The Detroit Lions need to improve their secondary. Although the draft would be the preferable way to do this, rookie corner backs suffer from a very steep learning curve. For that reason, signing a veteran corner could make a lot of sense for the Lions.
With all the hype surrounding the arrival of Nnamdi Asomugha and Champ Bailey to free agency, they have stolen the limelight from the lesser well-known cornerback prospects who the Lions could try to sign. One player who fits that bill is Carlos Rogers.
Rogers has been a solid performer for the Washington Redskins for a number of years without getting his dues. In a stats-driven league, a cornerback not called Darelle Revis or Nnamdi Asomugha needs to pick off five or more passes to be considered a top corner. Rogers does not do this. However, unlike his mercurial teammate DeAngello Hall, he is also not burned for big touchdown plays.
He is a classic cornerback, who defends a lot of passes and makes sure that his receiver is taken out of the game as much as possible. He helps out in the running game as well. He does have hands of stone, but makes up for it with good athleticism and a knack for stopping completions, shown by him leading his team in passes defended most years. He also has at least four good seasons left in him at just 29.
Just last season he had 14 defended passes (third on his team), 2 picks, 1 forced fumble and 54 tackles. And he only played in 12 games. In 68 career starts, he has defended 72 passes, or 1.06 per game. For comparison, Darelle Revis has defended 1.21 passes per start and Asomugha has defended just 0.55 passes per start.
There is a strong chance that the Redskins will try to re-sign Rogers in the offseason, and there is no real reason why he should refuse. He has a small injury red flag, but has been a model citizen and a consummate professional on and off the field.
However, he will be an unrestricted free agent. This means that while Washington is cutting a deal with him, Martin Mayhew can be trying to sign him as well. There have also been unconfirmed reports that the Redskins are tired of his catching problems and are looking to replace him with a new starting cornerback.
This would push Rogers to the nickel or dime back position, and give the Lions another bargaining chip. It could simply come down to who offers him the best deal. A bonus is that he will not be solely looking for Super Bowl contenders like Asomugha and Bailey will.
Rogers would step into the No. 1 corner back role in the Lions secondary, barring a breakout season by Smith or Houston or major regression by Rogers. He would provide the Lions defense with a top coverage cornerback who would not pick off many passes, but would not gamble as much as Smith and not give up the back-breaking big plays which hampered the Detroit defense last season.
His veteran leadership would strengthen the dressing room, and his experience out playing the best wide receivers in the NFL (like Terrell Owens in his prime) would be invaluable for their young secondary. He would hopefully become a on- and off-field coach and mentor for Smith, Houston, Louis Delmas, Amari Spievey and whoever the Lions pick up in the draft.
Because he has failed to record a lot of interceptions so far in his career, Rogers will not be seen as a top cornerback by GMs. This opens up the possibility for the Lions to sign him under the radar, and not break the bank in the process.
Rogers is valuable because he is effectively the poor mans Asomugha in this year. While he will not blanket a receiver or bring in the fans, he will provide good, consistent coverage at a fraction of the price and be just as valuable as a veteran leader in the dressing room and on the field.
Odds of being in Honolulu blue in 2011: 60 percent
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