Answering your emails
I'll try to do this every week or two in what should be a busy offseason, but figured I had a stack of emails piling up both in my inbox and unanswered responses on the blog so here goes a few:
What do you think of the hiring of Jim Schwartz as head coach?
People around the league have good things to say about Schwartz. He's bright, energetic, young, and obviously comes from some good bloodlines (Bill Belichick and Jeff Fisher). But the reality is that would have been the case with anyone the Lions hired. Todd Bowles, Leslie Frazier, Steve Spagnuolo and everyone else they interviewed were cut from the same mold.
I can't bag on the hire. It's not like the choice came down to Schwartz and Bill Cowher, or a proven commodity like that. And I will say Schwartz handled himself well and said all the right things both for public consumption in his press conference and in a more relaxed setting with beat writers later last Friday. Still, at the end of the day it comes down to surrounding Schwartz with the right talent, something the Lions have been woeful at in recent years. If Martin Mayhew has a good or draft or two, Schwartz will look like a great hire. If not, we'll be back at this process in three years.
What would it take to get Julius Peppers in a Lions jersey next year?
A lot of money is the answer (and probably a draft pick or two Carolina's way), but I don't see it happening. Peppers, a free agent next month, has said he won't sign a long-term contract with the Panthers, who will likely franchise the 29-year-old defensive end. He's a phenomenal talent coming off a career-high 14 1/2-sack season at a position of dire need, but he's also on the back end of his career and wouldn't seem to fit the Lions' long-term plans.
The Lions aren't going to be big spenders in free agency this offseason. They'll sign a few guys, maybe add a starter or two, but we're talking someone like Vincent Fuller (Tennessee's nickel back last year), not Peppers. The Lions want to get younger and more physical on defense, and the way to do that is through the draft. Ideally, they could trade down a few spots from No. 1, but that's unlikely to happen. Under no circumstance can I see them trading that pick for a player like Peppers.
Does Gunther Cunningham as defensive coordinator mean the Lions will run the Tampa 2 defense next year?
If he hasn't already, Cunningham, Kansas City's defensive coordinator, is expected to meet with Schwartz in Mobile, Ala., in the next day or two. Chances are he'll be a Lion by the end of the week. Though Kansas City ran a version of the Tampa 2 defense last year, that's more a reflection of coach Herm Edwards' style than Cunningham's. Cunningham, 62, is known for his pressure packages and likely will adhere Schwartz's philosophies as defensive coordinator. That means you'll see some Cover 2 next year, as with any team, but that won't be the dominant scheme.
Who would you take with the No. 1 draft pick?
The most common of all questions this time of year .. This, of course, is subject to change over the next few months as I canvass people much more knowledgeable in personnel evaluation than me, but right now if I was running the Lions I'd have Alabama left tackle Andre Smith atop my draft board. Smith comes with a few character issues after being suspended for the Sugar Bowl, but the two times I saw him play this year he was flat out dominant. Beyond that, he'd cost slightly less than taking a quarterback No. 1, and I'm not sold on Georgia's Matt Stafford and don't have enough info on USC's Mark Sanchez to trumpet either as the top pick. Defensively, I don't think there's a player worthy of 1-1, though I'm a big Rey Maualuga fan (despite reports of his stock dropping from Day 1 at the Senior Bowl). If Sam Bradford had declared, he'd be my No. 1 choice. As it stands, I think the Lions can land a quarterback like Rhett Bomar in the later rounds.