4 predictions for free agency
The Lions won't make a big splash and that's a good thing.
There's rumors that the Lions will be among the teams sniffing around defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (though he appears bound for Washington) and linebacker Bart Scott would no doubt look good in Honolulu blue (though the Detroit native made it quite clear on Sirius radio last week he has no interest in coming home). But new coach Jim Schwartz trumpeted building with mid-level free agents last week in Indianapolis, and that's what the Lions will do. Nothing bold, but they are in a position where they can give young backups an opportunity to start. The Lions have enough cap room ($35-$40 million) to come out of free agency with three new starters and more roster filler.
Titans safety Vincent Fuller will be first on board.
Fuller is exactly the type of player the Lions want. He's young (27 on opening day), productive (Tennessee's nickel man the last two years) and blocked on his current team by Michael Griffin. He wants an opportunity to start and should find it in Detroit, where Daniel Bullocks had an up-and-down year, Gerald Alexander is coming off a serious neck injury and Kalvin Pearson is a solid contributor but not a 16-game starter.
Tampa North and Tennessee North are two different things.
Under Rod Marinelli, the Lions signed a slew of ex-Buccaneers and got mostly disappointing returns. Brian Kelly and Dwight Smith were unmitigated disasters. Chuck Darby didn't have much impact. Ryan Nece was serviceable as a fill-in but he won't be back. Only Pearson and Dewayne White are keepers, and it's no surprise they were the young and hungry when they came to Detroit. Schwartz spent a decade in Tennessee and could sign a handful of his former players, but they'll be up-and-comers like Fuller not aging vets like Kelly and Smith. A couple other former Titans to keep an eye on: Chris Carr, a legitimate return man who'd contribute at cornerback, and Daniel Loper, a potential starter at left guard who can also play tackle.
Schwartz and general manager Martin Mayhew have been fairly coy about their free-agent plans, but one thing they've both said repeatedly is they need to get bigger on defense. The Lions are transitioning from a Tampa 2 defense and want physical, aggressive players who can withstand the pounding of an NFL season. Targeting and signing players are two different things, but a couple defenders at positions of need who fit the bill (besides Haynesworth) are Rams cornerback Ronald Bartell and Cowboys linebacker Kevin Burnett.
Labels: Albert Haynesworth, Brian Kelly, Chris Carr, Detroit Lions, Dewayne White, Dwight Smith, Jim Schwartz, Kalvin Pearson, Kevin Burnett, Martin Mayhew, Rod Marinelli, Ronald Bartell, Vincent Fuller