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Ever since Martin Mayhew took over as the Lions' general manager and Jim Schwartz became the head coach, the top priority has been to transform the roster from a group of players that went 0-16 in 2008 to a team that will hopefully win a lot of games down the road. Part of that transformation process involves better coaching and getting players to reach their potential, but the biggest part is adding talent and kicking some of the not-so-great players to the curb.
This drastic of a transformation takes time, and not all of the new players are definite upgrades by any means, but if the Lions are ever going to become a successful franchise, it's necessary to bring in new faces and get rid of some of the old ones like they are still doing. I realize adding new players and getting rid of others is nothing new and every team does it, but for the Lions this has happened in large numbers and shows that the franchise is at least attempting to move in the right direction. No, a bunch of roster changes won't guarantee success, but when a team has gone 0-16 and 2-14, it's necessary to change things up.
The thing that sticks out to me about a roster transformation like this is what the Saints did when they hired Sean Payton. The roster transformation process began immediately in New Orleans and paid off in a big way when they went from 3-13 in 2005 to 10-6 in 2006. Obviously there were a lot of extenuating circumstances with Hurricane Katrina that led to a bad 2005 season, but the roster did change quite a bit from '05 to '06. What's more, the Saints continued that roster transformation over the next few years and now look where they are -- the defending Super Bowl champions.
My basic point is that while some franchises can make a tweak here or there and immediately become successful, it's going to take time for a team like the Lions to get things turned around. Keeping that in mind, it's nice to see that the roster is continuing to change based on the plan that Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz have going forward. Not every roster move is a great one, but on a general basis, I like that so many changes have been made since 2008. Take a look (final rosters from 2008 and 2009 used, and they include players on the active roster and injured reserve):
On roster in 2008, gone in 2009:
New to team in 2009:
On roster in 2009, gone now:
New to team in 2010:
*Note: I didn't include Corey Smith andon the lists of players that are no longer on the roster because Smith passed away during the 2009 offseason and FitzSimmons had to retire because of injuries this offseason.
For those keeping score at home, the Lions had a total of 41 new faces on the roster in 2009. That number is inflated a bit because so many players ended up on the injured reserve by the end of the season, but the point still stands that quite a few new faces were around in 2009. That is evident just from looking at how many players that were on the team at the end of 2008 were not around at the end of 2009. Altogether, a total of 46 players on either the active roster or injured reserve at the end of 2008 were not kept around for the entire 2009 season, showing just how much turnover there was.
The numbers for the 2009 to 2010 transformation will be quite a bit different when the roster is trimmed down to 53 players after the preseason, but even so, already 18 players on the team at the end of last season are gone. What's more, the current roster has 32 players that weren't on the team last year. Quite a few of those players will not make the active roster in September or make it to the end of the 2010 season, but like I said earlier, the point stands that the Lions' roster transformation is continuing in a big way this offseason.
The eventual goal for the Lions is for these numbers to decrease more and more every offseason. As winning becomes more common, there is less of a need for drastic roster turnover. It's impossible to go through an offseason without saying goodbye to some players and adding others, but winning teams most certainly don't need to make this many moves. Hopefully a couple years from now the offseason will be more of a boring time for Lions fans and the real excitement will be in the regular season. I think that is the ultimate hope for all Lions fans and everybody in the Lions organization.