General manager Bob Quinn is about to do something he's never done before. The NFL's free agency period begins March 9, which will be Quinn's first foray into the event as a general manager. Quinn has plenty of work to do, as the Detroit Lions are a team fraught with need, especially after moving on from key players like Stephen Tulloch, Rashean Mathis and Joique Bell. Here are the five biggest questions facing Quinn and the Lions as they head into free agency.
1. Which remaining Lions free agents will be re-signed?
The Lions made their first re-signing official on Friday, locking up Tyrunn Walker for another year. Now Detroit has several other big decision to make with their other 16 unrestricted free agents. Rumors are leaning towards Haloti Ngata's return and Tahir Whitehead's departure. The Lions will also have to make important choices regarding Isa Abdul-Quddus, Lance Moore, Dan Orlovksy and Don Muhlbach. Whitehead, Muhlbach and Abdul-Quddus seem worthy of a return, but Detroit has been awfully quiet regarding all three of those players. Unrestricted free agents will be able to negotiate with other teams starting March 7, so time is running out.
2. How will Detroit upgrade their offensive line?
It's no secret that one of the many problems with the 2015 Lions was their offensive line. Only five quarterbacks were sacked more than Matthew Stafford last season and the Lions' running game was one of the worst in the league.
The Lions will have several options to improve their front five through free agency. They could make a play for one of the best centers in the league in Alex Mack. Alternatively they could try to fill a more pressing need at offensive tackle, specifically on the right side. Mitchell Schwartz or Joe Barksdale could fit nicely in those roles.
In another scenario, the Lions could refuse to get in a bidding war for these players and wait until the NFL Draft to address the line. Riley Reiff and Michael Ola aren't ideal starting tackles, but the Lions could potentially risk skipping an upgrade in free agency in the hopes that their favorite tackle falls to them in the draft.
3. How will the Lions approach the wide receiver position without a decision from Calvin Johnson?
It doesn't appear that Johnson will make a final decision before the start of free agency, putting the Lions in a bit of a conundrum. Though Detroit clearly needs receiver depth anyways, the kind of receiver they should go after drastically changes depending on Johnson's availability. Will Detroit try to sign a No. 1 or No. 2 receiver, or will they just be trying to round out the bottom of their receiver depth chart? There aren't a lot of elite options in free agency, so the Lions could aim for a top-tier receiver in the draft, knowing that even if Calvin doesn't retires his days are likely numbered.
4. Will the Lions go after any of the biggest free agents?
With nearly $33 million in cap room the Lions have the potential to go after some of the biggest names in free agency, such as Mack, George Iloka, Danny Trevathan or Malik Jackson. But with so many needs and so little depth it may be a risky proposition to go all-in on one or two big names.
5. How will Bob Quinn make his impact on the team?
There's no question that Bob Quinn will have the final say on any personnel decisions, but how much will he let the other staff members influence his decision? Will Quinn simply sign guys he's familiar with, like the recently-released Brandon LaFell and Scott Chandler? Or will he allow coaches to gather players with which they are more comfortable?
In the past, the Patriots have not typically gone after big names in free agency, but Quinn has said several times that he's not simply bringing The Patriot Way to Detroit. This will be Quinn's first crack at free agency as a general manager and it's hard to know what to expect.