OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 18: Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions looks on in pre-game warmups before the game against the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum on December 18, 2011 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
NFL free agency is nearly a week old, and things have been quite hectic as of late. The offseason lull is firmly behind us, and there has certainly been no shortage of news. While the Detroit Lions weren't initially very active, they have made a few signings and have scheduled several players for visits. In order to get caught up on everything, let's take a look at what the Lions have done so far and what still needs to be done.
Wait, the Lions have actually made some moves?
Yes, since we last took an overview of all that has transpired, the Lions have actually been quite busy, at least when it comes to getting deals done with their own players. The first big domino that fell was getting a new deal worked out with wide receiver Calvin Johnson. He signed a new eight-year, $132 million ($60 million guaranteed) deal on Wednesday, giving the Lions some cap space to work with. Between Johnson's new deal, the restructured deals of Matthew Stafford, Nate Burleson and Ndamukong Suh, the release of Will Heller and the extra space that came via the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys, the Lions ended up with around $13 million in cap space.
After Calvin Johnson's deal was done, what did the Lions do with that new cap space?
Initially, nothing. Despite freeing up enough money to make some moves, all was quiet the rest of the day. In fact, it wasn't until Thursday evening that news of the Lions' first free agent signing broke, and it turned out it involved a player completely off the radar. The Lions signed James Bryant, a fullback who had last been in the CFL as a defensive end. It was a move nobody saw coming, mainly because nobody could have predicted that a defensive end turned fullback from the CFL would be the first player added to the team during free agency.
Following the move to sign Bryant, the Lions made their first re-signing by getting a one-year deal done with safety Erik Coleman. He missed most of 2011 with an injury, but the Lions decided to bring him back as a depth and special teams player.
After the two moves on Thursday, things were quiet again on Friday. On Saturday, however, the Lions made two very important moves. They re-signed quarterback Shaun Hill and left tackle Jeff Backus, with each receiving a new two-year deal. (Hill's terms are unknown, but we do know that Backus' deal is reportedly worth $10 million.) The move to re-sign Hill came after he visited the St. Louis Rams and after the Lions lost a quarterback to another team, so it was big that they got him back under contract.
The Lions lost a quarterback?
Hill's visit didn't result in a deal, but Drew Stanton's visit with the New York Jets did. He signed a one-year deal worth $1.25 million to be Mark Sanchez's backup. Stanton had said earlier in the offseason that he wanted more of an opportunity to compete, and that opportunity presented itself in New York, so he signed with the Jets while on his visit.
Have the Lions lost any other players?
Cornerback Eric Wright signed a five-year, $37.5 million deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Wednesday. The Lions had hoped to bring Wright back, but there was no way they could compete with an offer like that, so he wished the Lions well and decided to sign with Tampa Bay.
So far, Stanton and Wright are the only Lions free agents to sign elsewhere, although defensive tackle Andre Fluellen did visit the Cincinnati Bengals and offensive guard Leonard Davis checked in with the San Francisco 49ers. There's no indication of whether or not either of those players will be signing with the team they visited.
What players have the Lions brought in for visits?
While the Lions haven't exactly been all that active in signing players, they have been busy in the scheduling visits department. From the second free agency began, they were working to set up visits with free agents, and so far they have either brought in or are planning on bringing in the following players:
- WR Ted Ginn Jr. (formerly of the 49ers) - visited on Thursday
- OL Geoff Schwartz (formerly of the Panthers) - visited on Friday
- OT Marcus McNeill (formerly of the Chargers) - visited on Friday
- LB Tim Shaw (formerly of the Titans) - scheduled to visit on Monday
- LB David Hawthorne (formerly of the Seahawks) - scheduled to visit on Tuesday
- CB Jacob Lacey (formerly of the Colts) - visited on Friday
- S scheduled to visit on Tuesday (formerly of the Redskins) -
- S scheduled to visit on an unknown date (formerly of the Redskins) -
None of the visits that have happened have resulted in any signings. Ginn Jr., Schwartz and McNeill all appear to be taking their time with a decision and have visited other teams or will take other visits this week. (McNeill, by the way, is probably off the table with Backus returning. McNeill didn't sound interested in joining the Lions unless Backus ended up elsewhere.)
The Lions also had scheduled a visit with offensive tackle Eric Winston (formerly of the Houston Texans), but he signed with the Kansas City Chiefs while visiting them. Obviously, his visit with the Lions won't be happening.
Aside from the players visiting, are the Lions targeting anybody else?
The Lions' focus still seems to be on re-signing their own guys. With Johnson's new deal done and Hill and Backus back under contract, it appears the Lions are turning their attention to linebacker Stephen Tulloch. They are reportedly "making a strong push" to get a deal done with Tulloch, but so far there have been no signs that an agreement is close to being completed. It's clear the Lions want Tulloch back, but his asking price may currently be too high, which is likely why a visit with Hawthorne has been scheduled.
After the Lions figure out who their middle linebacker will be for next season, what will they focus on?
The Lions have quite a few players without a contract. Not all of them will be brought back, of course, but there are still some moves that will likely be made involving their own free agents. I would also expect at least one signing to come out of all these visits that have happened or will happen this week. The Lions would like to build some depth at positions on the offensive line and in the secondary, as evidenced by which players they are bringing in for a closer look.
Also, let's not forget that the Lions have three restricted free agents who have been tendered offers (offensive tackle Corey Hilliard, defensive tackle Sammie Hill and linebacker DeAndre Levy). These situations don't necessarily need to be resolved quickly, but they're worth keeping an eye on nonetheless.
Finally, the Lions still need to give head coach Jim Schwartz a contract extension. This is something that probably isn't too high up on the list of priorities given all of the roster moves they have been working on, but it is something that needs to happen at some point this offseason. He deserves it, and the Lions don't want to have their head coach going into the 2012 season with only one year left on his contract.