NFL Free Agency Rumors 2011: Top 5 Targets for the Detroit Lions
With all signs pointing toward an end to the NFL lockout, it's time to start spreading rumors of the Detroit Lions' moves in free agency. The 2011 season is just around the corner, and all NFL teams will be frantically trying to fill roster holes via the free-agent market.
The Detroit Lions are one team that seems to be on the cusp of greatness. With all-everything receiver Calvin Johnson, All-Pro second-year defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, budding quarterback Matthew Stafford and explosive running back Jahvid Best leading the way, the Lions have the foundation laid for a run at dominance.
However, for that possibility to become a reality, some glaring holes need to be filled through free agency.
Two positions that will be heavily focused upon are linebacker and cornerback. Detroit has major needs at both positions, and here are five players who the Lions are rumored to be targeting the most.
While signing one of these players at a given position would make a deal with another player at the same position much less likely, that doesn't change the fact that any and all of these players are squarely on Detroit's radar.
So which players are most likely to fill the Lions' holes to get the franchise over the hump and into the playoffs?
Chris Houston, CB (Detroit Lions)
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Apologies for starting out boring here, but Chris Houston was Detroit's best cornerback in 2010 and should be back in 2011.
The Detroit News reports that the Lions want to re-sign Houston, as he'll most likely be very affordable and will allow the organization to put more money into acquiring a high-caliber cornerback across from him.
Houston would be a very serviceable No. 2 cornerback, and assuming a No. 1 cornerback is attained, the two signings would allow Alphonso Smith to move to nickel/dime back, where he would be most effective.
Expect Chris Houston to excel as Detroit's No. 2 cornerback next season.
Justin Durant, OLB (Jacksonville Jaguars)
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Justin Durant of the Jacksonville Jaguars is a player who is very rarely mentioned during free agent discussions.
However, Fox Sports Detroit reports that Durant is one of Detroit's top two free agent targets at linebacker, along with another player to come on this list. Durant recorded a relatively unimpressive 55 tackles at weak-side linebacker in 2011, but the Lions are reportedly high on his athleticism and versatility.
The Lions need help at linebacker, and Durant would be a realistic and affordable option. If he is signed, it would allow the team to be flexible with other players at the position.
Antonio Cromartie, CB (New York Jets)
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Antonio Cromartie seems to be a popular name for many teams, but one of his more likely destinations is Detroit. It's no secret the Lions need cornerback help, and Cromartie would improve the secondary right away.
He ultimately ended up with the New York Jets, where he's played pretty well across from Darrelle Revis. But if the Jets can't re-sign him (and they have a lot of important free agents this season), he could potentially do very well in a Lions uniform.
While Cromartie may not be Detroit's first option for a No. 1 cornerback, he might be the most realistic.
Stephen Tulloch, MLB (Tennessee Titans)
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Stephen Tulloch is one of the most prominent names being linked to the Detroit Lions this season. Tulloch played for Jim Schwartz during his days in Tennessee, and the two may be ready to rejoin forces.
Tulloch had an astounding 160 tackles in 2010, and if the Lions were able to splurge and land him, an already-formidable front seven would gain a massive upgrade.
Another advantage of signing Tulloch would be that the team would be able to move DeAndre Levy to the outside, which ESPN reported he would be "on board with."
This would be an incredible addition for the Lions, and they'd be that much closer to the playoffs.
Johnathan Joseph, CB (Cincinnati Bengals)
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Johnathan Joseph has emerged as one of the NFL's best cornerbacks in Cincinnati, and he'll be paid like it this season.
While many indications have been that Joseph plans to re-sign with the Bengals, ESPN has recently cited that Cincinnati may not have adequate cap space to offer Joseph what others will be willing to pay. In addition, the Cincinnati Enquirer gives the Bengals just a 35 to 40 percent chance of re-signing Joseph.
The Detroit News believes the Lions will be one team to go hard after Joseph, and that would likely be a fantastic deal for both parties.
If such a signing were to be made, the Lions' secondary would be instantly and exponentially better. Joseph may be the final piece of the puzzle in Detroit's quest to regain relevance.