Detroit Lions Free Agency 2013: Breaking Down the Big Signings, Role, Fit
So far in free agency the most hyped move made by the Detroit Lions has been bringing Reggie Bush into the fold for a four-year, $16 million contract, per ProFootballTalk. This has made waves, as he seems to be the ideal replacement for Jahvid Best. However, the Lions have made a few other moves, all of which seem to be very solid.
In this article I will break down what the new (or old) players roles will be in 2013, whether I believe they will find success in them and finally predict their statistical performance for the year.
Reggie Bush (RB)
Reggie Bush is the marquee name that the Lions have brought in, but his role with the team is probably going to be different than what many expect. He is very unlikely to be a every down back who will carry the ball 30 times a game, and as such he is unlikely to single-handedly give the Lions the competent running game that fans have been clamoring for.
Instead, Bush's role will be similar to the one that Darren Sproles performs in New Orleans, but probably with a few more carries. While Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell will handle the early downs, Bush will be expected to be the third-down back who can pick up blitzes and catch the ball out of the backfield, while adding speed and a big-play threat to the run game. This is a role which he is very well suited to.
Bush is one of the best route runners and pass-catching running backs. In fact, he would be able to play as a slot receiver full time. He is also a very talented open-field runner who has the speed and burst to get outside and break long runs. He has the elusiveness to make multiple defenders miss on a single carry.
Also, in recent years he has shown the ability to run the ball between the tackles, which makes him a much more versatile and unpredictable runner. Bush has also been a x-factor as a punt returner over his career, especially with the New Orleans Saints when he had a part-time offensive role like his likely role for Detroit. This could allow the Lions to get rid of Stefan Logan, and also make their weak return game a weapon.
I believe that Bush will be one of the better signings this offseason given his affordable price tag and potential impact on the offense's explosiveness if he is not overused and worn down over the season. Remember that with Jahvid Best on the roster the Lions reeled off nine straight wins in 2010-11. Bush could return that spark to the team.
2013 Statistical Prediction: 170 carries, 800 yards, 6 TDs, 45 catches, 430 yards, 3 TDs, 2 Return TDs
Glover Quin (S)
In signing Glover Quin to a five-year, $25 million deal (per Josh Katzenstein, Detroit News), the Lions have added a dependable safety who is one of the most versatile in the league, and certainly on the free market. In 2013, Quin is likely to be expected to step into the safety position formerly held by Louis Delmas.
Quin had a torrid time early in his career with the Houston Texans when he played cornerback and was routinely taken advantage of. However, when he was shifted to safety everything clicked into place. Quin is only decent in run support, however he is a sure tackler (unlike his predecessor), and is very competent in coverage, especially man coverage in the slot or on tight ends.
He was one of the most effective slot cornerbacks last season, and also performs well against tight ends. This ability should help the Lions defense deal with the new brand of athletic receiving tight ends who are threatening defenses anew.
In summary, Quin is a safe but not spectacular player who should add consistency and coverage to Detroit's secondary. Unlike Delmas, he has not struggled with injuries, he misses very few tackles and can play man and zone coverage at an above-average level. It is possibly to quibble about how much the Lions paid for him, but overall it is hard to fault a deal if Quin does not regress.
2013 Statistical Prediction: 65 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 3 interceptions, 18 passes defended
Chris Houston (CB)
Chris Houston was always the primary re-signing target for the Lions this offseason, so unsurprisingly I, like many Lions fans, breathed a sigh of relief when it was announced that he was coming back for another five years in a $25 million deal, per Dave Birkett of The Detroit Free Press.
Houston has been the shining light in the Lions secondary for a few seasons now. His play has made him a top 15 cornerback in the NFL. He is solid against the run and a very consistent corner who does not let receivers get behind him for big plays. Despite being a good athlete, it is clear that he will never be a shut down player like Darrelle Revis or Richard Sherman, but his consistent, all-around game that makes it hard for receivers to get the better of him is extremely valuable.
Houston is being brought back to retain the role he has played ever since coming to Motown. He will play solely at the left cornerback position and duke it out with receivers all game. Enough said.
It looks like another great re-signing by the Lions. Although it is a long contract, almost all the guaranteed money is being paid in the first three years, so if his play regresses after he passes 30 he will be an easy player to cut. Also, given the absurd contracts that even solid cornerbacks (like Houston) can pull as free agents like the $50 million that Cortland Finnegan got last year, getting Chris Houston for half that is a coup for Martin Mayhew. It was another very good signing for the Lions.
2013 Statistical Prediction: 50 tackles, 4 interceptions, 15 passes defended, 1 TD
Jason Jones (DT)
This is a real under-the-radar move for the Lions (news via Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press), but one that could pay big dividends, especially with Sammie Lee Hill leaving the team for more playing time in Tennessee. Jason Jones has been more or less invisible for two seasons, after a disastrous 2011 in Tennessee at defensive end, and then spending time injured and buried in the depth chart in Seattle. However, under Jim Schwartz when he was defensive coordinator for the Titans, Jones was one of the best penetrating defensive tackles in the NFL when playing limited minutes, and if he can regain this form he will be one of the biggest bargains for the next three years.
Jones is vastly undersized for a defensive tackle at just 290 lbs, but his great quickness, playing strength and technique made him a great penetrator from inside when he was healthy. He could not stand up linemen in the run game or bulldoze them backwards consistently, but his speed was generally too much to handle and he just had a knack for getting off blocks in the run and passing game. He has never put up big stats, but his on-the-field play was impossible to ignore since he was constantly in the opponents' backfield.
Throughout his career he has struggled to remain healthy over full season of snaps, limiting his value. He really only fits one specific position on a team, that of a penetrating under-tackle, as he was terrible as a defensive end in 2011.
However, on a Lions defense that already boasts Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley at defensive tackle, Jones is landing in the ideal position. As a backup, he should wear down and get injured much less than as a starter, and will also be able to remain fresh. Secondly, his head coach and defensive line coach, Jim Washburn, will be the same as those who turned him into a situational star in Tennessee. Finally, the wide-nine defense that the Lions run is predicated on getting defensive linemen in space working one-on-one against blockers, which is the situation that Jones thrives in.
Really, Jones has picked the perfect team, as the Lions should be able to minimize his weaknesses and capitalize on his strengths this season. However, this is also a brilliant move by the Lions. Jones fits their defensive philosophy perfectly, and is likely to be a better back-up than Sammie Lee Hill ever was. Also, they are paying him a mere $9.5 million over three years. If he can get anywhere near his best over his time in Michigan this will be a great value contract.
2013 Statistical Prediction: 25 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles