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.
Labels: Anthony Henry, Cliff Avril, Cory Redding, Damion Cook, Dan Orlovsky, Detroit Lions, Dewayne White, Eric King, Grady Jackson, Jabari Greer, Jim Schwartz, Maurice Morris, Moran Norris, Phillip Buchanon