The secondary was a major weakness for the Detroit Lions last season and upgrading the position was one of the top priorities this offseason. The first step the Lions took was to sign former Baltimore Ravens strong safety James Ihedigbo. Ihedigbo, who was an undrafted free agent back in 2006 out of the University of Massachusetts, has bounced around the AFC in search of a home. He spent three seasons playing for the New York Jets, one season playing for the New England Patriots, and the past two seasons playing for the Baltimore Ravens. This past season in Baltimore was his best of his career so far after posting three interceptions and over one hundred tackles. He added two forced and recovered fumbles as well.
At the age of thirty, Ihedigbo is not expected to be the long term solution for the Lions. He signed a two year deal worth 3.1 million. He is slated to fill a hole in the secondary created by the departure of Louis Delmas to Miami. Under first year defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, Ihedigbo is expected to play strong safety, moving last year’s strong safety Glover Quin back to his native free safety position. Ihedigbo is reuniting with his secondary coach for the past two seasons in Baltimore, which made the Lions pursuit of him a natural progression. It also made perfect sense for Ihedigbo, as he’s familiar with Austin’s style of coaching, as well as the schemes he may apply in Detroit. Lions coaches fully expect that he will bring the leadership mentality that the team sorely needs after having shaky discipline and sloppy play over the past five seasons.
Speaking of his leadership, Ihedigbo has also played a great deal in the playoffs with all three teams he played for in New York, New England and Baltimore. He played in the Superbowl for both New England and Baltimore, winning his only Superbowl with the Ravens in 2012. On paper, it appears that success follows Ihedigbo everywhere he goes, but if you look at last season’s Ravens team, success was no where to be found. That has to be a major disappointment to him, as it was his best season performance wise, and yet it did not translate to team success. He hopes for a different outcome this season with the Lions, and Lions fans hope for the same.
In terms of how this affects the Lions Draft plans, it is widely expected that the Lions are not done with the safety position. They dont intend to add anyone in free agency this season, but it is expected that they will target the position in the draft at some point. There are a few potential first round players there that the team can take a look at, as well as a few second to third rounders as well. If the Lions take a safety early, expect that he will compete with Ihedigbo, as he provides the youngster with the veteran leadership and guidance that all rookies need in this league.