Filling a Void: Free Agent and Draft Options For The Lions 5 Biggest Needs

Matt SmithContributor IIIJanuary 29, 2011

Filling a Void: Free Agent and Draft Options For The Lions 5 Biggest Needs

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Coming into the 2010 NFL Season, the Detroit Lions had 9 consecutive losing seasons.  Did that change? Unfortunately for fans in Detroit, it didn't change.  The Lions once again recorded a losing season and finished in the bottom half of their conference.

    So obviously, something isn't going right.  While the arrow is pointing upwards and hopefully Matthew Stafford will be back and ready to go, he won't single-handedly solve all their problems.

    With several intriguing free agents and the draft coming, players could be targeted and holes filled, and help redeem a team that once was.

1. Linebacker

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    Justin Houston, a 1st round option.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Why?

    The biggest need for the Lions could also be the cornerback position, but Amari Spievey is performing at a mediocre level and Alphonso Smith is usually solid but unspectacular.  So therefore, the Linebacker position has to be the most needed.

    Free Agents

    Stephen Tulloch, LB (Tennessee)

     An outstanding tackler, Tulloch probably won't be on the market for long.  He recorded 159 tackles, an interception, a sack, and 6 passes defensed.  Tennessee might bring him back, but if they don't he is definitely an option for Detroit.

    Tamba Hali, LB (Kansas City) 

    A possibility to leave his original team, Tamba Hali was a sack monster.  Hali had 14.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 52 tackles.  If Detroit can get him, he would be a much needed addition.

    Barrett Ruud, LB (Tampa Bay) 

    Barrett Ruud would be a solid option for the Detroit Lions.  Ruud may seek another team as the Buccaneers did not make the playoffs.  That said, his 120 tackles would be welcome for a team whose leader had 84.

    Possible Draft Picks

    Robert Quinn, DE/LB (UNC) 

    Probably will not fall to them, but if he does then they will snap him up instantly

    Justin Houston, LB (Georgia) 

    A great run stuffer, Justin Houston may not be worth the 13th overall pick.  He will likely go in the 1st round in the mid-later rounds, so they can trade down 5-10 spots and likely still pick him up.

    Greg Jones, LB (Michigan State) 

    A good second round pick prospect, Greg Jones' production has dropped this season but is still a player who will be able to start a couple weeks into the season.

2. Cornerback

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Why?

    Another glaring need, the Detroit Lions are in need of a good cornerback.  If Alphonso Smith is your best cornerback that says something about your team.  Not to say he's bad, but you definitely need someone better. This year in the draft their is an abundance of CB talent in the 1st and 2nd rounds.  Look for them to take one in the second round.  If need be, they can trade back in the 1st round, get an extra pick, and then take a cornerback in the late 1st.

    Free Agents

    Ike Taylor, CB (Pittsburgh) 

    At 30 years old, Ike Taylor has a good 5 or so years left in the tank.  He recorded 66 tackles, 2 INT, 1 forced fumble, a sack, and 11 passes defensed.  Ike Taylor isn't a great cornerback, but he is an improvement on the Lions cornerbacks.

    Antonio Cromartie, CB (New York Jets)

    Cromartie is a big-name, loud mouth player. He likes to say what he wants, and also likes to do whatever he wants. But fortunately for the Lions, he is a good player.  With 3 INT, 17 passes defensed, and 42 tackles, he will probably demand somewhat of a large contract.

    Champ Bailey, CB (Denver Broncos) 

    A good thing for the Lions is that Bailey's age may turn off a couple teams. However, he is still only 32. Bailey is a good cornerback, and the Lions could sign him to a 2-3 year contract and have him while he's still good.

    Possible Draft Picks

    Jimmy Smith, CB (Colorado) 

    Jimmy Smith is one of the better cover corners in the draft. While he could improve his tackling, that is his main weakness. In fact, it isn't really a weakness, just something that could be improved upon. According to several reports, in man coverage Smith has only allowed 11 completions in the past two seasons. Projects to be a late 1st round/early second round pick.

    Brandon Burton, CB (Utah) 

    Another option for the Lions. Burton isn't as solid as Jimmy Smith.  Burton has more trouble defending against the run, and is rather small at 185 pounds. However, he is extremely athletic and very fast. A notable clutch moment was his game saving block on a field goal attempt against BYU that won the game for Utah.

3. Offensive Line

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    Why?

    Matthew Stafford has only played in 13 games in his 2 year career. Why? Partially the offensive line, partially him. We'll stick with the offensive line part, as they haven't done their job of keeping him safe. The offensive line could use some replacements, and some more depth.  Even though they have a couple quality linemen, some should be replaced and depth is needed.

    Free Agents

    Matt Light, OT (New England Patriots) 

    The Patriots do not like to keep players after they have aged past their prime.  This somewhat fits the bill for Matt Light, and he will likely be shown the door.  The Patriots offensive line was dominant this season, and Light was a big part of it.  If the Lions can step in and recruit him, it will be a job well done.

    Jermon Bushrod, OT (New Orleans Saints) 

    Bushrod and the Saints had a great season in pass protection.  They only allowed 26 sacks, and that stat is even more spectacular considering Drew Brees attempted about 500 passes a game.  The running game was something to be left desired for the Saints, but it wasn't the offensive line's fault.  Look for Bushrod to be a sought after lineman this offseason, especially by the Lions.

    Possible Draft Picks

    Rodney Hudson, C/T/G (Florida State) 

    Rodney Hudson is a versatile linemen.  Throughout his college career he has played multiple positions when need be, and could fill in any hole that the Lions have, particularly on the left side.  However, he is a bit small. He may not get the start in his first season, but should see some playing time during several games and if someone goes down. Most likely a 2nd or 3rd round pick.

    Marcus Cannon G/T (TCU) 

    Marcus Cannon was projected to be, if not the best, one of the best offensive lineman coming into the season.  It didn't turn out that way, but he is still a good player.  Most likely a 3rd or 4th rounder, Marcus Cannon provides a big body at 6'6" and 350 pounds.  He is a good run-blocker.

4. Running Back

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Why?

    The running backs this season were very ineffective.  Jahvid Best, who was off to a great start, only averaged 3.2 yards per carry.  He was a 1st round pick and has a bright future but hasn't been able to do much. The other backup running backs also averaged under 4 yards per carry.  Some depth and upgrades are certainly needed.

    Free Agents

    Michael Bush, RB (Oakland) 

    Probably the second best RB tandem in the NFL was Bush/McFadden.  With Bush becoming a free agent he will likely ask for a raise. Oakland may not give it to him as they have McFadden, and any team could pick him up. He is a good fit for the Lions as he is a big, powerful running back and would complement the speedy, explosive play of Jahvid Best. Bush had 158 carries for 655 yards (average 4.1 YPC) and 8 TDs. He didn't fumble at all.

    Cadillac Williams, RB (Tampa Bay) 

    Cadillac Williams will probably be on his way out of Tampa after the LeGarrette Blount went so well.  While he isn't a great running back, he would be a good #2 running back and as he has been in the NFL for 6 years he can help out Jahvid Best.

    Possible Draft Picks

    Mark Ingram, RB (Alabama) 

    Who doesn't know the former Heisman trophy winner? Mark Ingram and the Crimson Tide won the BCS Championship last year and piled up amazing stats.  He had a successful season this year, but when he missed a couple games to injury his backup Trent Richardson showed that he was worthy as well. They split carries this season, but Ingram still racked up over 800 yards.  The Lions would have to use their 1st round draft pick on him, something they might not do.

    Alex Green, RB (Hawaii)

    One of the most under appreciated backs in College Football, Alex Green had a monster year given the number of carries he was allowed.  Green ran 146 times for 1199 yards (8.2 average) and 18 touchdowns. In addition he had 27 receptions for 363 yards and another touchdown.  At 6'2" and 230 pounds he has good size for a running back.  Despite his size, he also has good speed.  He may have to adjust to the NFL though, as in Hawaii he lined up in a strange formation and the passing game was a big threat at Hawaii which partially opened up the run. Projected as a mid-late round pick.

5. Wide Receiver

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    Jacob de Golish/Getty Images

    Why?

    Other than Calvin Johnson, the Lions don't have another stud receiver.  Pettigrew may have filled in nicely, but he is a tight end so that puts him out of this discussion.  While it isn't a glaring need, the Lions should find some depth at the wide receiver position.  Nate Burleson is more of a #3 receiver as even Jahvid Best finished with more receptions then him.

    Free Agents

    Vincent Jackson, WR (San Diego)

    Vincent Jackson has proven that he is more for himself than the team as he held out this season for a bigger contract, but there is no denying his talent.  Jackson is a big target and a proven play maker.  There is no doubt he would help this team out with his talent, but he is somewhat of a head case.  Jackson may also wish to go somewhere where he can become the #1 receiver, but the possibility is still very much there.

    Malcom Floyd, WR (San Diego) 

    Another wide receiver from San Diego, Malcom Floyd had a breakout season.  Playing with Philip Rivers, Floyd averaged almost 20 yards per catch.  A big time threat, he won't demand a lot of attention and would be a good fit across from Calvin Johnson. Malcom Floyd is also 6'5" like Vincent Jackson, so he can leap up and grab jump balls.

    Steve Smith, WR (New York Giants)

    Steve Smith has been great in recent seasons.  He shares the name with another productive WR, so don't confuse the two even though the other Steve Smith may want out of Carolina.  Since the Giants have several proven threats, most notably the fantastic season for Hakeem Nicks, they will get rid of Steve Smith who was sidelined by injury.  The Lions should pick him up as he had 48 receptions for 529 yards in only 9 games.

    Possible Draft Picks:

    Jerrel Jernigan, WR (Troy)

    Jerrel Jernigan is undersized for an NFL receiver at 5'9" but is one of the quickest people in the draft. He shattered records at Troy. Jernigan also ran the ball several times, and had success in doing that. This season he had 84 receptions for 822 yards and 6 TDs. He ran 45 times for 322 yards and 3 TDs. If he truly does not turn out as a receiver, he is at the very least a great return man. He is somewhere between a late 1st-3rd round draft pick.

    Vincent Brown, WR (San Diego State) 

    Vincent Brown has received praise for his work during the Senior Bowl so far. This season Brown has recorded 69 receptions for 1352 yards and 10 touchdowns. SDSU had a great season this year topped off by beating Navy in their bowl game. One of his greatest assets is his beyond precise route running. It's a wonder how more people don't know Vincent Brown's name. Projected as a mid-round pick, if the Lions get him he should be a great addition to their receiving corps as a guy who out muscles defensive backs for the ball.