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Notes: Should fans expect the Lions to be active in free agency?

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OverTheCap’s financial data says yes

Detroit Cityscapes and City Views

OverTheCap’s Jason Fitzgerald plotted each team’s expected draft class cost (for currently owned picks) on the X-axis against current available cap space on the Y-axis. Detroit is near the origin but a bit into what is designated as the upper right, where Fitzgerald says teams who “should be active in FA” are located. If this looks familiar, it appears OTC has adopted a variation on the data visualization by Lee Sharpe that used Football Perspective’s draft pick values and OTC’s effective cap space data that we posted about last month. OTC, not surprisingly, has converted the X-axis to recast the analysis and focus more on the financials:

It is not immediately clear what the criteria was for placing the axis lines from Fitzgerald’s graph, but the notes on Sharpe’s graph provides a hint: it is probably the league average for each axis. Detroit has nearly 46m in effective cap space, placing them about 34m beyond their expected rookie pool needs, according to OTC. That amount ought to be enough to land a few high-profile free agents (or, you know, retain good players) beyond the usual roster-filling needs at the lower end of the salary spectrum.

Notice the Green Bay Packers (partially covered by the Ravens), Chicago Bears, and Minnesota Vikings are all in the lower left “hardest path to improve” area (just like in Sharpe’s graph). This largely agrees with what our own Mansur Shaheen wrote about the state of the NFC North earlier this week. Unlike the other three clubs in the division, the Lions have the assets to seek big improvements in both free agency and the draft. The front office must do better than they have in the past to turn potential into reality for the team to finally get out of the cellar.

Just how much draft capital do the Lions have to generate a “good draft class” with? OverTheCap’s Brad Spielberger posted a great piece a little over a week ago that ranked the draft assets of every team according to three different draft valuation charts. Detroit’s current picks have them third using Jimmy Johnson’s chart, fifth by Rich Hill’s chart, and seventh according to Jason Fitzgerald’s chart. As for the rest of the division, the Vikings are 22nd on all three charts, the Packers are 24th on all three charts, and the Bears are either 27th or 28th depending on the chart used.

While not guaranteeing any improvement, all of this available draft capital and cap space means at least there will be lots of action in the next two months for fans, even if things do not look so hot for the organization at the moment. Now, on to the rest of today’s Notes:

  • On the other hand, ESPN’s Michael Rothstein does not expect the Lions to retain many of their pending free agents and writes that they “aren’t expected to be massive free-agent spenders” given general manager Bob Quinn’s history.