Bob Quinn's first free agency period as the Detroit Lions general manager may have been considered underwhelming by those that were expecting huge changes among the roster. The Lions' biggest signing, Marvin Jones, was the only free agent given a contract lasting more than two years and averaging more than $4 million per year. But while the Lions may not have made the moves that turned national heads or earned them good report cards, Detroit clearly had a plan in place and executed it quite well. Detroit now has enough experience at every position that they can go into the draft without being locked into a position of desperate need.
Just take a look at the Lions' free agency acquisitions and re-signings thus far:
WR Marvin Jones
WR Jeremy Kerley
LB Tahir Whitehead
CB Johnson Bademosi
CB Darrin Walls
CB Crezdon Butler
FS Tavon Wilson
SS Rafael Bush
DT Stefan Charles
DT Haloti Ngata
DT Tyrunn Walker
QB Dan Orlovsky
TE Tim Wright
RB Stevan Ridley
LS Don Muhlbach
OL Geoff Schwartz
Again, most of those names are unassuming, but most of those players fill a clear role with Detroit, and more importantly, have starting experience.
Detroit came into the offseason with a few huge needs and nearly addressed each and every one of them. At wide receiver, the Lions were desperate in trying to find starting-quality players to fill the hole left by Calvin Johnson retirement. The Lions quickly nabbed their player in Marvin Jones and even added Jeremy Kerley to give the Lions' WR3 position some much-need competition.
At safety the Lions needed a starter at strong safety after letting James Ihedigbo go. Rafael Bush isn't a flashy name, but he has starting experience in the last three years. The Lions may want to still upgrade the position, but the key is they don't have to now.
And that was the thinking behind the signings of players like Geoff Schwartz, Stefan Charles and Stevan Ridley. All have been big contributors in the past, and while they may not be prime-time names they give the Lions options at positions of need, so the Lions aren't boxed in at the draft.
Look at the Lions' outlined needs going into the free agency period, and how the Lions reacted:
Defensive tackle: Re-signed Ngata, Walker; signed Charles
Wide receiver: Signed Jones, Kerley
Center/Guard depth: Signed Schwartz
Linebacker: Re-signed Whitehead
Cornerback: Re-signed Butler; signed Bademosi, Walls
Backup quarterback: Re-signed Orlovsky
Offensive tackle: N/A
With the exception of offensive tackle (which we know the Lions' attempted to upgrade with Russell Okung), the Lions addressed every true need. Although the players may not be outstanding, Quinn smartly signed most of these fill-ins to one-year, prove-it contracts. If some of these signings end up being mistakes, the Lions won't be bogged down by them for long. By utilizing short, cheap, incentivized contracts, the Lions protected their future from free agency busts.
Instead, their future will come down to the draft, where the Lions now have endless options. The Lions don't have to take an offensive tackle now; they could roll into 2016 with their starters from the end of last season. The Lions don't have to select a defensive tackle; they now have a fair amount of depth on the line. They don't need their middle linebacker for 2016; they have essentially promised that position to Whitehead. Sure the Lions should grab a defensive end and they will probably grab a developmental quarterback, but the point is they don't have to now. Instead the Lions can go in and grab the best player on their board and let their future be decided by the best player, not a desperate grab at a position of need.