signing #3

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    The Detroit Lions sign SS Quintin Mikell to a 3 year - $15,000,000 contract

    The Lions will need a Strong Safety for 2011. 

    In 2010, CC Brown was the primary safety and he was beat often. He is 'unlikely' to return according to Free Press blog Writer Dave Birkett, and it isn't all that surprising.

    When Brown wasn't starting, rookie Amari Spievey, drafted as a CB, was. He has shown brief flashes, but he is definitely not ready to be a starting safety.

    The best situation for Detroit here is to add a veteran that can help Spievey learn, but also run with the best of the young kids.

    You find this exact recipe in Quintin Mikell. He will be 31 by the time the season begins, but still recorded career best numbers (77 tackles - 3 interceptions) in 2010.

    Andy Reid tends to like young, speedy players on his defense unless the player is still top 3 in the NFL (ala Brian Dawkins), which makes Mikell a probable free agent.

Free Agent Signing #4

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    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    Detroit Lions sign WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh to a 1 year - $900,000 contract

    Past MegaTron and Nate Burleson, Bryant Johnson was the only Lions receiver with a catch, and he only had 18 for 210 yards.

    As was shown with the addition of Nate Burleson, Calvin Johnson needs players to draw defenders away from him. The Lions need at least 1 upgrade here and T.J. "Who's-your-mama" would help do the job, at least temporarily.

Trade #1

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Detroit Lions Trade

    - RB Maurice Morris

    - SS Dante Wesley

    - 2012 Round 6 Draft Pick

     

    New York Giants Trade

    - RB Brandon Jacobs

    - DE Alex Hall

     

    The Lions made a fantastic choice in selecting Jahvid Best at #30 in the 2010 NFL Draft. He brings speed, athleticism, and agility that Detroit hasn't seen since Barry Sanders.

    He needs a compliment though. At 199 pounds, he cannot push a wall of linemen on 4th and goal into the endzone.

    Brandon Jacobs, considered by some the best Power Back in the NFL, would be a perfect fit and may be on the G-Men's trading block given his age (28) and reported frustration with the current success level of the Giants.

    Ahmad Bradshaw is a very capable back that has been behind him, and he has said that if he re-signs he would like Jacobs not to return. Bradshaw is only 24, which leads me to think the Giants will gladly do this to keep him.

    With the addition of Jacobs, Mo Morris would be unneeded, while the Giants could definitely use him. Dante Wesley is at most a 3rd string safety in Detroit after Quintin Mikell's addition, and the Giants need depth there.

    Alex Hall only recorded 1 tackle in 2010 and just helps with DE depth.

    Another writer (I cannot remember who) said it best - a duo of Best and Jacob would be like Thunder and Lightning.

Trade #2

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    Detroit Lions Trade

    - RG Stephen Peterman

    - 2012 Round 1 Draft Pick

    - 2013 Round 2 Draft Pick

    - 2013 Round 4 Draft Pick

     

     

     

    New England Patriots Trade

    - 2011 Round 1 Draft Pick

    - 2011 Round 6 Draft Pick

     

    New England could very well have been the Super Bowl Champions this year if not for a Jets secondary that decided to be amazing at the the right time... Even so, they have the #16 pick in the draft thanks to their trade of Richard Seymour to the Raiders.

    Their only major needs they have this season are Cornerback and Running Back... #16 will probably be too late to select Patrick Peterson, Prince Amakumara, or Mark Ingram and too early to select Brandon Harris, Aaron Williams, or Mikel Leshoure.

    That said, the Patriots will probably go the Bill Belichick way and trade down, even if it is towards the future.

     

Trade #3 (Draft Day)

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    Detroit Lions Trade

    - DE Lawrence Jackson

    - RT Gosder Cherilus

    - 2011 Round 1 Draft Pick

    - 2011 Round 7 Draft Pick (from NYJ)

    - 2012 Round 3 Draft Pick

     

     

     

    Dallas Cowboys Trade

    - 2011 Round 1 Draft Pick

    - 2011 Round 3 Draft Pick

     

    We all know who Jerry Jones is: the name before need drafter... I think that this will be the case in 2011 too.

    A smart pick at #9 for the Cowboys would probably be Prince Amakumara,the Cornerback from the corn fields of Nebraska... He isn't the big name that Mark Ingram is though.

    Mark Ingram fills a need thanks to Felix Jones being the only Dallas back with over 375 yards, plus none of their backs seem to be able to stay healthy... He is also a Heisman winner from Alabama, which fills Jerry Jones' need.

    That said, no RB should be taken in the top ten as C.J. Spiller showed us last year.

    With the Redskins, Texans, and Vikings all far from needing a RB and separating the two teams, it would be a good move for both the Lions and the Cowboys.

Trade #4 (Draft Day)

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    Detroit Lions Trade

    - 2011 6th Round Draft Pick (from NE)

     

    San Francisco 49ers Trade

    - 2011 7th Round Draft Pick

    - 2011 7th Round Draft Pick

     

    This is a very basic trade that not many people would even notice.

    The Lions need depth at a number of positions, which would make it better for them to have 2 7th rounders in favor of 1 6th rounder.

    San Francisco has 2 7th round picks this year which made them a candidate... It is possible the Lions could get a couple consolation picks and this wouldn't be needed.

Round 1: Pick 9 (from Dallas)

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    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    The Detroit Lions select CB Prince Amukamara of Nebraska

    One thing I've noticed over the Schwartz era is that if he wants to address a specific area of the team, he addresses it full out.

    For example, in 2009, the fans were screaming for a redone team at every position. This resulted in a strategy of BPA throughout the draft, and Brandon Pettigrew ended up here.

    In 2010, everyone wanted a new defensive line. Schwartz goes out there and brings back the #2 pick in the draft, one of the best DE free agents, and a great cheap trade target, which makes the Lions turn from the #30 defensive line to #7.

    In 2011, everyone wants a redone defensive backfield. I think it'll happen.

    Like I said on Free Agent #1, the Lions may not have a Cornerback going into the offseason. Acquiring Nnamdi Asomugha AND Prince Amukamara would make one the most dangerous backfields in all of football..... Plus having a Ndamukong, a Nnamdi, and an Amukamara on the same defense would be pretty damn sweet.

    Have fun play-by-play announcers!

Round 1: Pick 17 (from New England via Oakland)

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    The Detroit Lions select OLB Von Miller of Texas A&M

    As is the case with corner's, the Lions also are looking at very slim pickings in regards to their outside linebackers, weak and strong side.

    Currently the starting Strongside Linebacker is Ashlee Palmer or Caleb Campbell with Julian Peterson's soon release, but this is sure to change.

    Von Miller is by far the best Linebacker in the draft and he would be an immediate step up from what Julian Peterson had been bringing to the table.

     

Round 2: Pick 12

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    The Detroit Lions select OLB Bruce Carter of North Carolina

    The other side of the Linebacker corps it is equally as questionable.

    Zack Follett will be attempting a return from a serious neck injury, while past him is Bobby Carpenter, who should not be a starter.

    Bruce Carter is probably the best weakside player in the draft, but it wouldn't be a steal to get him mid-round 2.

    He would also be an upgrade over Follett even if Follett is healthy.

Round 3: Pick 7 (from Dallas)

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    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    The Detroit Lions select LT Joseph Barksdale of LSU

    Here is where you start 'mission: impossible' in protecting Stafford with rookies.

    In my personal opinion, Barksdale is the best Tackle in the draft. He has athleticism and size that neither Castonzo nor Sharrod have.

    Of all rookie LT's you could bring in to protect the blind side of your franchise, this would be the one I'd trust the most, and he would come pretty cheap.

Round 3: Pick 11

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    The Detroit Lions select C Kris O'Dowd of USC

    I cannot speak for every Lions fan, but I for one am absolutely sick of Dominic Raiola's act.

    An analogy I have made of him is to Scrappy Doo. He just seems like  he isn't that big but will pick a fight with anyone... Even drunk Miami Dolphins fans.

    Now 1 or 2 years/episodes of this is alright, I don't mind. I like it even, be the tough guy on a bad team.

    But it has gotten to the point now (just like Scrappy Doo) where I think most teams don't like him because he is annoying and doesn't know his place.

    I'll probably get lambasted for that, but it is how I feel...

    That said, he is a veteran role model. At 32 years old, he won't have many more years of starting center. Now is a good time to bring in his replacement to watch and learn..... No telling opposing fans to suck your d*** though. 

Round 4: Pick 10

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    The Detroit Lions select G Orlando Franklin of Miami

    With all the changes being made to the Offensive Line, Jeff Backus will probably be moved to Left Guard.

    This will work for a little while, but his contract expires after 2011, and he will already be 34 before the season starts.

    The Lions need to start looking for a replacement, and Franklin would be a steal in Round 4. Plus he played next to future Lions tackle Jason Fox for 2 years in Miami.

Round 5: Pick 9

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    The Detroit Lions select WR Titus Young of Boise State

    As I said with Free Agent #4 (T.J. Houshmandzadeh) beyond Megatron (77 - 1,120 - 12) and Nate Burleson (55 - 625 - 6), the Lions don't have many threats.

    Even with Houshmandzadeh, the Lions could definitely use a Titus Young, who recorded an impressive showing of 71 - 1,215 - 9 with Boise State.

    T.J. is already 33 years old and he only got a 30 - 398 - 3 with the Ravens this year. His one year contract will do for now, but the Lions need a future receiver too.

     

    Stats are (Receptions - Yards - TD's)

Round 6: Pick 19 (from Philadelphia via Tampa Bay)

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The Detroit Lions select QB Greg McElroy of Alabama

    Drew Stanton will more than likely not be back with the Lions next season. He started and won an NFL football game, which is probably enough for some team to take him in as their 2nd string, which he can't be on the Lions.

    Greg McElroy has shown that he can lead his team to great wins.... This is countered, of course, by his seemingly inability to throw the ball away when the pressure is coming in on him.

    The Lions need a 3rd string QB that STAYS HEALTHY above everything. McElroy is a perfect fit for this, playing every game that Nick Saben put him in. The only injury he suffered was a concussion, and he missed no games.

Round 7: Pick 7 (from San Francisco via Detroit)

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    The Detroit Lions select ILB Mario Harvey of Marshall

    This is for just for depth. The Lions have a very capable ILB in DeAndre Levy, but if he gets injured at any point the Lions only have Vinny Ciurciu behind him.

    No offense to Ciurciu (he is 1000x better than I'll ever be!), but he really shouldn't be on an NFL team past special teams.

    Harvey recorded 144 tackles, 9 sacks, and 1 forced fumble as a senior in 2010.

Round 7: Pick 8 (from San Francisco)

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    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    Detroit Lions select K Alex Henery of Nebraska

    Don't worry, Lions faithful, I'm pretty convinced that Jason Hanson will have to be applying for social security and going to the field on a walker before anyone in the front office even approaches him about leaving the team... Luckily, he'll probably retire before this instance happens.

    Hanson suffered one of the only injuries in his career this year and I'm fairly confident that Suh won't be kicking field goals again anytime soon.

    Now is the perfect time to acquire Hanson's replacement. Hanson is my opinion is the best kicker in NFL history, and to have a young one learn from him would be amazing.

    Henery went 18/19 on field goals and 54/54 on extra points in 2010 with his long field goal being a 54 yarder.

    Over his career he is 68/76 and 192/193 with a long of 57, which he made Sophomore year against Colorado (video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5aXkPwWXLNY )

    Henery is expected to go as either the #1 or #2 kicker in the draft (next to Kai Forbath), but really any special teams player in the draft is always a toss-up. He could go in the 5th and he could be undrafted.

2011 Depth Chart

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    Quarterbacks

    1. Matthew Stafford

    2. Shaun Hill

    3. Greg McElroy

    Running Backs

    1. Jahvid Best*

    2. Brandon Jacobs (Power Back - will also play fullback on necessary plays)

    3. Stefan Logan

    4. Aaron Brown*

    Wide Receiver

    1. Calvin Johnson

    2. Nate Burleson*

    3. T.J. Houshmandzadeh

    4. Bryant Johnson

    5. Titus Young

    Tight End

    1. Brandon Pettigrew

    2. Tony Scheffler

    3. Will Heller

    Left Tackle

    1. Joseph Barksdale

    2. Jason Fox

    Left Guard

    1. Jeff Backus

    2. Orlando Franklin*

    Center

    1. Dominic Raiola

    2. Kris O'Dowd*

    Right Guard

    1. Rob Sims

    2. Orlando Franklin*

    Right Tackle

    1. Ryan Harris

    2. Corey Hilliard

    Defensive Tackle

    1. Ndamukong Suh

    2. Corey Williams

    3. Sammie Lee Hill

    4. Andre Fluellen

    Defensive End

    1. Kyle Vanden Bosch

    2. Cliff Avril

    3. Turk McBride

    4. Willie Young

    5. Alex Hall

    Weakside Linebacker

    1. Bruce Carter

    2. Zack Follett

    3. Ashlee Palmer*

    Inside Linebacker

    1. DeAndre Levy

    2. Mario Harvey

    Strongside Linebacker

    1. Von Miller

    2. Landon Johnson

    3. Ashlee Palmer*

    Cornerback

    1. Nnamdi Asomugha

    2. Prince Amukamara

    3. Alphonso Smith

    4. Nathan Vasher

    5. Tye Hill

    Free Safety

    1. Louis Delmas

    2. Randy Phillips

    Strong Safety

    1. Quintin Mikell

    2. Amari Spievey

    Kicker

    1. Jason Hanson*

    2. Alex Henery*

    Punter

    1. Nick Harris*

    2. Alex Henery*

    Kickoffs

    1. Alex Henery*

    2. Jason Hanson*

    Long Snapper

    1. Don Muhlbach

    2. Kris O'Dowd*

    Holder

    1. Nick Harris*

    2. Alex Henery*

    Kick Returner

    1. Stefan Logan*

    2. Jahvid Best*

    3. Aaron Brown*

    Punt Returner

    1. Stefan Logan*

    2. Nate Burleson*

    3. Aaron Brown*

     

     

    So the picture may be a bit much for 2011, but an offense of Stafford, Best, and Johnson paired with a defense of Asomugha, Amukamara, and Ndamukong is a helluva team.

    Keep in mind this is an ideal 2011 season, not a probable one (though I did try to keep it as realistic as possible).

    No matter what happens over the next 6 - 7 months, I am confident the Lions will come into the 2011 season a better team than when they left.

    The team is making leaps and bounds, and another good offseason and draft will definitely make this team a playoff contender... And maybe more.

    Thanks for reading and feel free to comment with any questions or notes!

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