Okay, now that you’re in the article, calm down. I know what you’re thinking. This is crazy. A mega free agent coming to the Lions is unheard of and Mike needs to start taking his crazy pills again. But there’s a lot of realism here. Today we’re going to talk about it.
First off, let me say that I’ve been riding this boxcar all by myself for a while now. Most Lions fans and the entire Pride Of Detroit staff think that I’m crazy. Literally, when I told our editor I was going to write this, he said “Go for it. But you’re crazy.” Crazy is something that most people already know that I am. So this is nothing new.
Here’s the thought behind all of this. The Lions have a running game issue. They’ve had this same issue since Barry Sanders retired. They haven’t ranked higher than 17th in rushing since 1998. They also haven’t had a 100-yard rusher since 2013. You, of course, already know that because it’s been beaten into your brains this past season.
So what are the Lions to do? There are two schools of thought here. The first is the obvious. Go get yourself one in the draft. Hey, I’m fine with this if it’s the route the team goes. This draft class is absolutely jam-packed with running backs, and if the past few years are any indication, the Lions could grab one that’ll hit and be successful.
The other is Le’Veon Bell. Let’s go back a paragraph ago and look at how bad the Lions rushing attack has been in the last 20 years. Now let’s talk about how good this offense and its quarterback is without a running game.
Matthew Stafford is easily a top-five quarterback in the NFL. He is currently in the prime of his career, and he’s getting better every year. Add the only receiving duo in the league to have 1,000 yards each and a tight end on the rise and you have a really formidable offense, despite having the worst run game in the league.
One of the biggest questions we all have about Matthew Stafford and this offense is how good would could be with a decent running game. The answer to that is they likely immediately become a major contender. Add Le’Veon Bell, and we’re talking about something more than that.
Bell is arguably the best running back in the league and at 25, he still has plenty of time left to play. But the question to ask now is if any of this is even possible? Yes it is. Here are a few reasons why.
Le’Veon bell will not be a Steeler in 2018
Whether it’s the Lions or not is irrelevant. Le’Veon Bell is more than likely going to hit free agency in March, and he’s going to paid. The big reason that most believed Bell would never go to the Lions is that everyone knows the Steelers will franchise tag him. Well that’s not going to be a good idea.
I’ve been trying to tell everyone that would listen that the Steelers franchising Bell again would be very upsetting for the player and ultimately a bad move. Now we know that Bell is ready to put the Steelers in position to pay up on a big contract or he’s going to walk.
The problem there is the Steelers can’t do it. As of this week, the Steelers only have $4,468,048 available to spend in 2018. That’s the 30th worst cap situation in the NFL. Sure they can free up some money by making some really hard cuts, but their free agency situation really doesn’t improve until 2019. By then it may be too late.
This all ends with Bell hitting the market and likely being the highest-touted player out there. That’s where it should get difficult for the Lions right? Not exactly.
Lions have money, but they also have the best chances
By that I mean when you look at the top ten teams that have the most available cap space, the Lions stick out as the team that looks the most desirable to not only get paid, but win games. You can make an argument that San Francisco is an interesting place to go. They have the most amount of money. They also have a quarterback that threw five interceptions in five starts that’s getting boatloads of praise dumped on him right now because of tragedy that is “Quarterback Wins.”
You can also make cases for the Vikings, Colts and Texans. But for Minnesota, you’d have to look past the big contract Case Keenum may get and the fact that Dalvin Cook exists. With Indy, the situation surrounding Andrew Luck is enough to scare off some, and for Houston, is Deshaun Watson for real or not?
This leaves the Lions. A team with a star quarterback and a very good receiving corps. Sounds familiar right? Because it’s the same thing he has in Pittsburgh. Only in Detroit he would have a significantly big role and the contract to match it. The Lions would also find themselves in position to win and win now. Every other option is win later.
Can the Lions pull this off? Do they want to?
I can’t say for sure that Bob Quinn wants to go out and make this big of a splash in free agency. I can tell you that it wouldn’t be the first time. Quinn went out and nabbed Marvin Jones Jr. in 2016 and he’s turning out to be well worth the big contract that he got. And based off the highest paid player in the league calling Detroit his home, it’s pretty clear that he’s willing to spend.
The biggest thing here is that Bob seems to be a man that recognizes his mistakes. After firing Jim Caldwell after the season, Bob had plenty to think about with his run game being the 32nd worst in the league two years in a row. It’s clear to him what needs to be done.
Bob Quinn said he "absolutely" intends to add a running back this offseason.— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) January 1, 2018
By all appearances, Bob Quinn not only intends to add a running back, but also fix this run game all the way. The best way to do that is to get your crown jewel. I believe that Bob and I might be thinking the same way here.
But can they do it? Absolutely. The Lions have $50,775,632 available to spend per Spotrac, and that’s just the start. The NFL’s salary cap was set at $167 million in 2017. Per Sports Illustrated, the cap could rise to $178 million in 2018. That extra $11 million could go a long way towards not only signing Bell, but grabbing some other free agents and locking up Tahir Whitehead, Haloit Ngata and Ezekiel Ansah. So, yeah, the Lions will definitely be buyers in March.
Who knows what’s going to happen when it all comes down to it? The Steelers might shock the world and find a way to pay Bell a lucrative contract with no money. The Lions might chose to go with a Carlos Hyde or a Isaiah Crowell instead. Or they might draft a rookie from a very talented pool. I’d be happy with any of these outcomes. One thing we do know is that it’s not crazy for Lions fans to keep an eye on this situation to see where it goes.