There are a couple different strategies NFL teams can employ at the start of free agency. Some teams like to get deals in place during the negotiating period despite that technically being against the rules, in turn allowing them to make announcements right as the new league year begins. Most of these deals are quite expensive and involve the top free agents on the open market. Other teams, meanwhile, prefer to sit back and wait for the market to develop rather than go on a massive spending spree.
Clearly, the Detroit Lions fall into the latter category. They had a pretty uneventful first day of NFL free agency considering their only moves involved re-signing two of their own free agents. Although they did schedule a couple visits, they didn't sign any outside free agents. Much like last year, it appears they are targeting a few specific guys and are planning to bring them in on visits before actually offering them a contract.
In any case, here's a recap of Day 1 of free agency for the Lions:
It was kind of a boring day, wasn't it?
If you were expecting fireworks from the Lions, then yes. There was lots of action around the league, but the Lions weren't very active. The day got going with running back Joique Bell agreeing to a three-year deal, and the Lions did re-sign wide receiver Kevin Ogletree to a one-year deal as the new league year began, but that was it from a transactions standpoint.
This is all Ndamukong Suh's fault, isn't it?
Uh, no. This seems to be a common opinion amongst Lions fans: "The Lions didn't do anything because Suh didn't get a long-term deal done and they didn't have any cap room!" In reality, that's not even remotely the case. The Lions currently have around $9-10 million in cap space, which would have been more than enough to make some splashy moves if they wanted. Case in point: Eugene Monroe got a five-year deal worth $37.5 million from the Baltimore Ravens, but his 2014 cap hit is only $3.2 million. If the Lions really wanted to sign one of the top free agents out there, they could have made it work from a cap standpoint.
So why didn't the Lions go after some of these top guys?
With there being so much extra cap space this year, a lot of teams have decided to go on a spending spree. This has led to a lot of massive contracts and a lot of players being overpaid. Rather than take the approach of overspending on the top tier of free agents, the Lions are simply letting the market develop. While they are missing out on the top free agents, they are taking the approach of spending their money and using their cap space more wisely in order to fill multiple needs. This is sort of what they did last year when they added Reggie Bush, Glover Quin and Jason Jones for a total of less than $6 million in first-year cap space. Those players weren't necessarily bargains, but they signed at a reasonable rate, at least for the first year.
Okay, so the Lions are taking the patient approach. What should we expect on Day 2 of free agency?
The Lions have already scheduled a visit with wide receiver Golden Tate. It was expected to begin on Tuesday night, so it's possible that a deal could be in place sometime on Wednesday if everything goes well. Adding Tate would be the first step in addressing the Lions' need for help at wide receiver, and based on how the receiver market has developed, it looks like he might be a bit more affordable than originally thought.
Also, former Dallas Cowboys center Phil Costa is set to visit the Lions, and there's some talk that they might bring in tight end Scott Chandler for a visit as well. Brandon Pettigrew is testing free agency, so the Lions may decide to simply sign Chandler and let Pettigrew walk. They also might let Willie Young walk, as he is scheduled to visit the Jacksonville Jaguars.
One other name to keep an eye on in the coming days is safety Chris Clemons. His former team, the Miami Dolphins, opted to sign former Lions safety Louis Delmas, and Clemons has been talked about as a possible replacement for Delmas in Detroit. I would expect there to be some movement with Clemons in the next day or two.
I certainly get the frustration over the lack of moves so far, but it's not like this is going to be a 2012 situation where the Lions do basically nothing during free agency. They have clear needs to address, and all indications are that they are going to fill some of the holes on their depth chart in the coming days. Just have some patience. The Lions may not have made a splash on the first day of free agency, but there should be some excitement on Wednesday with Tate in town for a visit.