At this time a year ago, the expectation was for the Detroit Lions to open the 2012 season with Louis Delmas and Amari Spievey starting at safety. By the time the regular season arrived, neither was in the starting lineup. Delmas was out after having knee surgery shortly after the start of training camp, whereas Spievey lost his spot in the starting lineup after being benched in the preseason. Perhaps dealing with the effects of a concussion for most of the offseason contributed to Spievey taking a step back on the field.
Delmas eventually returned from his knee injury, but he wasn't able to consistently stay in the lineup. He only ended up playing in eight games for the Lions, but that was actually better than Spievey, who only played in five games. Spievey actually recaptured his starting job, but another concussion ended his season early.
Given just how big of an issue injuries have been for these two players, the Lions have some big decisions to make at safety this offseason. Delmas and Spievey are both headed for free agency, and Spievey is going to be a restricted free agent. Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said last week at the combine that the team is taking a "wait-and-see approach" with Spievey. From the Free Press:
"I just think it’s the total package of everything he’s dealt with," Mayhew said. "He, obviously, was a good player for us when he was healthy, but we’ll have to kind of take a wait-and-see approach on that."
Even if the Lions don't tender Spievey a contract, they could still re-sign him. They did this with Ashlee Palmer a year ago, and that might be the way to go with Spievey given his history of concussions.
Mayhew also was pretty noncommittal when asked about Delmas. According to ESPN, Mayhew said that the Lions' doctors are still evaluating Delmas' "situation." Mayhew indicated that the Lions were in the process of making a decision on Delmas. I fully expect the Lions to offer Delmas a deal to re-sign, but I'd imagine the decision they need to make revolves around the contract terms. The Lions need to be particularly careful with the length of a new deal for Delmas because he has had such a tough time staying healthy.
Even if the Lions bring back both Delmas and Spievey, a need will still exist at safety in my mind. Delmas has been a pretty solid player, but his inability to stay healthy is a concern. Spievey's health is even more of a concern because of his concussions, but he doesn't make as big of an impact for the Lions as Delmas when healthy.
I'm all for the Lions bringing both players back, but only if they continue to look for extra help at safety. I'd rather them not be in a situation where they are forced to start someone like John Wendling again if Delmas and Spievey go down. With or without them, safety is one of the Lions' top needs this offseason.