THE LATEST: The Lions have traded DT Cory Redding for 30-year-old, 5-time Pro Bowler, former Spartan Julian Peterson. This dramatically alters the makeup of the defense . . . they have also re-inked RB/KR Aveion Caseon and signed Jets UFA Cody Spencer, both for depth. They have also signed TE Will Heller, to compete with Michael Gaines for now, and released LB Anthony Cannon.
I'm keeping track of the movements and needs by merely updating and bumping this post as signings occur. Bold indicates a probable starter for 2009 if no new players are acquired, a star* means the player may not stick around due to contract or terribleness issues, and a slash/ between two players indicates that either one or the other might occupy a given spot.
LB: Ernie Sims, Jordon Dizon, Julian Peterson, Cody Spencer, Ryan Nece*, Alex Smith*
Now that we are more sure the Lions will use a 4-3 alignment in 2009, the need for a true middle linebacker is critical. A veteran starter MLB may be tough to find on the free agent market, but there should be at least one or two sitting at 1.20 for the Lions to draft. Lenon then moves into the mix to shore up the SLB spot. UPDATE: When I initially set this post up, I didn't realize that Paris Lenon was a free-agent-to-be. When I found out about my error, I left him as our probable Mike, but starred him to indicate he may or may not be here. Now that he's reportedly getting nibbles from the Browns, I'm calling him gone--partly to highlight the need. The Lions signed former Titans and Jets LB Cody Spencer (6'-2", 245#) for depth. The Lions have traded for SLB Julian Peterson, a two-way pass defender (rush/cover) whose production has been incredible, but had a down year last season. Peterson brings size, speed, and playmaking ability not seen at the Lions' strong side spot since . . . Reggie Brown?
QB: Duante Culpepper, Drew Stanton, Drew Henson*
Though most Lions fans hiss and snarl when the idea of drafting a quarterback--ever--comes up, the reality is that the cupboard is painfully bare here, and coming off an 0-16 season, there's no pressure to "win now". It's the perfect time to draft and groom a QB of the future. As for the present? Culpepper is awful, Stanton is still a complete unknown, Kitna is approaching 40 and was openly disgruntled, Dan-O was impressively not-awful in 2008--but wants to seek his fortune, and Henson will be lucky to make the roster. There is a high need to draft a quarterback of the future, or let everybody but Stanton and Henson go and bring in a veteran starter. UPDATE: The Lions have traded Kitna to the Cowboys, and Dan-O has signed with the Texans. This need remains very high, as Culpepper is at best a 2009 stopgap, and DS is still an unknown quantity. Schwartz indicated at a recent presser that great attention will be paid to evaluating this position group in the workouts & OTAs preceeding the draft.OL: Jeff Backus, Daniel Loper, Dominic Raiola, Stephen Peterman, Gosder Cherilus, Damion Cook, Andy McCollum, Manny Ramirez, George Foster*
The need to upgrade the LG position is high, and the "need" to upgrade from Backus to an elite franchise LT would really be more like an "awesome bonus". With the Lions possibly leaning that way, they could dramatically upgrade the entire line by drafting LT 1.1 and plugging that player in at LG, or shifting Backus to LG. There's also the possiblity that they draft one of the several excellent C/G prospects in the late first or early second, which would give them a possible new left guard and inproved depth. UPDATE: The Lions attempted to trade for former Bills OG Derrick Dockery, but the Bills fumbled the paperwork. Dockery became a free agent and signed with the Redskins. Damion Cook was re-signed as flex G/C depth. Former Titans G/T Daniel Loper was brought in to compete for the starting LG spot, and assuming the Lions do not draft an offensive lineman with a high pick, he 'll be the presumptive starter.
TE: Will Heller/Michael Gaines, Casey Fitzsimmons
There is a medium need to draft or sign a pass-catching tight end, to provide a reliable third-down and red zone option. UPDATE: free agent John Owens has left to the Seahawks, so this need only increases. Veteran L.J. Smith visited, but word is he's leaning strongly towards the Falcons. Former Seahawks TE Will Heller has been signed . . . but he does not appear to be a clear upgrade over Gaines or Fitz. I'm calling this a split for now.
DL: Dewayne White, Andre Fluellen, Grady Jackson, Cliff Avril, , Ikaika Alama-Francis, Shaun Cody*, Landon Cohen, Chuck Darby*, Jared Devries, Langston Moore*
There is a high need to draft or sign a starting nose tackle; Darby may or may not be kept around, and nobody else has the bulk or strength to play that spot. White and Avril are pretty solid as the starting DEs, though there is a low need to draft a third guy to rotate in and provide quality depth. UPDATE: The Lions have signed NT Grady Jackson, who will be the two-down gap plugger they so desperately needed. There's a real logjam at these positions now, lots of depth, but how much of it is quality? The Lions dealt away DT Cory Redding, which loosens up the depth chart a little bit--but even assuming Cody is gone they still have Darby, Fluellen, Five-O, Cohen, and Moore at the DT spot, all of whom are sub-300 pounders. Flu is arguably the most talented, and he's definitely the biggest-framed. I see Flu putting on 20+ pounds this offseason, and potentially becoming a real force next to Jackson. After that, Jackson is 36 years old, the time to draft a replacement for him should be now, and there is not a legit pass rusher on the line beyond White & Avril.
WR: Calvin Johnson, Bryant Johnson, John Standeford, Keary Colbert, Travis Taylor
There is a high need to sign a true #2 wide receiver to complement Calvin, as draft pick would be unlikely to immediately contribute. If a WR is drafted, it should be to address the high need at KR. UPDATE: the Lions have signed former 49er and ex-Cards first-round pick Byrant Johnson, the man best known for not neing as good as the same team's second-round pick that year, Anquan Boldin. Johnson should compete for the #2 spot. The Lions pursued Nate Washington, but he signed with Tennessee.
CB: Anthony Henry, Phillip Buchanon, Travis Fisher, Eric King, Ramzee Robinson, Stanley Wilson*, Keith Smith*
Due to contract and injury issues, Wilson and Smith may or may not be on the roster. Fisher and Robinson are depth at best. There is a critical need to acquire TWO new starters, preferably a veteran and a rookie, at least one of whom can return kicks. UPDATE: The Lions have traded Jon Kitna for Anthony Henry. Schefter and Kowalski confirm the trade but not the compensation, yet. The Lions have also inked ex-Titans backup Eric King. King is way down on the depth chart and is mostly a special-teams ace, he got a two-year tryout for the same role here. The Lions have also signed former Bucs CB Phillip Buchanon. The Lions need to draft a talented CB/KR in the third or fourth round, to be groomed to replace Henry in a year or two.
S: Daniel Bullocks, Kalvin Pearson/Gerald Alexander, Stuart Schwiegart, Lamarcus Hicks
There is a low need to draft or sign an all-world SS to provide a clear upgrade over Pearson or Alexander.
FB: Jerome Felton, Jon Bradley
UPDATE: With veteran Moran Norris gone to the 49ers, the Lions might look for a veteran option here.
RB: Kevin Smith, Maurice Morris, Aveion Caseon, Brian Calhoun*
There is a medium need to draft or sign a "speed" back for third down/change of pace duties. However, such a "speed" back should could also contribute to the high need for a KR. UPDATE: The Lions have signed former Seahawk Maurice Morris, who is an excellent out-of the backfield reciever and has kick-return experience. Avieon Caseon has also been re-signed.