Detroit Lions CB Rashean Mathis (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
On Monday, free agent cornerback Rashean Mathis re-signed with the Detroit Lions on a one year deal. Financial terms of the deal are not yet known. Mathis signed with Detroit last year on a one year “prove it” deal. After struggling with Jacksonville one his first year back from injury, the Jaguars cut their former star corner. Detroit, needing desperate help and veteran leadership opposite Chris Houston, signed him on a one year deal. Former head coach Jim Schwartz used him early on in the season to spell Rookie Darius Slay as he struggled to learn the position at the pro level. As the season progressed, Houston ans Slay struggled, providing more opportunity for Mathis. Mathis proved to be the Lions best corner last season posting a coverage grade of 7.2 according to Pro Football Focus.
It is perceived that Mathis wont be the Lions starting cornerback this coming season, as Slay and Houston are currently projected to start in 2014. That obviously does not mean too much considering Mathis was not projected to start at all last season and ended up starting the majority of the games he was active in. He also provided Lions fans and coaches an added level of comfort when the injury bug started to hit the secondary. In previous seasons injuries took their toll on the secondary and the Lions started to lose games as a direct result. Last season, there were injuries but those injuries were not the key to the Lions struggles. Their struggles were the direct result of poor play in the secondary.
With the signing of Mathis, Detroit now returns all of their corners from last season. They currently have Bill Bently, Chris Greenwood, and Jonte Green all from the 2012 draft on roster for at least one more season, as well as Darius Slay from the 2013 draft. With four young corners, all of which have shown flashes of being NFL caliber players, and two veteran starters in Mathis and Houston, it is highly unlikely that the Lions target a corner in the draft unless they are low on confidence in one of the younger players.
It is expected by both the Lions brass and the Lions fan base that Rashean Mathis will continue to serve as a mentor and coach to the younger players, including Slay. The expectations for Slay are high given that he was selected in the second round last year, and has the measurables to be a star. Just because Mathis is projected to be a mentor and coach, do not count out the 33 year old. As he showed last season, as long as he is healthy, he is a valuable player in the secondary. Mathis though, who turns 34 in August, may be in the last year of his career depending on how he plays and how well he feels after the season ends. For now, though, expect Mathis to be a big contributor on defence, which is good because the Lions need him to be.