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Lions Game-Changing Offseason Moves: Drafting Veterans via Trades

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In the first edition of Pride of Detroit's look at game-changing offseason moves made by the Lions, I examined how the roster improved with the signings of Kyle Vanden Bosch and Nate Burleson.  Free agency was merely one piece of the puzzle in terms of improving the roster, though.  The draft also greatly improved the Lions' roster, but one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle was using the draft to get better by trading away picks for proven players.  This was well documented in a post made right after the draft, but it's worth bringing up one more time since it played such a substantial role in the Lions' offseason.

The Lions actually started making trades right as free agency was getting started.  News broke that Detroit acquired Cleveland's Corey Williams on the eve of free agency, and the deal that sent a fifth-rounder to the Browns for Williams and a seventh-rounder became official the next day.  That alone was a sign that Martin Mayhew wasn't afraid to move picks in exchange for players that should come to the Lions and be in the starting lineup, and the Williams deal was only the first of many.

With the defensive tackle position improved thanks to the Williams trade, Martin Mayhew moved on to helping the secondary.  Not only was the secondary in need of new faces because it struggled last year, but many of the players who got a lot of playing time were either released or not re-signed.  As a result, there were two big holes in the starting lineup at cornerback, and Mayhew decided to fill one of them by trading for Atlanta's Chris Houston.  The Lions picked up Houston for only a sixth-round pick in this year's draft and a conditional seventh-rounder next year.  Mayhew made use of those picks to once again add a player to the roster who is expected to be a starter.  Is Houston a top-level talent or an impact player?  Not exactly, but for what the Lions gave up to acquire a likely starter at a position of great need, this was another solid deal.

The next trade the Lions made was not to acquire a starter, but it was still an important deal.  The trade I'm referring to is the one that sent San Francisco's Shaun Hill to the Lions for only a 2011 seventh-round pick.  This particular move gave the Lions a solid backup quarterback who has experience as a starter.  He fits the role nicely because although the Lions' quarterback situation really starts and ends at Matthew Stafford, the fact of the matter is that injuries happen, as we found out last year.  Rather than have to continue to completely write off the possibility of winning a game because Stafford goes down, the Lions will instead have Hill waiting for his chance to play should an injury happen.  Once again Mayhew filled a position of need by making a trade that forced the Lions to part with very little.

The final big move where the Lions gave up a draft pick to acquire a starting-caliber player came when Rob Sims was acquired from Seattle for only a fifth-round selection.  Sims is expected to be the Lions' starting left guard, finally filling a position that hasn't had a solid starter for quite some time.  Not only will this move improve the play of the left guard position, but the play of Jeff Backus, Dominic Raiola, and the rest of the offensive line should also improve with the addition of Sims. 

The Lions also traded for tight end Tony Scheffler to cap off their pre-draft moves, but they had to part with Ernie Sims to make that deal possible.  For the other deals, however, the Lions simply had to give up fifth-, sixth-, or seventh-round draft picks to add starting-caliber players to the roster.  Trades are obviously nothing new, but I really like the way Martin Mayhew handled these deals.  He made sure not to give up too much, and on top of that, he always tried to get an extra pick here or there. 

One of my favorite parts of these trades is that it led to the creation of the term "Mayhewing," but more than anything I like that the Lions got creative with their strategy of filling needs.  Rather than go out and sign a bunch of guys and then wait for the draft, the Lions went ahead and filled needs at backup quarterback, left guard, defensive tackle, and cornerback by trading picks in this and next year's draft.  Considering none of those picks were from higher than the fifth round, I'd say this was a job well done by Mayhew and another example of some game-changing moves made by the Lions this offseason.