DALLAS TX - FEBRUARY 04: Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award finalist Nnamdi Asomugha of the Oakland Raiders speaks during a press conference at the Super Bowl XLV media center on February 4 2011 in Dallas Texas.
Without a doubt, the free agent most NFL fans will be keeping an eye on once the lockout ends and the league year begins is cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. In a usual offseason he would be going through minicamps and OTAs with his new team, but we don't even know where Asomugha might be interested in signing thanks to the lockout. There have been whispers about possible landing spots, but until free agency opens it will not be clear where Asomugha is likely to end up.
Keeping that in mind, it's fair to say right now there is a chance the Lions will sign Asomugha. How likely is it that they will? That depends on who you ask. Some have said Asomugha wants to play for a proven team, whereas others have suggested he will go where the most money is. SI's Peter King said he wouldn't be surprised to see the Lions open up their checkbook for Asomugha, although they are probably a "dark horse" in this situation.
I tend to agree with King about the dark horse part. I think the Lions will make a run at Asomugha, but in the end I don't think it's likely he will end up signing with them. They did make a couple big signings with Nate Burleson and Kyle Vanden Bosch a year ago, but I don't know if they would be willing to pay what Asomugha will likely be looking for. Besides, I'd be willing to bet that Asomugha does end up going to a team that is a proven winner. Unlike the Red Wings, a team that free agents in the NHL take less to sign with, the Lions would probably have to pay even more than the going rate to land Asomugha. While they are an up-and-coming team and he could be the final piece of the puzzle for the defense, I just don't think Asomugha would want to play for a franchise with a history of losing after spending the first part of his career in Oakland.
While the perception of the Lions is greatly changing, I can't blame a free agent for wanting to play for a team that has already proven it can win. A year from now the Lions may be one of those teams, but for now we all think and hope they will have a great 2011 season. If Asomugha were to sign with Detroit, it would be much more likely the Lions would contend for a division title and make a playoff run, of course, but I just think he will end up landing with a team that has already won. He is going to get paid no matter where he goes, but I think he would require a bigger deal to play in Detroit.
I'm not about to rule anything out, so I would say there is definitely a chance the Lions could sign Asomugha. At this point I just don't think it's likely. I'd love to be wrong, though.