The Lions once again are looking at having to do some maneuvers in the off-season to improve the back end of the defense. We are looking at holes at starting Cb and Safety positions. The big question is should we draft for that secondary, build that position in free agency, or remain steadfast and see how the secondary shakes out with the second year players.
I think the answer should be, a little bit of all three.
What pieces we have:
1. Dwight "Bill" Bentley (Inj. Res)
2. Jonte Green
3. Chris Greenwood (PUP)
4. Ron Bartell
5. Ross Weaver (Prac. Sqd)
6. Conroy Black (Prac. Sqd)
7. Lionel Smith (Prac. Sqd Inj. Res)
1. Don Carey
2. Jon Wendling
2. Jacob Lacey
3. Drayton Flourance
4. Pat Lee
2. Amari Spievey (restricted)
3. Ricardo Silva (Exclusive rights)
"Big Ticket" Lions FA's
Of this list the main people that we should be concerned with retaining are Houston and Delmas. Yes, Delmas has been injured more often than when he has played. The fact is he played a total of 30 games in his first two years with the team and he played 11 of 16 in his third year. It was only this past season that he played in less than 10 games, but he still played half the season (with knee issues... that's pretty tough to do). I think that he has had a bad about with injuries with the last to years. If you look at it this way Stafford has played in less games than Delmas has through 4 years, but that doesn't usually factor in fan's eyes. I say get Delmas back under a 3 year deal that is decent money and will help in the building of the secondary. Houston is a tough one to decide upon. He will appeal to another team, then we might not get him. To me, he has been by far the best player on the worst part of our defense. He has been worth every penny and we should get him a 4 year deal that will keep him a Lion. He can move over to the left side if we get a top tier CB in the draft. There is versatility in Houston that we covet.
Silva is quality depth, he came in a showed what he can do. He is a good player in run support, struggled with coverage but with more time, he could turn more heads. Carey is a good depth/reserve guy. He had a few interceptions and played pretty well for coming in late in the season. Spievey is a wait and see kind of player. He has concussion issues, if he gains clearance from doctors, we could be looking at retaining him for next season. He improved since converting from safety, but I wouldn't toss a ton of money at him in FA.
2nd Year guys
My feelings on the secondary players we drafted last year is to sit tight. Bentley looks like he could be great given time to gain some solid bulk and a little technique help/ film study. Jonte' Green showed that he can learn and get better over an entire season. He started out really terrible, but when he ended the season he was a decent starter and made very few mistakes late in the season. We haven't seen what Greenwood can do, so it would behoove us to keep the faith and see what he looks like in OTA's and Camp.
Free Agents to look into this Off-Season
With the plethora of coaching changes this year, there will be attrition on some of these teams. We will see players getting cut cause they don't fit scheme changes (converting from 3-4 to 4-3 and so on). But there are a few guys that had down years last year, that could be looking much better in a new environment.
1. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (poor season on a bad team, but his man cover skills are top notch)
2. Mike Jenkins- new location could give him a boost ( Chris Houston type, change of scenery could do him well)
3. Carey Williams- probably going to want more that we can afford, but he has the size that we could use
4. Sean Smith- Size, speed, and good ability to cover- hard to see the Dolphins letting him go, but if they do could be a good FA 5.Jarius Byrd (S)- Hard seeing him not jump at going to a play off team, but stranger things have happened.
6. Kenny Phillips (S)- Had injuries past seasons, but if he can get cleared... he could be a good pick up
7. William Moore (S)- Atlanta shouldn't let him go, but they have some decisions to make in the next coming years on D. 8. Brent Grimes- finished on IR again, but he could be on the market for a good price
9. Tracy Porter- good talent in N.O. and played well in Denver, a little small, but he could be good in our D (size concern)
10. Nnamdi Asamougha- (hasn't been cut yet, but will probably be dropped because of contract size, but could be good for the Lions to have him in the secondary, could switch to safety).
11. Charles Woodson (S) Leadership in the back end is why we would want him, but he has probably at least 2 years left in him.
12. Eric Wright- He is out of Tampa, but if we get back for a good price we could have added a familiar upgrade.
13. Aquib Talib- Troubled guy- probably not a good fit in our troubled locker room, but his talent is top notch.
Now, it is hard seeing how we could sign anybody, but if we look at making the hard decisions (cutting/ restructuring contracts on Raiola, Peterman, KVB, Corey Williams) to make cap room, then we might get to sign 1-2 notable free agents. So, we look to the draft.
Cb's (no particular order)
1. Dee Milliner -Cb Alabama
2.Jonathan Banks-Cb Mississippi St.
3. Logan Ryan-Cb Rutgers
4. Demond Trufant- Cb Washington
5. Blindi Wren-Wilson-Cb Connecticut
6. David Amerson- N. Carolina St.
7. Xavier Rhodes-Cb Florida State
8. Jordan Poyer- Oregon State
9. Sanders Commings- Cb Georgia
10. Will Davis - Utah St.
Safety (in no particular order)
1.Kenny Vaccaro- S. Texas
2. Matt Elam - S Florida
3. Eric Reid- S LSU
4. Shawn Williams- S Georgia
5. Tony Jefferson-S Oklahoma
6.Bacarri Rambo-S Georgia
7.Phillip Thomas- S Fresno State
8. John Cyprien- S Florida International
9. Shamarko Thomas- S Syracuse
10. D. j. Swearinger- S S.Carolina
If we could get 1 to 2 of these players in this draft we could be in good shape for the next 3-5 seasons. One this is for sure, we could see major upgrades to not just the secondary, but to offensive line, defensive end and secondary in this draft and in Free Agency.
My Offseason Scenario
FA - Resign 1. Houston 2. Delmas
1. Kenny Phillips- If he gets time to get over his injuries he could be a great addition- won't be as pricey as Byrd, but still worth the money, depending on injury evaluation.
2. Mike Jenkins Cb- Cheap enough for the Lions- good talent could need new coaching and new scenery
1st round: DE Bereorn Werner -De Florida State or Eziekiel Ansah-De BYU or Eric Fisher T- West. Mich or Kenny Vaccaro-S Texas (In my opinion we go defense. DE's is pretty deep in this class, but we could get a top Tackle to keep building our offensive line, or top safety in Vaccaro)
2nd Round: WR, LB, or DE My thought is to keep the pressure on building up the D, but if top flight WR is available nab them for Titus Young replacement.
3rd round: David Amerson- Could switch to safety(probably his best position) but with work he could be a good cover guy (Richard Sherman was graded similarly to Amerson).
4th round: Zeke Motta S Notre Dame- Tough safety that is good in the box and in center field. Not an ideal in man coverage, but decent zone coverage. Might be early for Zeke, but he has the tools and talent to become a good safety.
5th round: Chris Thompson - RB Florida State ( replacement for Jahvid Best) coming off of injury, but could have that game breaking play ability we need to make our offense explosive again.
6th round: Brian Schwenke-OL California could be a good development guy for guard or center
7th round: Kicker, Punter
Any way we slice it, we need to look for at least two additions (draft / free agency) and 1-2 re-signings (Delmas and Houston) for our defensive secondary to get stronger. We don't have the Free Agency Clout to get top notch talent, so like we did in years 1-2 of the Mayhew/Schwartz regime, we need to look at undervalued talent (Houston, Wright, Sims, tony scheffler, etc.) and get players that are young and just need some coaching. I am excited to see what we have in store. There is a good team underneath the injuries and underachievement, but we need to get away from serviceable veterans like (Drayton Florence, Phillip Buchanon, etc) and look at getting players that have talent, but are in the wrong situation and stockpile talent from the draft, then we could become a good team and on our way to a great team.