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2017 Detroit Lions offseason needs: Cornerback, as usual, is a need

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One of the weakest positions on the team in terms of depth, the Detroit Lions should review addressing cornerback through FA or the draft.

Detroit Lions v New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Every offseason since I can remember, cornerback has been listed as a top or near the top need for the Detroit Lions. 2016 had that narrative, 2017 does as well. As it so happens, the 2017 offseason is one of the best years to need a cornerback in recent memory. Whether you address the position in free agency or look to the draft, there should be a large number of starting quality to elite corners who find a new team in 2017. Let’s take a look at where the Lions stand.

Under Contract 2017: Darius Slay, Nevin Lawson, Quandre Diggs, Johnson Bademosi, Ian Wells, Charles Washington, Adairius Barnes

Pending Free Agents: Asa Jackson, Crezdon Butler, Alex Carter (ERFA),

Darius Slay came into the season with a new contract and a lot to live up to. Until his injury, he was more than living up to his billing as one of the league’s top cornerbacks, but a nagging injury limited him down the stretch. By that point, the team was already giving up a record setting completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks, and would finish the year with that dubious all time record. Aside from Slay, Lawson actually played pretty well for much of the year, if a bit inconsistent, before tanking completely near the end. Quandre Diggs gave up 40 of the 44 passes thrown his way (90.9% completions) before a season-ending injury brought Asa Jackson to Detroit. Jackson was an unmitigated disaster in his short stay, but it was about this time we truly got to see Johnson Bademosi, and near the end Crezdon Butler, play exactly how we expected them to: poorly. With so many corners under contract for 2017, it’s not as easy to say that it’s “still a huge need” since the team has the personnel to play the position. It’s just that most of them wouldn’t play on any other team and not one player at cornerback, all season, managed to remain healthy. With Nevin Lawson in a contract year, even if you consider him a good player you have to think about replacing him.

Free Agents Available

Trumaine Johnson, Prince Amukamara, Stephon Gilmore, Morris Claiborne, hold on there’s more, Dre Kirkpatrick, A.J. Bouye, Logan Ryan

If you’re a long time reader here at Pride Of Detroit, you’ve probably heard us mention before how strong this cornerback draft class is. As it turns out, the free agent class is on par with the draft at this position and there is just a ton of talent out there. Whether it’s repeat elite like Trumaine Johnson, a suddenly stellar player like A.J. Bouye, or someone steady and solid like Logan Ryan, this class has it all. Throw in a couple of talented players in good secondaries with injury issues and it could get interesting how this market develops. Cornerback is one of the most expensive positions to lock in, and the Lions just spent a lot of coin to keep Darius Slay in town. With the market this flush and a strong draft class, it’s possible the market responds with a downturn in cost. It’s also possible it doesn’t change the market at all, or the players don’t believe it should resulting in a deadlock which could delay when these signings occur. It’s going to be an interesting one to follow.

Draft Targets

Sidney Jones, Marlon Humphrey, Teez Tabor, Quincy Wilson, Marshon Lattimore, Gareon Conley, and others

This is a stacked draft class at cornerback. As many as fifteen different corners have been mocked in the first round this season, and that’s not even taking into account guys like Adoree’ Jackson who haven’t declared. It’s crazy to consider how deep this class is, even more so when you actually dive into it since most of them are seriously worthy of their high draft praise. There are a couple rated that high by some that I didn’t include because I do not rate them that high, such as Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis and LSU’s Tre’Davious White, but I want to mention them as well since it points to just how deep this class is. Now, this doesn’t mean the Lions can or should avoid the position just because it’s deep. Sidney Jones and Marlon Humphrey are not on the same level as Gareon Conley and Jourdan Lewis, you’re not going to get the same caliber of player if you wait. However, you can still get a player that can contribute early with enough upside to at least be a competent number two or nickel upgrade, which is exactly what the Lions need, by chance.

Level of Need

Higher than most want to admit. The Detroit Lions lack a pass rush so badly you can physically feel how bad it is, and no cornerback is going to look great with a non-existent pass rush. Still, it is probably going to be easier and more cost effective to address the linebacker position in free agency, then at least one of the line positions there as well. That would leave a line position and corner as your most immediate needs, and you could pick them 1 and 2 interchangeably. Conversely, the Lions might try to target New England’s Logan Ryan, who can play inside and out pretty well (and is also from Rutgers, a favorite of Bob Quinn) or Dre Kirkpatrick, neither of which would break the bank. It’s not the most cost effective move even taking a second tier free agent, but it would immediately provide an upgrade to a secondary that needs one in the worst way.

Previously covered needs: