With the combine over and free agency fast approaching, it's time for Coach Caldwell and GM Martin Mayhew to enact their offseason plans. I will go through an entire offseason scenario, in depth, that I believe will lead the Lions to the playoffs. First, lets take a look at all team needs in order of importance:
- #2 WR. A guy to stretch the field opposite Megatron will complete the Lion's offense. Young, sure handed and speedy will be the main requirements for this position.
- OLB to replace Ashlee Palmer. He was an experiment from the last coaching regime, he is most likely off the starting role with a new coach.
- FS. Hopefully this comes in the form of resigning Delmas, but if not, the free agent safety class is deep.
- K because David Acres is trash at this point in his career, and he won't be coming back. IMO, he should've been cut after missing a 31 yarder.
- TE here is tricky. On one hand Joe looks to be a future franchise tight end, on the other, that's a lot to expect out of a 2nd year UDFA. So do we bring back Brandon Pettadrop and hope for some improvement, or sign a cheap vet? This looks to be the toughest decision of the offseason.
- #4 WR. This should be a tall possession receiver. A little on the slow side but a great red zone target would be ideal.
- QB2 if Hill doesn't come back. I'd expect a vet signing due to Moore being the developmental guy on the roster.
- OC2. This is probably Raiola's last year, bringing in a guy to learn from a great player (you don't start for over a decade in the NFL by being less than great), would be a smart move.
- S3 to provide some much needed depth.
- T2/G2 because I believe Gandy and Fox are done in Detroit. I expect cheap vet signing(s) or low round draft picks.
- DT4 due to the rumors the Lions are looking into a new defensive tackle. Don't expect any splash signings, however.
Now addressing needs I didn't list. I have heard many people clambering for a new RT and CB which I think is ridiculous. Find me another young, 6ft 6, 321 pound mauler, who we can have at minimum wage for 2 years. Waddle beat out two veterans, who had been in the Lion's system for years, for the starting RT job as an UDFA rookie. At only 22, he has loads of untapped potential, and has definitely earn the starting role. As far as CB, there is no doubt last season was a disappointment. However, giving up on a 2nd round pick after only one year is hasty and wasteful. As a Spartan fan, I'd love to see Darqueze Dennard in a Lions uniform, but we don't need him. Given a full offseason with an all new coaching staff, Houston, Slay, Green and Bentley should all be much improved.
Moving on to free agency, there are only a few key transactions needed. First and foremost, Suh's extension and cap reduction needs to take place. Even trimming his cap number to $15 million would create $7.412 million in cap space. This would make the total available cap space for this year around $17.412 million. Next, resign Delmas to a deal if possible. I believe Detroit can give him the most money, as other teams will still be apprehensive towards his injury history. If not, the safety class is deep in free agency, so signing a TJ Ward or Chris Clemons is also possible. I say pass on Pettigrew, let him sign somewhere else and send us a low compensatory pick for next year. Trade Mikel Leshoure for a conditional 2025 7th rounder if necessary, just open up some cap room and get him off the team. Resign Hill to the final contract of his career, or bring in someone like Derek Anderson as a vet QB. Next, signing a WR4 would be smart, as Delmas' salary would most likely make it difficult to sign a higher caliber player. 6ft 5 Danario Alexander or Kris Durham could be signed cheaply, and would provide a nice end zone target. Lastly, any veteran TE3 at league minimum would finish off the free agent class. In my estimation, close to $7.5 million would be left to draft picks for this year.
Finally, the draft. Let's assume Cliff Avril and Gosder Cherlius net the Lions a 4th and 5th round compensatory draft pick, since the order has not been declared yet. That gives the Lions a draft pick in every round, and 2 in the 4th. Obviously, with so many needs already addressed, trading up is a strong possibility. Now, I know this won't happen, but I have to throw it out there; draft Clowney. Suh, Fairly, Ansah, and Clowney all on the same field running at the QB is such a intriguing thought. Breaking collarbones would be a yearly occurrence for Aaron Rodgers. But back to reality. I expect the draft to go something like this:
- Round 1: Trade picks #10 and #76 overall for #7 overall with Tampa. Draft Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson. Best WR in the draft hands down, and our biggest need. Trading to #7 leapfrogs WR needy Bills and Vikings.
- Round 2: Pick #45. Draft C.J. Mosley, OLB, Alabama. This guy has one of the best overall games in terms of run support, pass coverage and blitzing. Great addition who will take care of our second biggest need.
- Round 3: Pick traded
- Round 4: Pick #107. Draft Tyler Lawson, OC, Utah State. This is a man with nice measurables for the center position (6ft 3, 317) and has been described as a scrapper. A nice senior bowl showing help his stock, this is a good spot for him. Pick #130. Draft Andrew Norwell, OT/G, Ohio State. His versatility is the reason for this pick as well as a need for both positions. This round will help both Jason Fox and Dylan Gandy out the door.
- Round 5: Pick #166. Draft Isaiah Lewis, S, Michigan State University. There is little depth at safety, and Isaiah has the potential to be a decent player. Physical and a hard hitter, he will be a nice in state addition.
- Round 6: Pick #178. Draft Anthony Fera, K, Texas. Now all the needs are satisfied. Fera has a strong and accurate leg. Hopefully him and Sam Martin will become the Lion's kicking duo for the next decade and beyond.
- Round 7: Pick #208. Draft Kerry Hyder, DT, Texas Tech. Nice size at 6ft 2, but will need to beef up from his current 281 pound weight. Nice developmental guy.