With the Ndamukong Suh news breaking just an hour or so ago, we now have a clear picture of what the Detroit Lions free agency picture looks like. The Detroit Lions will have roughly $17 million to work with this offseason, and they have several holes to patch up. Below we will look at their holes, the potential players to fill those holes, and the severity of need.
- Defensive Tackle – Severity: High – Obviously with the loss of Suh, and the impending free agency of both Nick Fairley and CJ Mosely, this is the biggest need position. Out of the 5 defensive tackles that were under contract throughout the 2014 NFL season, only Caraun Reid is still under contract. Andre Fluellen was signed as a stop gap when Fairley got hurt, and given his propensity to sign with the Lions at some point, he is likely not on the teams offseason radar. Fairley becomes the top target currently, and Mosely is likely done in Detroit due to age and cost. So who are the Lions looking at? Currently: Nick Fairley, Dan Williams, Stephen Paea, and CJ Mosely. The likely outcome is that the Lions sign Fairley and Williams.
- Offensive Line – Severity: Moderate – The Detroit Lions have some issues with their offensive line. They performed poorly last season and some of that can be attributed to injuries. They have let Dominic Raiola go, Rob Sims remains un-signed at this time, and the right tackle spot is a question mark with two undrafted free agents splitting time at that spot. There were also reports that the Lions are not sold on Riley Reiff as their left tackle. So what positions and players could they target? Currently: Mike Iupati – G, Bryan Bulaga – T, Orlando Franklin – G, Rodney Hudson – C
- Corner – Severity: Moderate – The Detroit Lions started Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis at corner last season. While both played well, Mathis is aging and his eventual replacement needs to be added either in the draft or in free agency. Mathis is not currently under contract either. While it is believed he will be at some point, his status as a free agent adds pressure on the Lions to find a starter to pair with Slay. Who can the Lions target at this point? The numbers are shrinking, but currently: Tramon Williams, Chris Culliver, Davon House, Patrick Robinson
- Running Back – Severity: low – The Detroit Lions had a terrible rushing attack last season with Reggie Bush hurt all year and Joique Bell trying to handle the load alone. While Bell ran well and will return to the Lions as the starter, Bush is gone and his replacement needs to be added. The smart move would be to add a rookie in the draft to pair with Bell. Sources have mentioned the Lions having interest in CJ Spiller. Since there are sources linking the Lions to free agent running backs, lets look at what is out there currently: CJ Spiller, Ryan Matthews, Justin Forsett, Shane Vereen
I honestly see the Lions signing Fairley and likely Dan Williams to fill their defensive tackle needs. General manager Martin Mayhew has always been one to fill needs in free agency and draft the best player available. If he continues to that mentality, he will want the defensive line patched up before the draft so that if he has a shot at a good defensive tacke in the draft, he can take him, otherwise he can pass without fear of leaving a gaping hole on defense.
I would expect at least one, if not two signings on the offensive line. The fans would love Iupati to replace Sims. While it could happen, I think the team is evaluating tackle prospects as well and could sign a tackle instead if a guard, moving Reiff inside.
The Lions, being linked to Spiller, look to be adding a “splash” free agent for the fans to get excited about given the deflation of losing Suh. Spiller would be that player for fans to get excited about. Adding Spiller though, means that the Lions would be looking to draft another corner. The corner market is shrinking and the prices are high so I can see them waiting it out, re-signing Mathis, and drafting a corner late.
We will see how it all plays out in the coming days as free agency is set to start on Tuesday and the Lions should be making moves likely before then.