5 Recently Released Players the Detroit Lions Should Consider Signing
Before I talk about anything else here, I want to take a moment to honor the late Tom "Killer" Kowalski, who passed away Monday morning.
For many of us, Killer was a sure bet to get near-constant updates on the Lions. Whether it was updates during games, training camp rundowns, or just a straight-shooting take on the state of the team, Killer delivered, usually several times a day.
For me personally, Killer was something of an idol. As a former newspaper beat reporter, he made the jump to web media earlier than most, and that early adoption of new media is what many current media members could take a page from. My hope is that I, and many other Lions writers, can learn from his example, both personally and professionally.
Rest in peace, Killer. We all will miss you.
Having said that (a moment of silence would be appropriate, but it's hard to convey in print), the last thing the man would want is for Lions coverage to grind to a halt in his absence. He operated his entire career with the exact opposite intent.
And so, as NFL business moves along, each team's first round of roster cuts is in. This is the time of year Martin Mayhew works his greatest magic. Last year, he brought in John Wendling, Alphonso Smith and Stefan Logan for nothing off the waiver wire (technically, Smith was traded for Dan Gronkowski, but both players were about to be cut by their respective teams anyway).
With teams cutting as many as 10 players to bring their rosters down to 80 players each, there could be as many as 310 newly-released players for the Lions to sift through. And they won't be the first; the Dallas Cowboys have already signed Dave Rayner (who, in case you forgot, I guaranteed last week would be cut and immediately signed elsewhere).
So of that massive pool of players, which rejects (or "square pegs," if you will) from other teams could make the Lions' 53-man roster?
Andre Gurode, C, Dallas Cowboys
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This guy is easily the biggest headline of the initial round of cuts.
Five-time Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode was cut from the Dallas Cowboys Monday, reportedly for salary cap reasons.
Gurode was set to make $5.5 million this year, and the Cowboys had been asking him to take a pay cut for a while. Gurode refused, and ended up on waivers.
Now, Gurode is a veteran and he is making a lot of money. But the Lions right now are in need of some support on the interior line. The running game needed some support, and the bulk of that intended support (Mikel Leshoure) is on the shelf until next season.
The other option is to upgrade the interior line. We've been hearing (and talking) a lot about how improved chemistry and consistency along the offensive line would improve the unit as a whole. So far in the preseason, we have seen a great deal of improvement in pass protection, but zero to negative push in run blocking.
Part of the reason for that is just a sheer lack of beef. While the most obvious use of Gurode is to put him in place of Dominic Raiola (whom Gurode outweighs by about 40 pounds) at center, he might sooner take a role at right guard in place of Stephen Peterman. Dominic Raiola is still responsible for calling protections, and he's making too much to be a bench warmer, especially considering Gurode is the same age and would be only a stop-gap solution.
If the Lions could just pay Gurode for a single season like they have most of their free agents, he could bring some needed bulk to the offensive line and improve the run game until the Lions have the chance to (inevitably) improve the interior line through the 2012 draft.
Kevin Dockery, CB, St. Louis Rams/Pittsburgh Steelers
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He wasn't anything special, but he's only 27, and the Lions have some depth concerns at corner. With Eric Wright, Chris Houston, Alphonso Smith and Aaron Berry all dealing with some manner of injury, Dockery could provide some depth if one of those injuries takes a turn for the worse.
That said, the Lions might be more interested in playing up some of the kids on the roster if it comes to that. It isn't as though Dockery has proven star potential. Signing him would be nothing more than just taking a flier.
Still, this smells of the sort of "square peg" move Martin Mayhew has built a reputation around.
Vernon Gholston, DE, Chicago Bears
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Okay, I know what you're all thinking.
Basically, this looks like a terrible idea. And maybe it is. But the payoff is too good to ignore.
Vernon Gholston, the sixth overall pick in 2008 by the Jets, looks like a massive draft bust of Millenian proportions.
Anybody know a team that has thrived by giving former first-round "busts" a new lease on their careers? Guys like Bobby Carpenter, Lawrence Jackson and Alphonso Smith (technically a second, but the Broncos traded a first to get him, so totally counts)?
Of course, first-round busts aren't always diamonds in the rough. Sometimes they're just busts.
But the Lions' depth at DE gets awfully uncertain after Willie Young and Kyle Vanden Bosch hasn't been a paragon of health the last two seasons. Gholston is only in his fourth year and could be worth a cheap look for depth, if only to stick it to the Bears (this especially if he thrives, and yes I know you don't make roster moves based on "sticking it" to your rivals).
If he's really no good, he can be cut as easily as he was signed.
Na'il Diggs, LB, St. Louis Rams
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There's no question that 33-year-old Na'il Diggs is in the twilight of his career.
In Detroit, he's nothing more than a challenge for depth. But for a year at the veteran minimum, he could be worth it. The Lions of late generally set up their position groups with a lot of youth and one 30+ veteran.
It makes sense, considering how many Lions there are in their first or second years. Putting a veteran in with each group keeps the young players on their toes, and generally gets them coaching even when there's no coach around.
Right now, Bobby Carpenter is the most veteran linebacker on the squad and considering he's 28 years old and has played most of his career on special teams, I'm not sure that counts.
Diggs could be that veteran, and he could actually contribute to a linebacker unit that seems to be having trouble coming together thus far.
Jerome Felton, FB, Portsmouth Spartans
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You know, I'm well aware that I'm not a professional talent scout. What I thought I saw in Jerome Felton wasn't what they saw, so they cut him. They're probably right; I'm probably wrong.
But this seemed a bit unfair to me. It seems to me Felton has been begging the Lions for years to just convert him to a power running back already. He wanted more carries in the offense. He said it himself.
So the Lions refuse to give him carries, then cut him on the grounds that they don't need a blocking fullback?
The onus isn't all on the Lions for reducing his role, though. When Felton got chances, he dropped the ball—figuratively and literally. But for a team still hanging onto Derrick Williams (as of press time), they sure seemed to quit on Felton's "chances" awfully quick.
Case in point? Felton got two carries in the preseason. He averaged 10 yards per carry. And he got those yards running straight up the gut. In other words, Felton earned more yards between the tackles in two carries than any other Lions back has all preseason.
Okay, yes, I see you, Ian Johnson. You've been good between the tackles, too. Unfortunately, you're next.
Of course, I'm not truly advocating that the Lions re-sign the guy they just cut. I am neither ignorant nor crazy. But I do think Felton got a bit of a raw deal in Detroit and I wish him the best as the only pick from the latter half of Matt Millen's drafts to stay with the team for more than 16 seconds.