Answering your emails
Keep those questions coming and I'll try to get to them on slow news days.
Who starts at quarterback for the Lions next year?
A number of you have asked this in one form or another, and while this is pure speculation for now, Scott Linehan's arrival has to make Daunte Culpepper the most likely opening-day starter. The theory is and I know at least one Lions offensive player who feels this way Linehan and Culpepper's previous relationship (in Minnesota) overshadows any struggles Culpepper had last year (when the Lions signed him as a two-year stopgap quarterback) and allows him to continue as the bridge to the future on offense (most likely for a quarterback drafted this year).
Linehan said he intends to give every quarterback on the roster an equal opportunity to win the starting job, but fact is someone has to enter camp atop the depth chart and, if the Lions pay his $2.5-million bonus next month, it will be Culpepper. Jon Kitna, who's due his own $500,000 bonus and has $1 million in escalators in his contract, is angling to return a Lion, but I don't see it; this is the same management team that put him on injured reserve. Drew Stanton has some qualities Linehan will find attractive, but the front office has to be on board, too. Dan Orlovsky likely is headed elsewhere in free agency. My guess on Jan. 29? Culpepper opens the season as starter, leads the Lions to a 3-8 record, then Stanton or more likely a highly-drafted rookie takes over for the final month.
Did Keary Colbert sign a two-year contract?
This came up in relation to my post on Mike Furrey and, in light of the glut of No. 3-caliber receivers on the Lions roster, why his release was no big deal. No, Colbert signed a one-year contract for a prorated portion of $605,000. I guess he still could return because the Lions don't have any reliable pass catchers beyond Calvin Johnson. But Colbert isn't much of an upgrade over Chris Hannon, Adam Jennings, Travis Taylor or John Standeford. All but Taylor are signed for next season for less than Colbert was making. Eric Fowler and Reggie Ball are under contract, too, and the Lions will no doubt add to their receiver stable either in free agency or the draft. Remember how guys like Devin Thomas and Limas Sweed fell in the draft last year? The Lions might be able to find a good No. 2 receiver/return man in Round 3.
If the Lions draft a left tackle, what happens to Jeff Backus?
I need to say this first this is not a good year to have the No. 1 pick. It never is for money reasons, but there doesn't appear to be a Peyton Manning-type NFL-ready quarterback; top tackle Andre Smith has some character questions that need to be answered; and I'm of the belief that you don't give No. 1 money to an outside linebacker like Aaron Curry who won't be a pass rusher for the Lions (Cliff Avril is the right end). That said, could Backus change positions? Sure, but I don't know that he's an ideal guard and I don't think you want to take Gosder Cherilus off the right tackle position. It may be more likely the Lions, in their quest to upgrade the offensive line, draft a guard or two and hope that leads to better play out of the tackles.
Regardless, with an uncapped 2010 looming, I think it's unlikely the Lions release Backus. If they were to cut him after the draft, it's my understanding the Lions would take an immediate cap hit in the form of the remaining unaccounted for $8-million-or-so portion of his signing bonus (rather than spreading part of it into 2010; there are no June designations in the last capped year). As far under the cap as the Lions expect to be (some $35 million or so), that's a lot of dead money when Backus is neither a cancer in the locker room nor out of tread as a player.
Though he wasn't talking about Backus in any way, team president Tom Lewand was asked at Monday's town-hall meeting what impact the potential of an uncapped year would have on this season.
I think it does have an impact, Lewand said. The salary-cap rules change in 2009, which is currently the last cap year. It requires things to be accounted for differently. And it's good that we have the amount of room that we do because you have to account for more things in the first year of a deal or in the last year of a deal in 2009 then you otherwise would. Two-thousand-and-ten creates an interesting dynamic.