Detroit did a great job in the 2011 NFL off-season, signing free-agents Justin Durant and Stephen Tulloch. Both have made a huge impact on the defensive side of the ball for Detroit. Tulloch signed a one-year deal, so he will be an unrestricted free agent in 2012. DeAndre Levy is a restricted free agent next year as well, and he should command big bucks due to his breakout year.
Other 2012 free agents for Detroit include: offensive tackle Jeff Backus; quarterbacks Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton; Stefan Logan; running backs Maurice Morris and Kevin Smith; defensive end Cliff Avril; and recently acquired Chris Harris (safety) and Leonard Davis (guard).
There are many big names that will be free agents in 2012 (if they don't get signed by then), such as Matt Forte, Ray Rice, Arian Foster, Wes Welker, Mike Wallace, Mario Williams and a slew of other play-makers. Detroit, however, will most likely try and land a few solid starters instead of these big fish.
The Lions will have many holes to fill, and the 2012 NFL draft will only answer some of these problems. Here are 10 free-agents who could sign with Detroit and have an instant impact in 2012.
Carriker is another corn-fed defensive lineman from Nebraska, and he could have an instant impact rushing the passer for Detroit. His struggle with the Rams in a 4-3 defense is a concern, but his pass-rushing ability is undeniable.
He may not have the durability of Kyle Vanden Bosch, but he would most likely be cheaper than Cliff Avril and could provide depth behind in-house talent Lawrence Jackson in 2012.
The former fifth-overall pick is now a backup for the Arizona Cardinals, and if the Lions do not re-sign Backus, Levi Brown would make a solid addition.
I expect the Lions to build their offensive line in the draft, but depth wouldn't hurt.
Detroit needs a return specialist.
Stefan Logan is a liability for Detroit, muffing the occasional punt or kickoff. He is a free agent in 2012, and there is a strong possibility Detroit won't re-sign him.
With Ted Ginn, Jr., Detroit's special teams become legitimate, and opposing teams will have another weapon to game-plan for.
He has already shown he will take a pay cut, and he would make an instant impact on a weak Detroit return game.
Kareem McKenzie is an excellent run-blocking lineman who would provide instant credibility to Detroit's run game.
He is a solid pass blocker as well, and would be an upgrade over Jeff Backus. McKenzie shouldn't cost as much as a premier offensive lineman, so Detroit would look good in picking him up.
Chances are Detroit will not spend the large amount of cash Michael Bush will be looking for at the end of this year.
Bush has shown this year that he is capable of being the lead running back for an NFL team, and an explosive one at that. He deserves a starting gig, and at Detroit, he would get one.
Pair him with Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford, and Detroit has one of the most balanced offenses in the NFL.
Carlos Rogers was the first corner to hold Calvin Johnson out of the end zone in 2011.
That alone should be enough to qualify him for a spot on the Detroit roster, and he could instantly shut down any No. 1 wide-receiver for the opposing team.
He may be the most valued corner this year, but he is not alone. Other corners in the 2012 free agent class include: Cortland Finnegan, Aaron Ross, Rahsean Mathis, William Gay, Ronde Barber and Terrell Thomas.
Any one of these corners could make an instant impact for Detroit's secondary.
Aaron Ross is one of the few corners in the New York Giants organization who survived the preseason. He is in a contract year and has been an anchor for the Giants' secondary.
Ross also returns kicks, and would be a great addition to Detroit's return game.
This one may be obvious, but DeAndre Levy is a must-sign for Martin Mayhew and the Detroit Lions. He leads the team in tackles and tackles for loss, with 69 and five, respectively.
Levy is exactly what Detroit needs in a linebacker: instinctive and explosive. If he becomes a free agent, Detroit will have lost a special talent.
Peyton Hillis, before the 2011 season, was in line for a hefty paycheck. But 2011 has not treated Hillis well. You may blame this on the 'Madden Curse,' but I think he was simply in a bad situation that turned ugly.
The Motor City would be an excellent spot for Hillis to regain his confidence and get back to his 2010 form. Hillis is a bruising runner with surprising pass-catching ability. He would make for an excellent between-the-tackles running back for Detroit, and would provide balance alongside Jahvid Best.
Mike Tolbert is everything Detroit needs in a running back. Power at the goal line. A legitimate run-between-the-tackles threat. Not to mention, his pass-catching ability is very good.
With Jahvid Best's health concerns always being an issue and Mikel Leshoure coming off an Achilles injury, Tolbert would instantly solidify the Detroit run game.
He can block, run and catch. He would balance Detroit's offense without the expense of other running backs, like Peyton Hillis or Michael Bush.