Lions Hitting the Mark in Free Agency

A+ Offseason So Far for Detroit

3/14/13 in NFL   |   Andrew_Ericksen   |   230 respect

Blog Photo - Lions Hitting the Mark in Free AgencyGranted we’re only 36 hours into the 2013 offseason, but the Detroit Lions have already been more active this year than in the 2012 offseason as a whole.

Coming off their 45-28 postseason loss to New Orleans in 2011, the Lions had a lot of questions going into last season, but months and months went by and no solutions came around.  No additions to a weak secondary, no added insurance in the backfield and even though the 10-6 record looked strong on paper, leaving the roster untouched was evidently a huge mistake. 
2012 saw the Lions struggle to stay afloat to start off the season before absolutely collapsing by week 10, when their 8-game losing streak closed out an extremely disappointing year.  And unlike the 2012 offseason, the 2013 NFL hiatus has featured a very active Lions front office.
1. The Backfield
Is Reggie Bush about to take the league by storm and solidify the Lions as one of the premier offenses in the NFL?  That’s probably a step too far, especially the first part, but what he will undoubtedly bring to the team is an explosive playmaker that does his best work when defenses leave openings.  Luckily he know finds himself playing alongside a wide receiver that demands more defensive attention than any other wideout in the league.  Safeties stay back to help on Megatron, and running lanes are open, which should leave space for Bush to help break some big plays.
Bush proved to be a far more effective through-the-tackles runner in his last two years in Miami, and while that’s extremely reassuring, the Lions still a few solid up-the-gut runners to offer a great change-of-pace to Bush in Mikel Leshoure and Joquie Bell.  All around, the backfield is far more complete.
2. The Secondary
It was shocking that the team didn’t do anything to solve their secondary concerns last season.  In the last two games of 2011, the Lions allowed 90 total points to the offenses of Drew Brees and Matt Flynn.  Yet the Lions brought in very little in terms of help.
In comes 4-year Texan Glover Quin.  With 250 tackles and 5 picks in his first 4 seasons, Quin will replace either oft-injured and unreliable safety Amari Spievey or potentially injury-prone, inconsistent big-hitter Louis Delmas who is currently unsigned.  Quin’s contract is worth $24.5 million over 5 years. 
The Lions also retained #1 corner Chris Houston, locking him up for the next 5 years for $25 million.  The team is now in need of a reliable #2, but nailing down a solid corner for 5 years is an extremely reassuring move.

Blog Photo - Lions Hitting the Mark in Free Agency3. The D-Line
They were called one of the most disappointing units in all of the NFL last season, and it’s really hard to argue against that.  With Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch on the ends and Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley on the inside, the Lions were expected to wreak havoc on opposing O-Lines.  But that just never happened.  Suh had a disappointing year all-around and Vanden Bosch struggled to make plays all year. 
The Lions didn’t want to invest the necessary money to lock down Avril and also made the decision cut Vanden Bosch.  Additionally, they added former Titan and Seahawk Jason Jones for a contract worth only $9.5 over 3 years - a bit less than half the total cost of Avril’s two-year deal with.  With 19 sacks in his 5-year career, Jones comes at a bargain.  He’ll most likely be joined on the end by Willie Young, who recently signed on for a $2-million tender for 2013.  In limited playing time last year, Young showed a lot of flare on the field, and could be a great candidate to breakout as a playmaker for the Lions defense this year.
But in the thick of all of the transactions, the Lions received a bit of help from Suh, who took a pay cut on his salary to free up over 7 million in cap space for the 2013 season.  Both a sign of maturation and his desire to play for a legitimate playoff contender, Suh’s gesture shows a lot to his commitment to the team.
4. The O-Line
With Jeff Backus and Gosder Cherilus gone, the Lions lose about 30 false starts and 20 holding penalties a season, so even though their spots need to be filled still, you can really only go up from there.  Backus gave his heart and soul to the team, setting the franchise record with 187 consecutive starts, but if I had a nickel for every time a penalty of his stalled a Lions drive, I would have been able to pay for Bush’s salary on my own.  Well, at least cover a few of his nights on the town.
The Lions still have extra cap space to sign a Tackle or could draft heavy on the line this coming draft.  Either way, Lions fans will find life without 76 and 77 a lot more rewarding.
5. The Bottom Line

Overall, the Lions will be spending about $17 million this year on the 5 starters they just locked up, quite a bargain for 4 players that have solid NFL experience and a fifth (Young) who has shown a good deal of promise in limited time.
Here is a look at how their recent contracted players stand in 2013:
Reggie Bush - $2 million
Chris Houston - $5 million
Glover Quin - $5 million
Willie Young - $2 million
Jason Jones - $3 million
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