A breakdown of the Detroit Lions' wide receivers and what needs they may have at the position.
As a precursor to free agency and the NFL Draft, Pride Of Detroit will take a look at each position on the Detroit Lions roster. The series continues with a look at the wide receiver position.
Under contract: Calvin Johnson (through 2019), Nate Burleson (through 2014), Ryan Broyles (through 2015), Mike Thomas (through 2015), Brian Robiskie (through 2013), Devin Thomas (through 2013), Troy Burrell (through 2014), Patrick Edwards (through 2014), Dominique Curry (through 2014), Lance Long (through 2014), Terrence Austin (through 2014), Chastin West (through 2014)
Believe it or not, but this position was actually a strength going into last season. The Lions had a top four of Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Titus Young and Ryan Broyles. Johnson was coming off of an amazing season, and Young was poised to have a breakout year. Add in Burleson and a promising rookie in Broyles and the Lions seemed to be set at wide receiver for the foreseeable future.
My, how things have changed. Fast forward to now and the Lions are far from set at wide receiver. Johnson's story isn't much different with him coming off of a record season, but the same can't be said for the rest of what was once the top four. Young is no longer even on the team after just completely falling apart as a teammate, and his career in the NFL may be over. Burleson and Broyles are both coming off of season-ending leg injuries, although Burleson's injury isn't expected to affect his status for the start of next season. He should be good to go for offseason workouts, whereas Broyles is going to be busy rehabbing another torn ACL this offseason.
It may be hard to believe that the Lions aren't set at wide receiver considering just how many players at this position are on the roster, but most of these guys will likely end up being nothing more than camp bodies. Guys like Troy Burrell, Dominique Curry and Lance Long have been with the Lions before only to be let go and later brought back, and Terrence Austin and Chastin West have bounced around the NFL.
The other wide receivers under contract right now are Mike Thomas, Brian Robiskie, Patrick Edwards and Devin Thomas. Mike Thomas and Robiskie both joined the Lions in the middle of last season after playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Neither really did a whole lot, but both will at the very least be in the mix to make the team, especially Thomas considering the Lions wanted him enough to trade for him. Edwards was in the mix to make the team last year, but he ended up on the practice squad and later the practice squad injured reserve. He, along with Devin Thomas, who was signed last month, will be in the mix this year if they can contribute on special teams.
The Lions have two soon-to-be free agents at wide receiver. It's expected that they will re-sign Kris Durham, who was on the active roster at the end of last season. Kassim Osgood is also a candidate to return because of his strong special teams play.
Need going forward?
As you can tell by surveying the roster, the Lions have a lot of question marks at wide receiver. The top three is pretty clearly Johnson, Burleson and Broyles when injuries aren't a factor, but after that it's anyone's guess. The Lions could really use a No. 2 type of wide receiver to help take some of the pressure off of Johnson, and that's in addition to Burleson and Broyles. I don't really see anybody on the roster as capable of stepping up and filling that role, so the Lions could decide to spend another draft pick on a receiver this year.