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One thing you can count on with the Detroit Lions is that they are never, ever boring. Follow the latest news including injuries, roster moves and more here daily from Oakland Press beat writer Paula Pasche. Plus you'll find regular commentary about the team.

3/06/2009

Free agency incomplete so far for Lions

It's a week into free agency and the Lions have signed five players: cornerbacks Phillip Buchanon and Eric King, defensive tackle Grady Jackson, running back Maurice Morris and receiver Bryant Johnson. They've also swung a trade for cornerback Anthony Henry, re-signed offensive lineman Damion Cook and lost a couple of their own free agents in Moran Norris and Dan Orlovsky.

It's too early to pass out letter grades. The Lions still have a few moves to make and the draft is more important than any free agent they sign. But I've gotten a number of emails asking for my take on what's happened already, so here goes:

I like the Jackson signing. I know he's old (36) and won't play on passing downs, but you don't find good, young defensive tackles on the free-agent market. The Lions will be better against the run next year, and their defensive line isn't that bad overall (assuming Cliff Avril continues to develop and Cory Redding and Dewayne White stay healthy).

Buchanon got a two-year, $8.5-million deal according to reports, which seems about right for a soon-to-be 29-year-old corner who'll start for the Lions but wasn't considered top-of-the-market material. Jabari Greer's a better player and maybe Ron Bartell, too, but the Lions didn't want to pay Greer's asking price (he got four years, $23 million from the Saints) and I don't know how high they were on Bartell. Considering the dearth of good corners available in free agency (and the uncertainty of the draft class), I would have shelled out the extra money ($1.5 million per year) for the better player who's a year and a half younger and has more big-play ability. Buchanon's an upgrade, but the Lions could have done better.

I like the King addition better than most. I talked to someone familiar with Tennessee's personnel back in January and he said King is Jim Schwartz's type of player and he'd have a bigger role with most other NFL teams. He doesn't have a lot of wow factor, but he can play some nickel and should get a chance to contribute in the Lions' secondary.

On offense, the Morris signing was adept. The Lions needed a backup for Kevin Smith and Morris is the type of under-the-radar back capable of playing a bigger role if needed. It was curious that he was the first free agent signed this offseason, but the more I thought about it the more I liked it. The Lions don't need to be spending a valuable draft pick on a rookie who'll be Smith's backup. Getting Morris early was a smart move.

I'm not quite as high on Johnson. He'll be the No. 2 receiver in Detroit, but he's proven throughout his career he's not a No. 2 receiver. Sure, he's got better skills than Travis Taylor or John Standeford, and he could put up decent numbers next to Calvin Johnson, but receiver is still a hole in my opinion and Bryant Johnson won't help in the return game.

Bottom line is, the Lions aren't done shopping. They still need help at quarterback, left guard (or tackle), fullback and tight end on offense, and most pressingly at linebacker (middle and strong-side) and in the secondary (either corner or safety, depending on where Henry plays) on defense. There aren't a whole lot of starters out there, so I wouldn't expect many more impact signings in what so far has been a deliberate and blue-collar makeover of the team.

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15 Comments:

Anonymous Michael Schottey said...

Anything new or developing with Loper, LJ Smith or Chris Carr?

What about other safety help? I personally think Anthony Henry is the best bet to play FS right now but Roy Williams and Sean Jones are both still on the market.

Are the visits just about over until post-draft?

1:47 PM 
Blogger Ty said...

Dave--

I think the decision to sign older guys with lower ceilings but higher floors has been, to use your word, deliberate. All of these guys are proven decent veterans, who fit specific needs (330+ pound run stopping DT), rather than overpaying for the "best overall available" guy at the position. In this case, overpaying for a Rocky Bernard, or trying to convert a Chris Canty, wouldn't have gotten the job done, and we'd be stuck with them for three or four years. Instead, the Lions got exactly what they needed with no real committment. I'm quite excited, especially if the TE spot gets filled with LJ Smith and a linebacker or two comes from somewhere . . .

Peace
Ty @ The Lions in Winter

2:05 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please no LJ Smith. We need someone who is much better at blocking than him--especially with the OLine in the condition it is.

Is McFadden still out there? I think he is probably worth the $$ he will ask for. And I would take Roy Williams in a heart beat for our safety.

2:36 PM 
Anonymous Michael Schottey said...

Ty,

Great comment and great blog (just bookmarked it) feel free to check out mine as well.

To your point, I think you are spot on and this FA period has really shored up a lot of blatant needs to allow the Lions a more flexible draft board.

If the Lions pass on Stafford (and I hope they do) a Curry/Beatty or a J Smith/Cushing first round could yield great results for the future.

We all can't forget that there are more FA periods forthcoming and depth at the skill positions can be easily had post draft.

2:43 PM 
Blogger Ty said...

Anon--

Ahh, but I would argue that in a Linehan offense, you have to have a TE or H-back who can catch the 6-to-8 yard stuff, especially if we're stuck with our insurance policy (Bryant Johnson) at the #2 WR spot. To be brutally honest, we probably need both a recieving and a blocking TE, but IMO we need the reciever more.

Michael--

Thanks for the kind words (and the bookmark!) . . . I'm intrigued by your site, too, I can't wait to play with the ODS.

Right now I really think Curry or Smith will be the pick. If it's Curry, I favor a combination like QB Josh Freeman and one of the C/G prospects, like Alex Mack. If it's Smith, I'd like to go with Freeman and Clay Matthews III--or Laurenitis if he falls to 1.20 and then either Freeman or BPA at 2.1.

Peace
Ty @ The Lions in Winter

3:07 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

looks like we got loper for a year:

http://www.tennessean.com/article/20090306/SPORTS01/90306072/1027

smith or monroe the front runner now?

3:33 PM 
Anonymous Steve said...

Dave, I am curious what you think we will do with the d-line. With the addition of Jackson, we have a ton of lineman left over from Marinellis class of 15 lineman for the start of the season. If we still plan on drafting a DT or DE, what kind of future do you see for the younger lineman like Cliff Avril, Alama-Francis, Landen Cohen, Fluellen, etc. Any chance any other than Avril (who I am really big on) pan out to anything other than a Millen/Marinelli BUST.

3:44 PM 
Blogger Dave Birkett said...

I think your starters on the line next year are Avril and White at ends and Jackson and Redding at tackle. DeVries is a solid backup and worth keeping around. Both Fluellen and Alama-Francis should have spots because they're young, cheap and versatile (and Alama-Francis can play special teams). Beyond that, who knows. I like Cohen, but he probably needs to get bigger. Darby is essentially a lighter version of Jackson and probably will be cut, and I fully expect the Lions to draft a lineman or two. Who and where will determine how the rotation plays out. I don't know that the recent draft picks (aside from Avril) have much future in Detroit, mostly because the Lions are looking for a different type of lineman now.

As for Carr, I think the Lions are still in the mix there. Schwartz wants a return specialist and Carr's the best available. Not sure about L.J. Smith. Heard he was going to be too expensive for the Lions but he hasn't signed anywhere so I wouldn't rule it out. ... I think you can get a good (if one-dimensional) tight end in the draft on Day 2 so I wouldn't make that a priority sign.

4:12 PM 
Anonymous Steve said...

Thanks Dave, that is what I figured with the other young guys. Avril is pretty small but he has some skill. Most people don't realize it but he led all rookie in sacks and forced fumbles last year. He really started to come on late in the year.

4:18 PM 
Anonymous Michael Schottey said...

I'm wondering if we're undervaluing Fluellen a little bit. He showed quite a bit (IMO) last year and I would not be surprised in a scenario that has Fluellen playing a lot of DE and having him move to DT on passing downs subbing Avril in.

Avril still just seems too small to be an every down DE.

4:36 PM 
Anonymous Myth said...

I think Cory Redding needs to move to a 3-4 to be truly effective. It's no coincidence that he's been injured more since moving to DT...he just isn't built for the 4-3. He's more athletic than the traditional 3-4 DE, so he makes a perfect Hybrid style DL if they are going to play that style. In their base set, however, I think they need another space eater with some push the pocket abilities.

Would they be thinking to trade any of their plethora of LDE/DT type guys. There are a number of teams transitioning to the 3-4.

5:19 PM 
Anonymous Steve said...

I dont think they would trade Corey Redding. I read on the Lions site that the four players they really liked from the old D were Sims, Avril, Bullocks, and Redding. Those are the guys they want to be around.

9:10 PM 
Anonymous Steve said...

Hey Michael Schottey, I was reading your blog and wondered where you heard about Mike Peterson. That would be a good move. I dont want Paris Lenon or Alex Lewis to even be a backup let alone a starter. They need several LB and I don't see them taking more than two in the draft.

9:52 PM 
Anonymous Michael Schottey said...

Steve,

It was reported in the Florida Times Union a while back but since then Peterson has visited the Bills and not yet the Lions.

10:33 PM 
Blogger Jason said...

Dave,

What's the chance Maurice Morris returns kickoffs? He did some of that back in Seattle.

10:04 AM 

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