This offseason, priority number 1 has to be the defense. The offense is fine. The Lions are the number 2 overall offense. The passing offense is prolific and the run offense is enough to keep defenses honest. A third down RB would be nice, but that’s really just a luxury at this point.
The defense is a mess though. There are exactly 5 defensive players I’d guarantee a slot for next season; Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Sammie Hill, Stephen Tulloch, and Chris Houston. Anybody else had better be cheap or be gone.
DT: Three of the names listed above are DTs, we’re pretty set there. I like Corey Williams, but he’s too expensive for a position where we are so loaded. He’s going to command starter money, and frankly, he’s not starting over Suh and Fairley next year.
DE: Our starting DEs are not performing to their salaries and our back-ups have done nothing. Avril wants top 10 money, but he’s not a top 10 talent. Unless he’s willing to accept 7-8M a year, let him walk. KVB will be another year older and getting far too much money for his production, he either needs to take a pay cut or be cut. Sign somebody or draft somebody or both, but these two can’t be our starters next season, especially at their current salaries.
LB: Tulloch is under contract and pretty solid, he’s a keeper. Durant and Levy will be free agents. Bring one of them back, preferably Durant, but look for an upgrade at the other position. If Levy is willing to sign for back-up/ST money, then fine.
CB: Houston is a must re-sign, he’s the only D-Back on the team that you can count on. He’s solid in coverage and doesn’t miss much time. The only way you let him walk is if you go out and get an elite guy like Revis. Upgrading the other CB spot is important though. I know, there are some rookies with potential on the roster, but they are going to be WIPs for at least the next year or two still. With all the time they’ve missed with injuries this year, I doubt any of them will be ready to start next season.
Safety: The safety position is an abyss, getting at least one starting caliber safety should be a top priority. The only guy with the talent to be a starter, Delmas, is injured all the time. Bringing Delmas back isn’t a bad idea, but he’s going to have to come cheaply with an incentive loaded deal. You simply can’t guarantee him starter money when he can’t start more than a handful of games every year.
How should the Lions go about upgrading these positions?
Round 1: The Lions will get a top 10 pick, and there are at least 3, maybe 4, DEs projected to be top 10 pick worthy coming out this year. Take the best one on the board with your first round pick.
Round 2: There are a couple of safeties projected to go early in round 2, if they’re there, take one. Maybe even take a flier on that CB Matthews from LSU. He has baggage, but he’s an elite talent.
Round 3-7: Take the most promising defensive player on the board, even if he has baggage.
Free agency: There has to be at least one free agent defensive player worth signing. Overpay if you must, but get somebody proven in one of the positions of need. If you’re not paying Avril, CWill, and KVB, you will have money to spend.
Trade: Is there a CB, OLB, S, or DE on another team that just isn’t fitting in? Maybe a guy with some baggage that just needs a fresh start?