Returning from last season: Alphonso Smith, Nathan Vasher, Aaron Berry, Jack Williams
Currently a free agent: Chris Houston (he was tendered as a restricted free agent but will likely be unrestricted under the new CBA), Paul Pratt (he was tendered as an exclusive-rights free agent), Prince Miller (he was tendered as an exclusive-rights free agent), Tye Hill, Brandon McDonald
New to the team: None
The big question surrounding the cornerback position is what will happen with Chris Houston. The Detroit Lions tendered him as a restricted free agent before the lockout began, but chances are he will be an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins. Houston has made it known he wants to explore the open market, but he also has said he would be willing to return to the Lions. The team certainly wants him back, but nothing is guaranteed.
With or without Houston, the Lions have Alphonso Smith and Nathan Vasher coming back next season. Smith was acquired right before the 2010 season and had a pretty good year until Thanksgiving against the Patriots. Vasher joined the Lions after the first game of the season and started the last four games, all of which were wins. Detroit was impressed with Vasher enough to offer him a one-year deal before the lockout, and he signed it.
Other cornerbacks expected to be in the mix next season include Aaron Berry, Jack Williams, Paul Pratt and Prince Miller. Berry especially is a player worth watching. He played his way onto the 53-man roster with an exceptional training camp and preseason last year and had an interception in the first game of the regular season. An injury in that game actually ended his season early, but he should make the 53-man roster again this year and be a solid contributor.
The two cornerbacks that haven't been mentioned yet are Tye Hill and Brandon McDonald. Both are expected to be unrestricted free agents and weren't tendered before the lockout just in case they ended up being restricted, so it doesn't look like they will be back for right now.
Need going forward?
This position is at the top of the list of needs with linebacker. The Lions are expected to add at least one starting-caliber cornerback when free agency opens, and they could add more than one if Houston isn't re-signed. The hope is Houston will be back, leaving only one spot to be filled, but only time will tell what happens with that situation and just how big of a need the Lions will have at cornerback going forward.