Larry Foote came to Detroit after being released by the Steelers last year with the hope of finishing his career in his hometown. Now, though, whether or not that will actually happen is very up in the air, both because of the Lions' potential future plans for the linebacker position and because of Foote's feelings about the way the organization is handling this situation.
With the emergence of DeAndre Levy, it is unknown if the Lions will want to spend the money on someone like Foote, who possibly could be beat out by the young linebacker from Wisconsin. Gunther Cunningham has talked about how he someday wants to see Levy leading the defense as the starting middle linebacker, although it's possible he could start at outside linebacker as well. Just how long the Lions want to wait before Levy becomes a starter, namely at MLB, will play a big role in whether or not Foote is brought back.
On top of that, there is an issue with how many years Foote would get on his contract if he is brought back. Foote wants a multi-year contract, but who knows if the Lions will be open to that considering there is no guarantee that he will be anything more than a backup in a few years. I suppose the Lions could take the risk considering how great Foote is for the city of Detroit off the field and considering he passed up other offers to join the Lions last year, but the newest issue with this situation is that he is feeling a little unwanted right now and is more than willing to listen to offers from other teams.
"We're just going to free agency and see from there," said Foote, citing unproductive talks between his agent, Brian Levy, and Lions general manager Martin Mayhew. "I mean, obviously, I'm not a big priority for them. So that's just how I'm taking it."
I think it would be a big mistake if the Lions don't bring Foote back. I definitely understand that they don't want to break the bank or anything like that, but Foote is a great leader, brings a veteran presence to the defense, and as mentioned, he is a great person for the city of Detroit. If DeAndre Levy continues to improve and it gets to the point where he is ready to start full time either in the middle or outside, then some serious consideration will have to be given to which other linebackers should stay on the team. Obviously Foote's name will come up as someone who may not be part of the picture down the road, but I don't believe the Lions are quite to the point where they can pass up talent at linebacker. Sure, it's nice to have solid depth at that position for a change, but that doesn't mean that players like Foote suddenly have become expendable.
I guess we will have to wait and see what happens with Foote, but my guess is that his comments are nothing more than an attempt to gain some leverage with the Lions. If he hits the open market, I'd be willing to bet more than a few teams will come calling, so this is basically a warning to the Lions that if they're going to get something done with a new contract offer, they better do it before free agency begins. At that point, anything could happen.