As a precursor to free agency and the NFL Draft, Pride Of Detroit will take a look at each position on the Detroit Lions roster. The series continues with a look at the cornerback position.
Under contract: Jonte Green (through 2015), Bill Bentley (through 2015), Ron Bartell (through 2013), Chris Greenwood (through 2015), Ross Weaver (through 2014), Conroy Black (through 2014), Lionel Smith (through 2014), D.J. Johnson (through 2013)
Free agents: Chris Houston (UFA), Jacob Lacey (UFA), Drayton Florence (UFA), Pat Lee (UFA)
On a national level, cornerback seems to be viewed as the position most in need of help when it comes to the Detroit Lions. Is this an accurate portrayal? Are the Lions really hurting that much at cornerback? Not exactly.
If the Lions are able to re-sign Chris Houston, who is coming off of the best season of his career, then they will be set on one side of the field at cornerback. The other starting spot will be up for grabs with second-year players like Jonte Green and Bill Bentley competing for it. Someone like Ron Bartell, who joined the Lions late last season, could also be in the mix for the starting job. And don't sleep on Chris Greenwood, who missed all of his rookie season after having offseason surgery.
On top of all those cornerbacks, the Lions also have Ross Weaver, Conroy Black, Lionel Smith and D.J. Johnson under contract. These guys will likely end up just being camp bodies, especially if the Lions decide to bring back someone like Jacob Lacey or Pat Lee. Chances are fellow free agent Drayton Florence won't be re-signed after being benched at the end of last season.
Need going forward?
Cornerback is far from a strong position for the Lions, and it is one of their bigger needs. It's not the top need by any means, though. Do they lack a true shutdown corner? Sure, but if the Lions are able to bring back Houston, all they will really need is one other starting-caliber cornerback for next season. Bartell and the Lions' draft picks from last year will compete for playing time, and Detroit could decide to draft another cornerback or sign someone in free agency. The Lions could also decide to roll the dice and simply hope that one of their young cornerbacks makes a big jump in 2013.
Generally speaking, the Lions do need to turn this position into a strength at some point, and it would obviously be nice if they somehow could add a shutdown corner. However, given how many other needs they have, re-signing Houston may be the only notable development at this position until the draft (if that even happens). If they are unable to re-sign him, then they will have to explore other options in free agency in order to prevent cornerback from rising up the list of needs.