"Why did I choose Mr. Howard?", "Who the hell is Thomas Howard?", are two questions that might instantly pop into your head. Let's tackle the second question first.
Thomas Howard is an OLB with the Oakland Raiders. He was drafted in 2006 early in the second round [# 38]. Here are his physical statistics: 6' 3.5" 240 pounds. Ran a 4.49 in the combine.
Here is his scouting report from 2006 from SI.com: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/football/2006/draft/players/3274.html
POSITIVES: Athletic linebacker with outstanding size/speed numbers. Breaks down well, quick to the sidelines and is effective in space. Plays with good degree of suddenness, flashing on the scene and offers terrific skills in pursuit. Quickly locates the ball and works to make plays. Easily runs downfield with backs or tight ends in coverage.
NEGATIVES: Undersized, easily blocked from the action and not a strong tackler. Inefficient and does not consistently take proper angles to the play.
ANALYSIS: An exceptional athlete, Howard offers plenty of upside for the next level. Has starting potential once he improves his playing strength.
Since being drafted Thomas started 62 games out of his first 64 at OLB. In 2010, he was relegated to the bench as the Raiders went in a different direction [using Quentin Groves and Kamerion Wimbley at OLB]. Here are Thomas's stats from NFL.com: http://www.nfl.com/players/thomashoward/profile?id=HOW416588
He was extremely productive and durable for his first four years in the NFL. In those years he totalled 381 tackles, 4 sacks, 23 passes defensed, and seven INTs. He is just turning 28 this July and has not been injured in his career.
I chose Thomas as my number one FA target for the following reasons:
1. He fits a need for the Lions. I still think we need to upgrade our OLBs.
2. He fits our profile for a Linebacker. He is fast, can cover in space, and is very versatile.
3. He has demonstrated the ability to play at a pretty high level in the NFL and is durable.
4. I think he can be had for a reasonable contract. He strikes me as a player who wants the opportunity to start again and he would look at the Lions as his best chance to do that.
5. Most importantly, I think he can be a solid OLB in our system. Maybe even outstanding.
I look at him as one of those square peg guys that no longer fits into his current team, but has the raw talent and ability to succeed in the NFL in the right environment. I believe Detroit will provide the right home for him.
Any comments from the few of you left visiting this and any other NFL sites will be readily responded to.