DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 30: Cornerback Chris Houston #23 of the Detroit Lions returns a 100-yard interception for a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 30, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Lions defeated the Broncos 45-10. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Despite their performances in the final weeks of the 2011 season, the Detroit Lions secondary really wasn't that bad over the entire course of the year. They were terrible in the final weeks, but that was because their lack of depth caught up with them once injuries started to pile up.
One of the players who suffered an injury was Chris Houston, who has another year left on his deal. In the first part of the season, he was actually getting some mention as a possible Pro Bowl selection with how well he was playing. His high level of play dropped off a bit over the course of the season, especially after he got hurt, but he did finish with five interceptions, 14 pass defenses and two touchdowns.
The other cornerbacks under contract are Aaron Berry, Alphonso Smith, Don Carey and Ross Weaver, who is on a futures deal. Berry has showed signs of promise, but he also hurt his shoulder again last season. Gunther Cunningham seems very high on Berry's upside, so hopefully he can continue developing into a solid contributor. That is also the hope for Smith, who only appeared in 11 games last year after breaking his foot during the lockout. Once he finally got a chance to see the field, Smith played well at times (he had three interceptions, one forced fumble and a touchdown), but he also struggled quite a bit and was rumored to be on the trading block earlier in the offseason. If he were to be dealt, Carey and Weaver would see their spot on the depth chart rise for training camp.
The Lions' two free agents at cornerback are Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald. Wright was inked to a one-year deal last summer and had 16 pass defenses, four interceptions and one forced fumble during the 2011 season. It's believed that the Lions would like to bring him back, but it will depend on what else is out there and what the Lions can afford to give him.
As for McDonald, he was actually let go once during 2011 before being brought back a couple weeks later.
Need going forward?
As the end of last season showed, the Lions don't have a lot of depth at cornerback. They have some players who at times are very good, but their inconsistencies cost them games against the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints. That's why I think cornerback is one of the biggest needs for 2012. The Lions need an upgrade in the talent and depth department. Whether that upgrade comes via free agency or the draft or both remains to be seen, but moves need to be made.