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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.


Stafford: 'I felt like I threw it pretty well'

By all accounts, including his own, Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford fared well in his private workout for the Lions Tuesday.

“I think I did well,” Stafford said in a phone interview Tuesday. “At this point I'm not going to say what I feel like my chances (of going No. 1) are. I feel like I've done everything I can. I feel like I've done well every time we've met together. Whether they go with me or with somebody else is not up to me, but I can rest easy at night knowing that I did everything I could.”

Stafford worked out for eight members of the Lions' front office and coaching staff, including head coach Jim Schwartz and general manager Martin Mayhew. He spent about an hour and a half diagramming plays in a chalkboard session, then hit the field under the direction of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.

A team source said the workout “went well” and, quoting an unnamed source, described it as “flawless.” Stafford wasn't quite as glowing in his recap, but asked if he hurt his chances of going No. 1 in any way he said, “I don't think so at all.”

“It was some different routes that I obviously can't practice, I'm not used to throwing, and kind of tough to simulate without a defense,” he said. “But yeah, I felt like I threw the ball well.”

Stafford said the workout was similar to what he went through at his pro day two weeks ago.

“We probably went at a slower pace today then we did at my pro day,” he said. “Actually, I know we did. It was good. Coach Linehan would teach a route to a receiver and kind of try to help me out with what we're looking at as far as what kind of defense they're playing against us and try to throw it. That was the difference probably more than anything.”

What were the new routes the Lions asked him to throw?

“They had some inside comebacks almost you could call them,” Stafford said. “They had some over routes, some things that are just tough to simulate without a defender on them. He'd say, 'Hey, shoot this in there like it was a Cover 2,' and it was just kind of tough without a safety maybe coming over the top to understand what angle he wants you to put it on or how much air he wants on it. I just tried to do my best and then complete some balls.”

Since the Lions have watched game tape of Stafford back to high school and know all about his physical abilities and rocket arm, the most important part of the workout was the chalkboard session, which Stafford said he “felt like I did really well in.”

“It was good to get out there and get in front of all those people and show them that I had some knowledge of the game,” he said.

Stafford said he doesn't have any more private workouts scheduled. A team of Lions representatives will attend USC's pro day Wednesday then reconvene Thursday in Detroit to start setting their draft board.

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SI: Stafford workout 'flawless'

According to a report on, Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford was very impressive in his private workout with the Lions today.

Stafford did not return a pair of phone messages, but SI quoted sources as calling the workout “flawless” and saying “it was significantly better than his March 19 pro day.” A team source confirmed “it went well.”

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan ran the workout, and coach Jim Schwartz and general manager Martin Mayhew were among those expected to attend. Stafford had been training with Terry Shea, who was quarterbacks coach under Linehan in St. Louis last year.

According to SI, Stafford “threw accurately through the entire session,” though Lions coaches did speak with him about past accuracy issues. Stafford is one of three candidates to go No. 1 overall along with Baylor left tackle Jason Smith and Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry.

A group of Lions' decision makers are scheduled to attend USC's pro day on Wednesday, and the front office reconvenes Thursday to begin setting its board.

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Lions open preseason vs. Falcons

The NFL won't release its full 2009 schedule for another couple of weeks, but the league announced its preseason slate of games Monday (teams will fill in the exact dates in the coming days/weeks).

The Lions host the Falcons, the team that started them on their road to infamy last regular season, in the exhibition opener Aug. 13-17. They travel to Cleveland in preseason Week 2, Aug. 20-24, host Indianapolis (when Peyton Manning actually should play)
the following week, Aug. 27-31, and close the preseason at Buffalo either Sept. 3 or 4.

Last year, they went undefeated in the preseason before stumbling to the NFL's first ever 0-16 record.

The regular season schedule will be released sometime before the draft.

More on Jarron Gilbert

My apologies for a quiet weekend. I spent a few days out of town and wasn't able to update the blog. This week I'm pressed into action at the Final Four but will try to keep providing regular Lions updates here. Matt Stafford's got his private workout with the Lions Tuesday and USC's pro day is Wednesday. After that, it's time for the Lions to firm up the top of their draft board and begin serious negotiations with their No. 1 pick.

A couple quick housekeeping items on first mock draft. I had San Jose State defensive tackle Jarron Gilbert going to the Lions with the first pick of the second round. A few of you wondered about the wisdom of that, saying that's too high or he's a defensive end or a three-technique tackle and the Lions need more of a nose.

My retort is the Lions need playmakers on defense and Gilbert has both the frame (6-foot-5, 288 pounds) and the production (9 1/2 sacks as a tackle last year) to be a monster in coach Jim Schwartz's system. A late bloomer physically, he played defensive end his first three years in college and would retain some of that versatility in the NFL, though I think his ultimate position is tackle. I know the Lions have recent picks Andre Fluellen, Landon Cohen and Ikaika Alama-Francis already on their roster, but none is a locked-up starter on the inside and the Lions are bringing Gilbert in for a visit. Beyond that, I'm not sure there's another defensive tackle (assuming B.J. Raji, Peria Jerry and Evander Hood are gone) worthy of pick No. 33 and that's a gaping position of need.

One other thing on Gilbert, whose father Daren Gilbert played for the New Orleans Saints. He became a bit of a cult sensation with the YouTube video of him jumping out of a pool at one of his teammate's apartments in San Jose. How'd that video come about?

“One day our strength coach said Adam Archuleta could jump out of a pool and everybody was super amazed,” Gilbert said at the NFL combine last month. “I went out there one day – it wasn't that big a deal to me – and I just went and jumped out of the pool. I found out that I could do it, so I put it on film to make everybody else believe me.”

Asked if he planned on being as big a hit in the NFL, Gilbert said, “Definitely.”

“Jumping out of the pool is cool and everything, but being a good player is a little more important than that,” he said.

Here's video of the pool jump. Next time you're at your local YMCA, try it.

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Mock draft 1.0

My first mock draft was supposed to run tomorrow, the four-week mark until the draft. But I'm headed out of town this weekend so I figured I'd post it a day early.

I'll have another one in two weeks and then a final mock to be mocked just before the draft. This isn't necessarily how I'd pick – I'd lean towards Jason Smith or Aaron Curry at No. 1 – but rather what I see teams doing in the first round (and, in the Lions' case, with the first pick of Round 2). I'm sure much will change in the coming weeks so don't take this as gospel, but I'm interested in your thoughts on what the Lions will (or should) do at 1, 20 and 33.

1. Lions: QB Matt Stafford, Georgia – Seems the most likely scenario at this point.
2. Rams: OT Jason Smith, Baylor – Smith or Eugene Monroe is the pick here.
3. Chiefs: LB Aaron Curry, Wake Forest – Another brick for the Martin Mayhew-Scott Pioli debate.
4. Seahawks: OT Eugene Monroe, Virginia – Walter Jones has one or two good years left.
5. Browns: DT B.J. Raji, Boston College – If Shaun Rogers is unhappy, draft his replacement.
6. Bengals: OT Andre Smith, Alabama – It's early, I know, but the Bengals are desperate for a tackle.
7. Raiders: WR Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech – Al Davis loves him some skill guys.
8. Jacksonville: WR, Jeremy Maclin, Missouri –  Matt Jones didn't work out, maybe Maclin will.
9. Packers: OLB Everette Brown, Florida State – Pack will have their pick of 3-4 rushers.
10. 49ers: DE Brian Orakpo, Texas – Best value on board for defensive-minded Singletary.
11. Bills: OT Michael Oher, Ole Miss – Would start at guard, then move to tackle
12. Broncos: LB Brian Cushing, USC – Assuming Cutler's still around, defense is biggest need.
13. Redskins: DE Robert Ayers, Tennessee – Need an end after Jason Taylor's release.
14. Saints: CB Malcolm Jenkins, OSU – Jenkins mini-slide stops here.
15. Texans: CB Vontae Davis, Illinois – And Dunta Robinson plays 2009 on a one-year deal.
16. Chargers: OLB Aaron Maybin, Penn State – Insurance for Shawne Merriman.
17. Jets: QB Mark Sanchez, USC –  Jets get their QB of the future.
18. Bears: WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, Maryland – Fastest receiver in the draft.
19. Buccaneers: QB Josh Freeman, Kansas State – New coach Raheem Morris was at KSU.
20. Lions: LB Rey Maualuga, USC – April 1 pro day is big for Maualuga.
21. Eagles: TE Brandon Pettigrew, Oklahoma State – McNabb wants weapons.
22. Vikings: C Alex Mack, Cal – Replaces Matt Birk for the next decade.
23. Patriots: OLB Connor Barwin, Cincinnati – Hazel Park native seems like a Belichick guy.
24. Falcons: LB Clay Matthews, USC – Brooking and Boley are gone, OLB is a need.
25. Dolphins: DT Evander Hood, Missouri – Best tackle available after Raji.
26. Ravens: WR Percy Harvin, Florida – Time to get Flacco some weapons.
27. Colts: DE Tyson Jackson, LSU –  Laurinaitis is a possibility here, too.
28. Eagles: RB Knowshon Moreno, Georgia – Eagles have their pick of RBs here.
29. Giants: RB Donald Brown, UConn – Brown's the perfect compliment to Jacobs.
30. Titans: DT Peria Jerry, Mississippi – Albert Haynesworth's replacement.
31. Cardinals: RB Chris Wells, Ohio State – Edge is done in Arizona.
32. Steelers: OT Eben Britton, Arizona – Steelers need to keep Roethlisberger upright.
33. Lions: DT Jarron Gilbert, San Jose State – Don't forget the name come draft day.

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Stanton's future bleak with Lions

Got a story running in tomorrow's paper about Drew Stanton's future with the Lions that I figured I'd address here. Namely, he doesn't appear to have much of one with the organization, and it's not all his fault.

I know people say the Lions reached when they took him in the second round, No. 43 overall, two years ago. But that's revisionist. Yes, they had more pressing needs and I remember sitting in the press room with other writers thinking David Harris should have been the pick. But after JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn, Stanton was roundly considered to be in the second tier of quarterbacks with Trent Edwards and John Beck.

Now about the future, the Lions insist Stanton's starting with a clean slate and he'll get plenty of opportunity over the next few weeks.

“We'll hit the first mini-camp (next month) and then those first OTAs,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said last week. “I think we'll have six or seven practices before that draft so we'll have a good chance to see where he is. That won't be the end of his evaluation, but it'll give us a good starting point.”

The truth, though, is that the Lions appear to already have decided Stanton's fate. General manager Martin Mayhew said he plans to sign a veteran to back up Daunte Culpepper depending on what happens in the draft (i.e., if the Lions don't take Matt Stafford, Mark Sanchez or Josh Freeman), and Schwartz has indicated he wants to draft a developmental quarterback if they pass on the franchise type in the early rounds.

Stafford is in the mix to go No. 1, of course, and because the Lions want a contract done before they pick they'll be deciding who to take sometime in the next three weeks. That's before their first mini-camp, before OTAs and before they're able to get a real read on Stanton.

I don't know if Stanton has the goods to be a full-time starter in the NFL. The Lions, obviously, don't think so. But his opportunity to prove otherwise has so far consisted of 17 pass attempts, three offensive coordinators, three quarterbacks coach and one mechanics overhaul (plus a rebuild back) when he was buried on injured reserve his rookie year.

Now, it looks like he's destined to be a third quarterback for as long as he stays in Detroit, the rare second-round pick who never got a shot.

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Lions don't have bargaining power, No. 1 pick's about football

It's a good move for the Lions to begin contract dialogue with their top couple choices for the No. 1 overall pick. It should help them get a deal done before the draft and eliminate all the July hand-wringing that comes with a possible holdout. But don't think for a second that gives the Lions a leg up in the bargaining process.

Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford and Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith are logically the top players on the Lions' draft board. Both play premium positions, both would fill immense areas of need, and both are represented by the same CAA Football agency.

Stafford and Smith have different agents – Stafford signed with Tom Condon, Smith with Ben Dogra and Michael Lartigue – and they have their own financial interests in having their client go No. 1. But to think the Lions will be able to play one against the other is naïve. Stafford and his people will know exactly where the Lions stand with Smith, and vice versa.

Now maybe the Lions' flirtation with Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji as the No. 1 pick is serious – I tend to think he's more an option if they trade down a few spots (interesting side bar: Raji has the same agent as Mark Sanchez) – and maybe Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry is still in the mix, though as of Tuesday night the Lions had not opened contract dialogue with his agent Andy Ross.

But as it stands now, unless there's meddling from above, it looks like the Lions will make their first choice in April's draft based on football reasons and football reasons alone. That's a good thing. (Usually.)

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More from Kiper: Curry's a middle backer, Ringer top local product

Here's a few more highlights from ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper's teleconference today:

• On whether Wake Forest's Aaron Curry can play middle linebacker, the position the Lions say they'll use him at if they draft him No. 1: “I think he's an outside linebacker. I think he's a versatile kid, he can do some things. I compare him to kind of like a Keith Bulluck type. People say Keith Bulluck didn't go to late. Keith Bulluck's been one heck of a player in the NFL for a long time and very consistent, very durable, very versatile.

“I think Curry can do it. I wouldn't count it out. I just think as an outside linebacker, he's not going to be a great pass rusher but he's a pretty decent one. And people underestimate his ability there and granted he's not going to be a great (rusher) but he'll be good enough, he can cover, he's a great special-teams player. But as a linebacker, drafting him based on how he does at that position, he's a complete linebacker.”

• On Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford and the knock that he's not a big-game quarterback: “People say, well, Matthew Stafford doesn't play great in big games. I beg to differ. The kid was 3-0 in bowl games. He led his team to a state championship in Texas in the high school ranks his senior year. They hadn't won a state championship in 40 or 50 years. So this notion that he hasn't won big games, he won three bowl games in a row ... plus the state championship his senior year. The kid has won games and he has done some things on the field that nobody else can do in terms of the throws he can make. There's a lot to be said about that.

“That's why these guys in the NFL are getting paid to be coaches, they're getting paid to tweak problem areas, to tweak certain things to make them better. This notion you have to be a finished product, what the heck do we have coaches for in the NFL? We got 20 coaches on these staffs it seems like. We got more coaches in the NFL now than we've ever had and it's their job to take a kid who's not a finished product and make him a finished product.”

• It's not a great year for in-state prospects. Michigan doesn't have a player likely to go on the first day of the draft, though Morgan Trent, Will Johnson, Terrance Taylor and Carson Butler (as a tight end) are all mid- to late-round possibilities. Brian Hoyer's in the same boat for Michigan State, and running back Javon Ringer may be the first local-college product off the board somewhere in Rounds 3-5. “He's not big but he can be a workhorse, he can catch the ball, he can block, great character,” Kiper said. “I think he's a third- to fifth-, third- to fourth-round type of guy.”

• Kiper said he expects Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman to be gone by the time the Lions pick at No. 20. Teams at 17, 18 and 19 – the Jets, Bears and Buccaneers – are in the market for quarterbacks. “I just think when you're that big and you have that kind of arm and you didn't have a great team around you, somebody's got to take you in the first round, especially when there's no other quarterback going until the fifth round,” Kiper said.

• On USC middle linebacker Rey Maualuga, whose pro day the Lions will attend April 1: “I thought his junior year he was more of the impact guy, made more big plays,” Kiper said. “This year I don't think he got off of blocks as (quickly), he didn't make the play at the line of scrimmage to be that type of player, that (Junior) Seau, wow-type player. He was more of a wow player as a junior. I think he could go in that 20 area to Detroit. They need a face of the defense at the middle linebacker spot.”

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Kiper: Lions 'almost have to take' Stafford No. 1

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper, in his second teleconference previewing the NFL draft, said Wednesday he still has the Lions taking Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford with the No. 1 overall pick.

“I'm not making the choice,” Kiper said. “All I'm saying is for the Detroit Lions, who do you take? And if you don't take Stafford and you take somebody else, who's going to be your quarterback? You got (Daunte) Culpepper and you got (Drew) Stanton. Are you just going to forget about quarterback this year because there's no guarantee (Josh) Freeman's going to be there at 20 (and) there's no other quarterback to think about until the fifth round?”

The Lions have a private workout set up with Stafford next Tuesday and already have begun contract dialogue with him and other potential No. 1 picks. Baylor left tackle Jason Smith, Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji and Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry are other potential top choice. Stafford and Smith are represented by the same CAA Football agency, and the Lions have yet to reach out to Curry's agent.

“He's got skills that very few quarterbacks have throwing the football,” Kiper said of Stafford. “And if the Lions don't take him and he goes say four to Seattle, then you say who would they take? You would probably have to take the offensive tackle Jason Smith. Curry, I don't know? Curry's a great player, but are they going to take another linebacker? They've kind of addressed that already during these last couple of months.

“I just think the Lions, at the end of the day, unless they make a deal for (Jay) Cutler and get the quarterback that way, I think Stafford's a guy you almost have to take. If they don't get Cutler, I'd be very surprised if they don't take Stafford.”

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Lions get one extra pick

The Lions didn't get any compensation picks for losing free agents, but they did gain an extra seventh-rounder when the NFL announced the official draft order Monday.

League rules call for there to be 256 picks in the draft. After compensatory picks are awarded, open slots are filled based on first-round draft order. The Lions received the second to last pick, No. 255 overall. Two years ago, they took Mr. Irrelevant Ramzee Robinson with the last pick in the draft.

They now have eight overall picks, including two first- and two third-rounders, but no choices in the fourth or fifth rounds.

The league also announced its prime-time kickoff weekend and Thanksgiving games at its annual meetings Monday. The Lions host Green Bay on Thanksgiving for the second time in three years. They've lost their last five holiday games.

The rest of the league schedule will be revealed next month.

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Curry might give Lions trading options

Chances are slim the Lions will do what they'd most like to with the No. 1 pick – trade it. There's no once-in-a-generation talent in this year's draft pool, and no team wants to give more than $30 million guaranteed to an unproven rookie.

The best hope the Lions have of moving out of the top spot is to generate a bidding war for Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry. That goes against the logic that says no linebacker is worth taking No. 1, but four of the top five teams in the draft (including the Lions) have gaping holes at that position and Curry is the closest thing to a safe pick.

The key here is for teams to think the Lions are still interested in Curry, something they did a good job selling last week. They say they'll play him at middle linebacker, and, oh, imagine the possibilities with Curry, Julian Peterson and Ernie Sims. (I'm not saying they're not interested, by the way, but with a bunched draft board, moving down a few spots, saving money and picking up additional compensation trumps getting your No. 1 player.)

St. Louis at No. 2 appears set on taking a tackle and probably won't argue with either Jason Smith or Eugene Monroe. But Kansas City at No. 3, Seattle at No. 4 and Cleveland at No. 5 all covet help for their bottom-seven defenses, and Curry is a practical fit. New Chiefs GM Scott Pioli drafted linebacker Jerod Mayo No. 1 last year in New England; Seattle traded Peterson to the Lions last week; and Cleveland's biggest need is pass-rushing help at outside linebacker.

Five years ago, San Diego essentially traded the No. 1 pick (the Chargers chose Eli Manning, then dealt him to the Giants) for four draft choices and still got the player it coveted in Phillip Rivers. If general manager Martin Mayhew's able to swing a deal, the Lions might have similar luck. Quarterback Matt Stafford seems destined to slide if the Lions don't draft him, but he'd be more attractive for less money at pick No. 3. If it's Mark Sanchez they covet, as reported Sunday, there's less uproar if he goes No. 4 than No. 1. And Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji would be an immediate contributor at defensive tackle, a position of even greater need than linebacker, is palatable as the fifth overall choice but a bit of a reach as the first.

Of course, the Lions might have to settle for something less than a San Diego-like haul in return (the Chargers got a first and third in 2004, and a first and fifth in 2005). But if they really want Raji or Sanchez or are OK with either of the tackles – if there's no discernible difference between the top five or six players on their board, basically – than taking less than market value shouldn't be that big of a deal.

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History says Cutler trade could happen this week

If the Lions are going to trade for Jay Cutler, there's a good chance it'll happen this week.

The NFL's annual meetings run today through Wednesday in Dana Point, Calif., and most of the league's important decision-makers will be in attendance. Lions general manager Martin Mayhew and team president Tom Lewand are there, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen is expected as well, and no one would be surprised if Cutler's agent Bus Cook had urgent business matters to tend to on the west coast.

The Lions are one of a reported 10 teams that have contacted the Broncos about acquiring Cutler, a Pro Bowl quarterback whose incessant whining has made him persona non grata in Denver. Neither Mayhew nor head coach Jim Schwartz would acknowledge any interest in Cutler last week, but the Lions' most glaring need is at quarterback and chances don't come around every day to acquire a 25-year-old proven commodity.

“Nothing planned out there,” Mayhew said in a conference call when asked about his agenda for the meetings. “I'll just go and see where we are. CBA wise, that's important, obviously. Get an update on that. Hopefully meet the new union chief. But nothing planned, nothing major planned right now.”

ESPN reaffirmed Sunday morning that the Broncos would need a starting quarterback, a first-round pick and “maybe something else” to get any deal done. That limits the number of realistic suitors, but the Lions have enough draft-pick ammunition to be in the mix. (As a side note, I'm still not convinced Cutler's going anywhere, and if he does, Cleveland with Brady Quinn, Derek Anderson and possibly a renegotiated Shaun Rogers is the favorite. The Lions probably would need to involve a third team.)

Two years ago, Detroit talked trade with Kansas City for quarterback Trent Green at the league meetings. The same year, Philadelphia worked out a deal with Buffalo for linebacker Takeo Spikes. If the Broncos are serious about moving Cutler, history tells us something could happen soon.

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A glimpse of Schwartz's defense

Lions coach Jim Schwartz had a Football 101 discussion about his defense the other day with beat writers. It's nothing you wouldn't garner from a little bit of film study, but for those who didn't follow the Titans closely in recent years here's a glimpse of how things might work in Detroit:

Schwartz said everything the Lions do “will be based out of 4-3 personnel, but we will have 3-4 principles within our” defense. In Tennessee, for instance, the Titans often played an odd front in nickel situations with three down linemen, three linebackers and five defensive backs (the Lions were mostly a 4-2-5 nickel team under Rod Marinelli). That allowed them to use stand-up pass rushers like Antwan Odom and Travis LaBoy as a third linebacker and rush from all over the field.

If the Lions use a similar configuration, newly-acquired Julian Peterson likely will be the stand-up rusher while ends like Cliff Avril and Dewayne White keep their hands on the ground. Peterson had 24 ½ sacks the last three years in Seattle.

“Our base was a 4-3 (in Tennessee), but we ran just enough (3-4) to make you prepare for it,” Schwartz said. “I know from talking to a lot of offensive coordinators it spreads them thin. The only way you can do it is if you have those kind of guys. Cliff's one, Julian's one. We had that with Antwan and Travis.”

The Titans also sought versatile players, as the Lions are doing now, to play left- and right-outside linebacker rather than weak- or strong-side. Ditto at safety, where there's no free or strong safety designation, just two interchangeable players.

“We sort of got away (from WILL and SAM linebackers) because we saw so many shifting teams and teams get out of shifting real quick if they're moving four people and you got all these guys on defense going, are you ready yet?” Schwartz said. “But if they're moving one guy and you're flipping four, they'll just do it 60 snaps a game.

“That's why you start getting a little less compartmentalized with SAM and WILL, strong safety and free safety. If you're a strong safety and you line up to the tight-end side and that tight end motions across, you can't flip because you don't know if he's going to stop and come back and if he does you're looking bad. Guess what, if you have a 230-pound strong safety that's an in-the-box strong safety you can turn him into the free safety just motioning one guy across the formation. So it puts more (emphasis) on having multidimensional (guys).”

The trick now, of course, is for the Lions to find those type of players. Tennessee's defense worked because it had Odom and LaBoy, plus a dominating three-down tackle in Albert Haynesworth and mirror linebackers Keith Bulluck and David Thornton. The Lions don't have an every-down tackle on their roster, don't know who their starting safeties will be and don't presently have a middle linebacker on their roster.

All that considered, that's why I believe the Lions, even after the Peterson acquisition, are still considering Aaron Curry with the No. 1 pick. Curry is a multidimensional player who probably projects best as an outside linebacker, maybe in the Peterson mold with fewer sacks but better coverage skills. The Lions are building long-term, Peterson's contract is such that he won't be here but a year or two, and Curry would fill a gaping hole at middle linebacker in the interim.

Asked who his middle linebacker is as of today, Schwartz didn't have a firm answer.

“At some point we're going to have to put some pads on and some mouthpieces in and that's part of the job description for a middle linebacker,” he said. “You're going to see who can go thump, and we might not have a feel for that until training camp. I mean, who really can thump. You might think a guy can, but (you don't know) until you see it in training camp when the shoulder pads come on and that mouthpiece goes in.”

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Orlovsky: 0-16 years in the making, Stanton should play

Former Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky didn't mince words in an interview with Sirius NFL radio Thursday about his time in Detroit, saying "years ago that place was built to be a failure."

"When you take a receiver four times in the first round out of five years it's difficult," Orlovsky said. "People always ask me what was wrong with the Lions? You go back 10 years ago to the first-round draft picks who've been early first picks and it's not like your first-round draft pick has played eight years and been OK. They haven't panned out what you think like a top-seven, top-10 pick would be. You can go back. You guys can check out the names of people, but look at that team compared to the first-round draft picks of Pittsburgh in the last 10 years, or Baltimore. It's just miles and miles difference.

"When your first-rounders are essentially what we want to call them busts, it's difficult to build a football team, to build an organization. You can get a one-year wonder, but last year was just a culmination of eight, nine, 10 years ago that place just really heading down the wrong path."

Still, Orlovsky said there are "a lot of good football players that deserve to win" in the locker room and singled out Dominic Raiola, Jared DeVries, Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith. Asked what he would do to improve the team, he suggested drafting an offensive lineman with the first overall pick and going offensive or defensive line at No. 20.

"Me? I would have signed me back," Orlovsky said. "Now that I'm gone, I think - you have to address the quarterback situation (but) I don't think that's the main issue there. I honestly don't."

He said he'd like to see Drew Stanton get an opportunity to play this year.

"He's not going to be the Peyton Manning of the NFL, but he has the potential and the ability to be a good quarterback," Orlovsky said. "He's as hard-working as they come, he's a guy that if you put people around him and let him get into a system I think he can be successful."

And he was good-natured once again about his forgettable safety against Minnesota, when he ran out of the back of the end zone in his first career start.

"I was playing pickup basketball with some friends about two weeks ago in the gym and one of my friends dribbled out of bounds and he didn't realize it and kept dribbling," Orlovsky said. "I was like, 'See, it happens a lot more than you think.'"

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Henry on T.O., Roy Williams, playing safety

New Lions cornerback Anthony Henry spent the last three seasons in Dallas with Terrell Owens. He said the much-maligned receiver is more misunderstood than bad apple and was “very surprised” when the Cowboys released Owens earlier this month.

“With him I didn't think that would happen because he's a high-caliber receiver, he scores double-digit touchdowns every year and you ask the guys in the locker room, he's a great teammate to have,” Henry said. “That's why looking at things from the outside in, it was a little bit different. With us, everybody was tight, he kept the locker room together, he had functions at his house, invited everybody over and stuff like that. Even when they interviewed the guys when it happened there in Dallas, they was like, I couldn't believe it. Nobody could really believe it.”

Henry said the locker-room perception of Owens is “much different” than that of the general public.

As for former Lions receiver Roy Williams, traded to Dallas last October, Henry said Williams showed up for his first day wearing cowboy boots and a hat.

“We were having fun,” Henry said. “From Day 1 he was good. Everybody loved him and he practiced well, first day of practice making great catches, so it was good to have him a part of the team.”

Henry said he had “mixed feelings” initially about the trade that sent him to Detroit for Jon Kitna last month, but got over those once he had a chance to talk with Lions coach Jim Schwartz and teammates he'd known from around the league like Kalvin Pearson and Aveion Cason.

Schwartz said Henry will start this offseason at cornerback, but could switch to safety. Henry played safety occasionally at times last year and the Cowboys planned to move him off corner this year.

“Wherever they put me I plan on playing well,” he said. “In Dallas I played corner my whole time, but when we needed a certain change up I played safety, too. If that's a possibility here then I'm willing to do it.”

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Country road: Sims over 0-16

Linebacker Ernie Sims said it didn't take long for him toget over the sting of last year's 0-16 season.

“I went home and went in the country and didn't come out and didn't talk to nobody and now I'm back,” Sims said Thursday.

Sims spent most of the offseason at his home in rural Florida. He went hunting and fishing, where he caught a 10-pound bass, and spent the past 2 1/2 months relaxing and letting his body “heal up.”

The fourth-year pro is coming off his worst season individually, but he still ranks as one of the Lions' top defensive playmakers and will be a key component of any turnaround. He said he doesn't have a good idea how or where he'll fit in new coach Jim Schwartz's system yet, and while he's “comfortable” with the personnel changes around him he's taking a wait-and-see approach to the season.

“I'm being real,” Sims said. “It might look good on paper right now and it might look good because they're running good in offseason training, but it really matters on Sundays when the lights are on and it's game time.”

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Buchanon meets with media, wants to return punts

New Lions cornerback Phillip Buchanon just had his first media session with local reporters. Seems like a nice, engaging man. He said he wants to get involved in the community, wants to return punts and promised better results in a secondary that intercepted just one pass last year.

“It's a different year, it's a different team so I want everybody to come out and support us and I can promise you that things will be a lot different,” Buchanon said.

Buchanon had two interceptions last season and said he had two more called back by penalty. He returned one pick 26 yards for a touchdown against New Orleans and Drew Brees in the first game of the year.

“I actually would have more than that but I really wasn't getting picked on early on,” he said.

Buchanon said he heard nothing but good things about new Lions coach Jim Schwartz from his cousin Jevon Kearse, who played six seasons under Schwartz over two stints in Tennessee.

“He didn't say anything negative,” Buchanon said. “He said he's a nice guy, good coach, understands the players from the coaching side. He talked real good about him so I definitely respect that."

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What to do at defensive tackle?

I don't know if Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji is legitimately in the mix for the No. 1 pick. I can't imagine he ranks as the top player on many draft boards, including the Lions'. But if general manager Martin Mayhew could somehow trade down a few spots Raji seems like the best fit for a team short on interior linemen.

As of now, 36-year-old Grady Jackson and 33-year-old Chuck Darby are your presumptive long-in-the-tooth starters, and there's no telling if Darby will be on the roster when training camp opens in July. Andre Fluellen and Landon Cohen, third- and seventh-round choices last year, respectively, could play their way into the mix, but there's legitimate questions whether either fits into new coach Jim Schwartz's scheme.

Fluellen could play defensive end on early downs and move inside in pass-rush situations, as he did some last year, but Schwartz favors bigger linemen and Fluellen and Cohen were built with Rod Marinelli in mind (on the shorter side and under 300 pounds).

“The emphasis last year was on smaller, quicker guys where they didn't want them getting too big, where our emphasis is on, hey let's get them big and strong, as strong as you can,” Schwartz said. “The fine line there (is) you want to gain the right kind of weight. You don't want just guys that are fat and overweight, you want guys that are doing it the right way. When you have guys like Fluellen and Cohen, you can put it on the right way.”

This is an important offseason for Fluellen and Cohen. If they can add bulk in the new strength and conditioning program, they might be able to change the organization's perception about their long-term role with the Lions.

Asked about Fluellen and Cohen in the context of last week's Cory Redding trade, Mayhew said the Lions intended to play Redding some at left end anyway and were on the lookout for his replacement.

“It really doesn't change our thoughts at defensive tackle,” Mayhew said. “We needed a tackle before this and we still need a tackle.”

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Lions doing their diligence with potential draft picks

If it seems like the Lions are hosting their draft prospects earlier than usual this year it's because they are. But note entirely for the reasons you might think.

"As we looked at it, we have the league meetings coming up (next week) and then we have the NCAA tournament where we weren't able to get any hotel rooms," general manager Martin Mayhew said. "So that process of bringing guys in earlier didn't have anything to do with (starting) the negotiations (for the first pick). It was just we thought we were going to be limited as far as when guys are available to come in."

The Lions hosted two potential picks Wednesday in Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji and Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew. Previously, they hosted Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford, Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry and Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith. All but Pettigrew are candidates to go No. 1 overall.

Teams are allowed to host 30 prospects for on-site visits, and Lions coach Jim Schwartz said most are brought in for similar reasons, to update medical histories and double-check first-glance opinions.

"I think there's a lot of due diligence there because you never know what's going to happen," Schwartz said. "You better be prepared for a lot of different circumstances. You might bring a guy in that might not be a No. 1 pick, maybe he's a 10 to 15 pick. Well, you never know what's going to happen. Maybe someone blows your socks off with an offer and you say, 'Jeez, it doesn't make any sense not to do this.'

"When it comes to tipping hands, I think everybody's looking at the same guys and I think everybody has a lot of the same sort of follow-up questions."

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Peterson, Bulluck a lot alike

At the press conference to officially introduce Julian Peterson as a Lion today, Jim Schwartz compared his new outside linebacker to Keith Bulluck, a player who starred under Schwartz in Tennessee.

“I've had the great fortune of being associated with a player like Keith Bulluck at Tennessee for the last nine years, and Keith and Julian came out in the same draft,” Schwartz said. “Very, very similar, guys that are tall, long-armed, multidimensional. And Keith never lived it down in Tennessee that I rated Julian a little bit ahead of him in the draft. Those guys are friends so every time Keith would make a play, he'd bring the ball over to me, score a touchdown, he'd say, 'Hey, let's see Peterson do that.'”

The Titans drafted Bulluck 30th overall in 2000, 14 spots after the 49ers took Peterson.

A Michigan State product, Peterson said he's happy to start anew in Detroit and expects to approach his 2006 (10) and 2007 (9 1/2) sack totals with the Seahawks.

He also said there was no truth to reports that he declined to take a pay cut in Seattle and would have been released.

“I didn't even get a discussion about that, all I did was get shipped,” Peterson said. “But I'm happy with the switch, it's no problem with me. I've talked to some of the players here and everybody has a good, positive aura here so I'm very excited to come here.”

Season tickets about where Lions expected

He didn't offer any firm numbers, but team president Tom Lewand said today the first wave of season-ticket renewals, due last week, was about what the Lions expected.

“I think we saw a little bit more in terms of people putting deposits down rather than paying their full season in March, which was completely understandable,” Lewand said. “We expected that, too. But I'm very encouraged by it.”

The Lions had five blackouts last year, the first five in Ford Field history, and many disgruntled fans said they weren't going to renew their tickets after an 0-16 season and in light of Michigan's faltering economy.

In December, the team announced it was freezing most ticket prices and decreasing the cost of about 4,400 seats.Individual game prices will be announced later this summer.

“Clearly we still have the economy to contend with and that impacts everything,” Lewand said. “But the reality is if we continue to do what we've said we're going to do and continue to make incremental progress and give the fans reasons to believe in the direction of the franchise and then most importantly start out of the gate and win some , I think we'll do what we need to do on the business side.”

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Raiola: 'Different people on different pedestals' under Millen

Part of general manager Martin Mayhew's pitch to free agents this offseason has been immediate playing time.

“When I talk to these free agents, I say this is the land of opportunity,” Mayhew said. “Everybody has a clean slate, everybody comes in and the best players play.”

Center Dominic Raiola said he believes every player on the roster is on equal ground this offseason as the new coaching staff and front office try to identify who they can win with and who's worth keeping.

“We'll see in the future but from what I see right now no favoritism, everybody's got a clean slate, nobody's getting babied,” Raiola said. “It's not like it was when Matt was here. Nobody's going to get babied.”

And what does that mean?

“You know, how it was in the past, I think there were different people on different pedestals,” Raiola said. “I think right now everybody's looked at the same. Nobody's going to be better than this guy because of what you're getting paid.”

Over the weekend, the Lions traded defensive tackle Cory Redding, one of their highest-paid players and someone former general manager Matt Millen used the franchise tag on, to Seattle for (even higher-paid) linebacker Julian Peterson. They traded another bloated salary earlier this offseason in Jon Kitna, and released several other high-priced veterans including Leigh Bodden, Dwight Smith and Dan Campbell.

Raiola said he was impressed with new coach Jim Schwartz in his first team meeting Monday to kick off the offseason workout program.

“It's a fresh start and I think that's what we needed,” Raiola said.

Raiola also said the Lions have indicated, as president Tom Lewand said at the team's town-hall meeting in January, they would like to sign him to a contract extension. He said he doesn't "want to be anywhere else."

“There's no numbers, they're just saying they want to get me done," Raiola said. "That's it. What they told you guys, that's what they told my agent."

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Raiola: Culpepper 'looks like a new man'

It's three days into the Lions' offseason workout program and Dominic Raiola already has noticed a dramatic change in quarterback Daunte Culpepper.

“You can see it,” Raiola said. “You guys haven't seen him yet. You can see it. At least 20 pounds. But it's not like he lost muscle. It looks like he's been working.”

Culpepper signed midway through last year's 0-16 season and started five games with limited practice time and inconsistent results. He weighed 280 pounds at one point last year and was noticeably out of shape.

He missed the final three games of the season with a shoulder injury.

“It was a difficult place to put him in, coming in half the year,” Raiola said. “He didn't know he was going to play football. I think that's unfair. I think first year after all of us retire you're going to kind of live it up a little bit, live the good life. He was out of shape, he knew that. He was heavy. He never played that heavy before. So just, I don't even know how much weight he lost or what he weighs, what he weighed last year, but he just looks great.”

Culpepper is expected to open next season as starter for the Lions, though general manager Martin Mayhew said Tuesday the team plans to add a veteran backup in free agency. The Lions also have been at the center of trade talks about Denver's Jay Cutler and could draft Georgia's Matt Stafford with the No. 1 overall pick.

“I don't know how serious that stuff is or how serious it gets until I read it in the paper,” Raiola said. “What I know is that we have a great leader, a great quarterback in Daunte right now who has played for (offensive coordinator Scott) Linehan and who has been successful with him in the past. And he's excited about that so that makes me excited about it.”

Culpepper had his most successful season as a pro in Minnesota when Linehan was offensive coordinator.

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Mayhew: Curry could start at middle 'from Day 1'

General manager Martin Mayhew said Saturday's acquisition of Julian Peterson won't change the Lions' draft plans one bit.

In a conference call Tuesday, Mayhew said he has no reservations about playing Wake Forest's Aaron Curry at middle linebacker and indicated the Lions are still considering Curry with the No. 1 overall pick. Curry visited team headquarters over the weekend, and sources said the meeting went well from both his and the team's standpoint.

“We've seen Aaron, we're familiar with Aaron, we've watched a lot of tape of Aaron, our scouts have, our coaches have,” Mayhew said. “We've investigated, we've talked about it, we feel very comfortable he can come in and start at MIKE (middle linebacker). If we drafted Aaron we think he could start at MIKE from Day 1.”

Curry played strong-side linebacker in college and some analysts have said his best fit may be on the weak side. Peterson, however, has made three straight Pro Bowls as a strong-side linebacker and Ernie Sims is entrenched on the weak side. The Lions have no middle linebackers on their current roster.

“I see him as a guy who can play all three positions,” Mayhew said.

And what will Curry play next year if he's a Lion?

“If we drafted Aaron Curry at this point he'd play MIKE for us,” Mayhew said.

The Lions have entertained fellow potential No. 1 picks quarterback Matt Stafford of Georgia and left tackle Jason Smith of Baylor. Team representatives will be at Stafford's pro day Thursday, though Mayhew wouldn't say who. He said he was leaving Tuesday night to scout and would return Friday.

The Lions also will hold a private workout with Stafford and possibly other top picks.

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Lions finally confirm Peterson trade (again)

Just so there's no more speculation about any holdups in Cory Redding's physical, the Lions have finally confirmed (for a second time) the trade that sent Redding and a fifth-round pick to Seattle for linebacker Julian Peterson.

The deal happened Saturday and the Lions confirmed it then, pending physicals, but when Peterson did not meet with the media as expected Monday speculation began about a glitch in trade due to Redding's health. In fact, Redding passed his physical and, according to reports out of Seattle, took part in the Seahawks' offseason workout program Monday.

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How realistic is Cutler to the Lions?

Now that Jay Cutler's trade demands are official, it's time to examine the Lions' realistic hopes of trading for Denver's disgruntled quarterback. I still think the Broncos will end up keeping him. Young arms like that are too precious to pass on for a few draft picks. But if Cutler's dealt, here, in my mind, are the five most likely landing spots for him in 2010:

1. Cleveland: I'll put the Browns No. 1 only because they have the quarterbacks to satisfy Denver's demand. If reports are true that Eric Mangini isn't thrilled with either Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson, Denver can have its pick of young signal callers in return. The Browns also have two second-round choices (the extra came from the Kellen Winslow trade) and an early first to barter with, but no third- fifth- or seventh-round selection. Next year's picks could come into play.

2. Detroit: The Lions have the picks (two firsts, a second and two thirds), but not the quarterback to land Cutler. I can't see a three-way with Cleveland happening because the Browns might want Cutler themselves. Arizona's Matt Leinart is a possibility, but he'll take a draft pick (a third, probably) to land. The Lions don't have fourth- or fifth-round choices, and they've said they want to get younger (though the signing of Grady Jackson and trades for Anthony Henry and Julian Peterson fly in the face of that) and build through the draft. Moving too many choices means once again the organization is straying from its plan. One other note here: For those who say Matt Stafford and the No. 1 pick are the trump card, I have a hard time seeing Denver unload a young quarterback who's locked up fairly cheaply for a younger, more unproven quarterback it'd have to give $35 million guaranteed to.

3. Tampa Bay: The Bucs, like the Lions, tried to make the Matt Cassel-Jay Cutler three-way happen only to see Cassel end up in Kansas City for a second-round pick. Tampa needs a quarterback and is willing to pay. The Bucs pick one spot in front of the Lions in the mid-first and third rounds (Nos. 19 and 81), and have the cap room to give Cutler the new deal he desires.

4. San Francisco: At pick No. 10, the 49ers might have the most desirable choice in the first round. The Broncos wouldn't have to pay obscene money, would still get a premium talent and could probably land their quarterback of the future in Mark Sanchez (or possibly even Stafford; especially if the Lions don't go QB at No. 1). If the 49ers, who brought Kurt Warner in for a visit, are serious about upgrading at quarterback, they have a full compliment of draft picks to work with and a compensatory choice or two coming their way that might make their regular picks easier to part with.

5. New York Jets: New coach Rex Ryan isn't tied to any of the project quarterbacks currently on New York's roster, and that demanding organization is in win-now mode. That could be a dangerous combination if Cutler-to-the-highest-bidder materializes. It's unlikely Kellen Clemens would satisfy Denver's demand for a new quarterback, but the Broncos could sign a veteran like Jeff Garcia as a stopgap. The Jets also have a valuable first-round choice at No. 17 and an interesting history with Cutler's agent, Bus Cook, who just so happens to represent the quarterback who was at the center of a similar drama last year – Brett Favre.

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Lions sign Heller, cut Cannon

The Lions made two transactions official today, signing free-agent tight end Will Heller and releasing linebacker Anthony Cannon.

Heller, 28, played the last three seasons in Seattle. He has 26 career catches and is known more for his blocking. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Falcons are no longer interested in free-agent L.J. Smith, who visited the Lions earlier this month.

Cannon played nine games with the Lions last year, mostly on special teams. He was cut over the weekend.


Analyzing the Redding trade

I'm not as high on the Cory Redding-Julian Peterson trade as most of the people I've received emails from this afternoon. Not that I think it's bad, I'm just not sure what kind of player Peterson is these days.

My first inclination is to think of him as the 10-sack monster from a few years ago and I know lots of people remember how dominant he was at Michigan State. But his production fell considerably last year - five sacks, no interceptions - and the trade is a plug-one-hole, open-another sort of deal with no real future value (unless Seattle hits on the fifth-round pick it got as part of the package).

Peterson will be 31 when the season begins, has one serious injury in his past (a blown Achilles in 2004) and his contract is such that, unless he restructures, he won't be here long term (he's due $6.5 million in base salary this year and $7.5 million next with $500,000 raises the two seasons after).

Sure, he'll start at strong-side linebacker, which fills a major void on the Lions' roster. But by dealing Redding they now have just as gaping a hole at defensive tackle (unless you think Andre Fluellen or Ikaika Alama-Francis is ready to step in full time) and it may eliminate the need for Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry at the top of the draft.

I don't mean to imply that Redding is irreplaceable. He's absolutely not. He's injury prone, due a big salary himself (though at $3.3, $4.3 million and $5 million the next three years, he's considerably cheaper than Peterson) and like Peterson on the backside of his career.

I'm just not ready to give the trade glowing marks yet. Not with the Lions now without fourth- and fifth-round picks in the draft, and not until I see what else lies ahead.

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Redding trade complete

The Lions have confirmed they have traded defensive tackle Cory Redding and a fifth-round pick to Seattle for linebacker Julian Peterson. The deal is contingent on both players passing physicals.

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Schwartz at OSU pro day; Redding on the block?

Lions coach Jim Schwartz was among the NFL personnel at Ohio State's pro day Friday. Schwartz told several news outlets he was impressed with running back Beanie Wells, who clocked 40-yard dashes in the 4.39- to 4.42-second range. The Lions, however, aren't interested in a first-round running back. Instead, they were there to keep tabs on linebackers James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman, and defensive backs Malcolm Jenkins and Donald Washington.

According to reports, Freeman had an excellent workout Friday, running 40 times between 4.5 and 4.55 seconds. He ran a 4.74 at the combine (seventh among linebackers) and benched 225 pounds 30 times (best at his position).

Laurinaitis, a distinct possibility at No. 20, ran 40s in the 4.7s and told The Columbus Dispatch he was pleased with his performance in the agility drills.

"I think there's a misnomer that playing in the Big Ten, you don't have to play in space," he said. "But half the Big Ten is spread teams now, so it's just exciting to be in space, have (coaches) challenge you to see what you can do."

Jenkins, the top cornerback prospect in the draft, has not posted blazing 40 times and some project him at safety in the NFL. Still, it's unlikely he slips to the Lions at 20.

Update: The Lions may also be in the market for another defensive tackle if the Cory Redding-to-the-Seahawks rumors are true. According to, the Lions are on the verge of trading their defensive tackle to Seattle for an unspecificed return, perhaps including Julian Peterson, who the website reports is expected to be released.

Redding has a cap number of $5.383 million this year ($3.3 million in actual salary) and the Lions have plenty of room to take the hit. Hopefully, any trade would net the Lions an additional draft pick somewhere. There are no notable free-agent defensive tackles on the market and the Lions have plenty of other holes to fill.

Redding, incidentally, is due a $250,000 workout bonus this offseason so if the Lions are in trade discussions there might be incentive to get a deal done before the team's offseason program starts Monday.

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9 former Lions among college Hall-of-Fame candidates

I got my college football Hall-of-Fame ballot in the mail the other day, and I counted nine former Lions and a few other interesting names among the candidates.

All told there are 76 Division I-A nominees for which voters are supposed to pick 11. Some of the selections seem obvious. Brian Bosworth was a two-time consensus All-American linebacker at Oklahoma. Deion Sanders, another two-time All-American, is the best cornerback of all time. Tim Brown won the 1987 Heisman and Russell Maryland (1990) and Jonathan Ogden (1995) were Outland winners.

I'm not going to list all 76 candidates (plus 36 I-AA candidates and 61 in other divisions; check if you're interested), but I'm curious which ex-Lions you think deserve consideration. The list:

LB Chris Spielman, Ohio State: 1987 Lombardi winner and two-time first-team All-American; one of the all-time great Lions.

WR Desmond Howard, Michigan: 1991 Heisman winner; played four seasons in Detroit from 1999-2002.

RB D.J. Dozier, Penn State: Led Nittany Lions in rushing four times, including during national-title year of 1986; played six games with the Lions in '91.

DL Luther Elliss, Utah: 1994 WAC Defensive Player of the Year; drafted 20th overall by the Lions.

RB Dick Jauron, Yale: School's all-time rushing leader; was drafted as a defensive back by the Lions and served as interim coach in 2005;

FB Tom Nowatzke, Indiana: 1963 Big Ten rushing leader; Scored 16 touchdowns over five seasons with the Lions in the '60s.

DE Pat Swilling, Georgia Tech: Set the NCAA record with seven sacks in one game; part of perhaps the worst trade in Lions history.

Two ex-Lions on the Division II ballot are Don Greco, who played guard at Western Illinois and for the Lions from 1982-85, and Northern Michigan defensive back Jerry Woods, who played briefly with the Lions two decades ago.

A couple other names of note: Darryl Rogers, 18-40 in four seasons as Lions coach, is a candidate to be inducted into the coach's win; Kirk Gibson and Percy Snow are on the ballot from MSU; as is former Cal linebacker Ron Rivera, who interviewed for the Lions' job in January.

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Lions strength coach: We're a small team

Jason Arapoff, the Lions' coordinator of physical development, met with a handful of reporters this afternoon to preview the team's voluntary offseason workout program, which begins Monday.

Arapoff said the Lions have changed their philosophy under new coach Jim Schwartz and will have “a heavy emphasis towards free weights” with the idea of building a bigger, stronger team. Under Rod Marinelli, the Lions wanted smaller, quicker players to fit the Tampa 2 defense. Some of those players “are maxed out or don't have that growth potential because they have limitations,” Arapoff said.

“Everybody has their own interpretation of what size means,” he said. “To me, size is a lot of things. I would consider us a small team, not just by weight but we're short. And with that comes smaller hands, shorter arms, smaller feet. So those are all variables that go into developing a bigger, more powerful, stronger, more difficult team to compete with. And again a lot of it is a philosophical approach. Some of it, a lot of it, is how we choose to develop those guys.”

Already, the Lions have added bigger players in free agency – defensive tackle Grady Jackson is 345 pounds; the Lions didn't have a lineman over 300 pounds last year – and will target a different breed of player come draft day. At linebacker, for instance, the last drafted the squat Ernie Sims (6-foot, 225 pounds) and the undersized Jordan Dizon (6-0, 229) with first- and second-round picks in recent years. This year, they're considering rangy Aaron Curry (6-1, 254) with the top overall pick.

“The goal is to get this group as big and as strong as we possibly can,” Arapoff said. “That makes it sound like we didn't try and do that in the past. So again, I say there's a philosophical approach in acquiring a certain body type, and then there's a philosophical approach in developing the players once we acquire them. And this approach is an approach that this staff believes is suited to the things that they need to get done.”

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Curry to visit Lions on Sunday

The Lions have entertained two potential No. 1 draft picks already this week in Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith and Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford. A third, Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry, is scheduled to drop in for dinner with coaches and medical updates on Sunday.

Curry is the consensus best defensive player in the draft and the Lions have a gaping hole at linebacker (two, actually). No linebacker has gone No. 1 overall since Aundray Bruce 21 years ago, but new Lions coach Jim Schwartz spoke glowingly of Curry on Tuesday.

“You don't draft a linebacker early unless he's a three-down player,” Schwartz said. “Aaron has size, he has speed, he has athletic ability. He could fill a lot of different roles. He could be a 3-4 outside linebacker, he could be a SAM in a 4-3, he could be a MIKE in a 4-3. That's his strength is you could play him in a lot of different positions.”

Curry said last month at the NFL combine that he only played middle linebacker a handful of times in practice. But Schwartz said it's not a stretch to think Curry could play that position full-time because of role in Wake Forest's nickel package and his ability to cover tight ends. Curry had four interceptions as a junior, three returned for touchdowns.

“He's played the MIKE in nickel so that's really not a projection for him,” Schwartz said. “He's played a lot of different things. He plays an old-time SAM linebacker on the line of scrimmage, he plays it in space almost like a strong safety. In nickel he plays a MIKE linebacker. They use him in a lot of roles, so I think that player, he's definitely a multi-dimensional player.”

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Cutler watch is on

Circle Monday on your calendars, Lions fans. That's the day the Denver Broncos begin their offseason program, a program quarterback Jay Cutler is considering no-showing after a contentious conference call with coach Josh McDaniels, ESPN reported.

If Cutler stays home, it might not be long before he demands a trade. And if he demands a trade, the Lions are one of the few teams that have the ammunition to land him.

I wrote two weeks ago that I didn't think the Lions had a chance to land Cutler because the Broncos would require a quarterback in return. That was before the Broncos signed free-agent Chris Simms - a move that looks more telling by the day (though it doesn't solve their problems entirely) - and before Cutler forced Denver's hand (assuming he does).

If draft picks come into play, the Lions are in better shape pull off a trade than Tampa Bay, the other team reportedly involved in late-to-the-party three-way talks with Cutler and Matt Cassel two weeks ago. They have picks 20, 33 and two in the third round; the Buccaneers have No. 19, but no second-rounder and presumably less-desirable 2010 choices if those enter the mix.

If agents get involved (as they often do), the Lions might have an edge there, too. Cutler's agent is Bus Cook, who also happens to represent Calvin Johnson. Surely, Cook wants the best for clients, and that may mean pairing two of the game's brightest young stars together.

There's a long way to go before a Cutler trade materializes and the Lions surely won't be the only interested suitor. But it's a storyline that bears close watching six weeks before the draft.

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Bodden a Patriot

One of the biggest mistakes the Lions made last year was extending Leigh Bodden's contract to include an $8.6-million roster bonus. That payment forced the Lions to cut Bodden last month - say what you will, he was their best cornerback last year - and now the unwanted man has found a new home with the New England Patriots.

Lions general manager Martin Mayhew has said Bodden's release was "100 percent" contract related, meaning the Lions would have kept him if not for that poorly conceived (or poorly agreed to) bonus. The fact that the Patriots signed him to a one-year deal tells me some of the league's best talent evaluators believe he still has something left to give.

The Lions have signed two cornerbacks this offseason in Eric King and Phillip Buchanon and traded for another who might become a safety in Anthony Henry. They still need help in the secondary. Bodden wouldn't have cured their problems, but he might have allowed them to spend their money differently this offseason. Maybe on a linebacker or tight end, two positions of desperate need. Maybe on a better No. 2 receiver.

Either way, I'm willing to bet Bodden does better than one interception next year.

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Scwhartz: Free agency 'incomplete,' other thoughts

Lions coach Jim Schwartz just finished a podium session with reporters. He acknowledged “the team looks a lot different” than it did before the start of free agency, but said “there is still more left to do.”

“The one thing I wanted to work on to begin with was the offensive line and the defensive line,” Schwartz said. “We were able to make a couple acquisitions there that have a chance to contribute right away. I think if your offensive line and your defensive line are strong you'll be consistent from week to week in the National Football League. That was an effort.

“Obviously, if you look at some of the guys we acquired and/or signed, the defensive-back position was going to be key for us, not just in acquiring players that are going to start but in acquiring players that are going to be role players and acquiring players that are going to compete. The more competition we can create as a coaching staff the better the players will perform in training camp. The better training camp we have, the better we'll be going into the season.”

Massive defensive tackle Grady Jackson was signed to bolster the front and should start immediately next to Cory Redding. The Lions also signed cornerbacks Phillip Buchanon and Eric King and traded for Anthony Henry.

Schwartz said Henry, who was slated to move to safety had he remained in Dallas, will play cornerback for the Lions.

“The way I left it with him is the ball's in his court and whether he stays at corner or not won't be up to me at all, it'll be up to him,” Schwartz said. “He's a guy that's close to 33 years old, has a lot of experience in the NFL. The thing I like about him is that if we do choose to end up moving him to safety he has that skill set that he can make that move.”

Other topics Schwartz addressed Tuesday:

• On whether the Lions pursued Albert Haynesworth, who played under Schwartz in Tennessee and eventually signed a $100-million deal with Washington: “We looked real hard at it, obviously. Every chance you get to improve our team you're going to have to look at. But it was obvious pretty early on in that process that his money was going to be significant and probably where we are as a team it was more important for us to get more players rather than just one.”

• On why the Lions weren't more aggressive in trading for Matt Cassel, who went to Kansas City for the 34th overall pick (the Lions own pick 33): “I'm not going to say whether we were or weren't (aggressive). There's a lot of different definitions of aggressive.”

• Schwartz said he probably won't attend Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford's pro-day workout next week, but will take part in the private workout Stafford has for the Lions. “It's one thing to sit in a dinner for a couple hours and get a good feel for a guy as a person, his personality,” Schwartz said. “It's another thing to actually spend three, four hours grinding tape and having him talk through, this is what we were doing on this play, this is what I was coached on this play, this is what I was seeing. So that stuff is down the road.”

• It's “a strong possibility” the Lions will have private workouts with other potential No. 1 choices, including USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry and offensive linemen Jason Smith (Baylor) and Eugene Monroe (Virginia), Schwartz said.

• Schwartz said Curry is versatile enough to play outside linebacker in a 3-4, outside linebacker in a 4-3 or middle linebacker in a 4-3. “That's his strength is you could play him in a lot of different positions,” Schwartz said.

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Draft '09: Georgia Tech's Michael Johnson

If you follow the draft closely, you probably know that Georgia Tech's Michael Johnson had a fantastic combine. It was to be expected, of course. The 6-foot-7, 266-pound defensive end is an incredible athlete who's biggest knock is his inconsistency on the field.

Early on this season, he was mentioned as a top-10 pick. Then his production fell and scouts started to nitpick his game and he slid to the second round in most draft projections. Truth is, he plays a premium position, he's the type of athlete teams chances on late in the first round, and he certainly could be in the mix for the Lions at picks 20 or 33.

The Lions were one of the teams at Georgia Tech's pro day Monday, and according to a story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution they clocked Johnson running a 4.49-second 40-yard dash. At the combine Johnson ran a 4.66, and his official time Monday was a 4.59, the paper said.

(Incidentally, Calvin Johnson - no relation to Michael - also took part in Tech's pro day, running routes for quarterbacks. Michael, too, toyed around as a tight end in some drills.)

The Lions don't have their draft board set yet and I don't know where Johnson stands in their eyes, but he's an intriguing possibility for a defense that lacks playmakers. As for the criticism he's drawn since the season, Johnson said he's taken it in stride and is intent on proving people wrong.

"Doing all the different stuff I was asked to do at Georgia Tech, like playing the pass, playing the run, dropping into coverage, zone, man - I did a lot of stuff that traditional defensive ends don't do," Johnson said at the combine. "I think that at times drew criticism because I wasn't doing what the traditional defensive end did. But I'm versatile, I showed that this year and I'll continue to be versatile."


Lions re-sign Cason, add another ex-Titan

The Lions re-signed running back/kick returner Aveion Cason to a one-year deal Monday and added their third former ex-Titan of the offseason in linebacker Cody Spencer.

Spencer, who played under new Lions coach Jim Schwartz in Tennessee from 2004-05, also signed a one-year deal. He spent the last three seasons with the New York Jets and has never started an NFL game.

Also this offseason, the Lions have signed ex-Titans offensive lineman Daniel Loper and cornerback Eric King.

It's unclear what re-signing Cason means for the Lions' pursuit of another former Tennessee reserve, cornerback/return man Chris Carr. Carr visited the Lions last week and also has seen interest from the Browns, Steelers and Patriots. Schwartz said earlier this offseason he wants to upgrade the Lions' return game.

The Lions also hosted Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith on Monday, according to the team web site. Smith is one of four or five candidates to be the first pick of April's draft along with Virginia tackle Eugene Monroe, Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry, and quarterbacks Matt Stafford (Georgia) and Mark Sanchez (USC).

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Assessing the Lions' draft needs

Got asked an interesting question on my last blog post that I figured I'd answer fully here:  What are the Lions' top five draft needs as of today?

This isn't a how-to-draft guide with the Lions having five of the first 82 picks, just what their top needs are as we sit here in the middle of the second wave of free agency. Which direction they go should start to clear up in the coming weeks. Matt Stafford and Aaron Curry have pro days upcoming and both probably will have private workouts with the Lions. Beyond that, there's still a chance the Lions can add a starter or two in free agency, though those ranks have thinned considerably.

1. Quarterback – The Lions have to decide if Stafford (or Mark Sanchez) is a franchise-caliber quarterback. You don't overdraft either because they're quarterbacks, but if the answer on one is yes then that's your No. 1 pick. Regardless, the biggest predictor of success in the NFL is solid play and stability under center, and the Lions don't have that now. Daunte Culpepper is a one-year (at best) solution, and the front office doesn't seem to have much faith in Drew Stanton though he's never seen the field. Regardless, this is the Lions' biggest need.

2. Middle linebacker – If the season started today your starting linebackers would be Ernie Sims, Jordan Dizon and Alex Lewis. Not exactly a fearsome bunch. Rush end is a more important position, but the middle linebacker is the quarterback of the defense and the Lions haven't been above average there in some time.

3. Strong-side linebacker – See above. With the Tampa 2 defense, we've been conditioned to think of the SAM linebacker as the least essential position in the front seven. Truth is, while it's not as singularly important as end or cover corner, a playmaker on the outside can do a lot of things for a defense. Taking into account who the Lions have on their current roster and the potential draft picks available (both Curry and further down the line), this is a position of desperate need.

4. Offensive guard – Even with the signing of guard/tackle Daniel Loper on Friday, the Lions have serious questions on an offensive front that allowed 52 sacks last year. Loper can start at left guard or play a swing position. Jeff Backus can move from tackle to guard if the Lions draft his replacement. I think the best move is to draft an interior lineman at 33, keeping Backus at tackle for another season and using Loper as an all-purpose reserve with the re-signed Damion Cook as a seventh lineman.

5. Cornerback – The Lions addressed this position already this offseason, signing Eric King and Phillip Buchanon and trading for Anthony Henry, but Henry can also play safety and let's not forget Detroit's returning defensive backs had no interceptions last year. More importantly, King, Buchanon and Travis Fisher are the only corners signed beyond this year (each is under contract through 2010), and Fisher will turn 30 in September. The Lions need a young playmaker to anchor their secondary.

Just missing the cut were defensive end and defensive tackle, where the Lions could use upgrades but at least have a capable current rotation, and tight end, where neither Michael Gaines nor Casey FitzSimmons is the type of multi-dimensional threat you'd prefer.

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Loper's a Lion

Offensive lineman Daniel Loper has agreed to a one-year contract with the Lions, the Tennessean is reporting. The 6-foot-6, 320-pound Loper has never started a game in his four-year NFL career, but should compete for the Lions' left-guard position with Damion Cook.

Loper, who visited the Lions on Wednesday, agreed to a one-year deal according to the paper. He spent the last four seasons in Tennessee, where new coach Jim Schwartz was defensive coordinator.

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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Lions re-sign Cook

After failing to sign free-agent offensive linemen Derrick Dockery and Daniel Loper, the Lions turned to one of their own Thursday, re-signing guard Damion Cook.

Cook played in seven games and made four starts at left guard last year. The Lions will continue searching for competition at that position and could add a player in the draft, but Cook is at least a stop-gap measure who can play multiple positions.

Edwin Mulitalo, who shared the starting duties with Cook last year, was released last month.

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Rudi Johnson: Lions 'years' from being competitive

Rudi Johnson did two things last year I still find hard to believe: He had his bags stolen by Tatum Bell and he got paid for 16 weeks of NFL football.

On Wednesday, the free-agent running back dropped by Sirius NFL Radio's “The Sirius Blitz” show. Host Adam Schein asked him how close the Lions are to turning things around.

“Years away,” said Johnson, who ran for 237 yards in 14 games last season. “Definitely. I would say years away from being a competitive team in the NFL. So I wish them the best of luck.”

Asked to elaborate, if it was the players, the mindset or the mess Matt Millen created that has the Lions in such a hole, Johnson said, “Everything you just said.”

“When you get that far off there's not just one thing that plays a part in it,” Johnson said. “If you go 0-16 it's not just the players, it's not just the coaches, it's not just the organization. It's everything from top to bottom. It's not just one thing, it's everything.

“Everything you just named are all the things that are wrong with the team, with the organization. So you know there are a lot of things that need to be fixed for them to be successful and get to winning football games. Like I said, I wish them the best of luck but sometimes people got to move on and that's what the situation is, but they're definitely a long shot away from being competitive and winning football games.”

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Jason Smith still a top-five pick

NFL Network analyst Charlie Casserly had some cautionary things to say about Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith's pro-day workout Tuesday, specifically that his arm length measured a hair shorter than it did at the combine and he struggled in the push-pull drill.

But Baylor co-offensive coordinator and line coach Randy Clements said Wednesday suggestions that Smith struggled are inaccurate.

“There was one drill that when they started doing it I don't think he understood what they were wanting and he looked – it was the Bengals coach that was doing it,” Clements said. “Once he explained what they were wanting him to do he did a little better at it. Jason was getting back and set his feet, and the guy wanted him to anchor up type of deal.”

Clements said he didn't see anyone in Lion-logoed apparel at Smith's workout, but that representatives for the team were on campus Monday. Smith has been helping out during spring practice since returning from the NFL Scouting Combine last week.

Lions president Tom Lewand said Wednesday the team did have someone at Smith's workout. Typically, teams picking No. 1 also conduct private workouts with their top draft targets. Smith and Virginia's Eugene Monroe are considered the top offensive tackles available.

Clements said Smith also worked at center during the throwing portion of Baylor's pro day.

“He got down there and was snapping the ball and was going through steps,” Clements said. “He's just a talented guy. He can do whatever you need to do.

“He's pretty intense when you start doing the drills so whoever's holding the bag better be ready.”

Clements said he talked with representatives from the Rams (pick No. 2), Seahawks (4), Bengals (6) and Jaguars (8) among other teams Tuesday.

“Getting him at 310 pounds is like getting a skill guy that weighs that much,” Clements said. “He's got that kind of athleticism. It's definitely a weapon.”

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Jackson signs, Loper in limbo

The Lions signed defensive tackle Grady Jackson to a three-year deal Wednesday, is reporting, but the agent for offensive lineman Daniel Loper said he and the team have not yet had contract discussions.

Jackson's deal is reportedly worth $8 million. The Lions pursued the 6-foot-2, 345-pound veteran as part of their quest to build a bigger, more physical front. The Lions have not confirmed the deal.

Loper had dinner with Lions offensive line coach George Yarno Tuesday night and was scheduled to take a physical today. Asked if there was a chance Loper would agree to terms before leaving Detroit, his agent, Leonard Roth, wrote in an email, "Don't know at this point. We have not talked."

Loper played the last four seasons at Tennessee, where new Lions coach Jim Schwartz was defensive coordinator.

Update: The Lions just confirmed that Jackson has signed a three-year deal.

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