The Lions Congregation: Resurrection!

>> 3.19.2010


Yes, you read right: The Lions Congregation has risen from the dead!  The men of the Lions cloth have gathered in council once more, now over at DF79’s Roar of the Lions site.  The flock, increased in number, discuss these ineffable questions three:

  • 1. With the loss of MLB Larry Foote to Pittsburgh, which diminishes the versatility of DeAndre Levy since he will likely be called upon to fill the role as starter in the middle, do the Lions need to address their LB personnel? Are Ernie Sims or Julian Peterson still tradeable?
  • 2. The Lions have Chester Pitts visiting, and Ryan Lilja remains on the market as well. Would you like to see the Lions add yet another veteran stop-gap to help fill out their offensive line, or would you like to see them utilize one of their high draft picks on upgrading the offensive line? (Please note that Lilja was still on the market when the questions were sent out, and answers submitted. The speed of the league is lightning at times)
  • 3. The Lions brought in Shaun Hill via trade from the 49ers to fill the role of veteran backup. Is there still need at the backup QB position? What are your thoughts on the deal? (Detroit gave up a 2011 7th rounder)

    Check out The Lions Congregation, at its new digs, for the answers!


The Eye of the Hurricane?

With the whirlwind of unrestricted free agency now calmed, it’s tempting to think the storm is over.  But this year’s restricted free agent class is the most experienced, talented RFA class ever.  While I’d thought the Lions would be loathe to surrender any of their picks in this draft, they’ve already dealt away some late round picks in order to bring in CB Chris Houston and DT Corey Williams.

With the RFA market mostly untouched, there are a few notable players who just might be worth surrendering a pick to get.  The Lions have already entertained Saints DL Anthony Hargrove, a 272-pounder whose physique would be ideal for Schwartz’s system . . . except that according to Nick Cotsonika, Hargrove played inside last season, at nearly 300 pounds.  Would Hargrove be asked to get back to his usual weight and play DE, or stay bulked up and compete for the pass-rushing DT job?

All Rams FS O.J. Atogwe has done is lead the NFC in interceptions in his second season, get hit with the franchise tag last season, and rack up 29 passes defensed and 19 INTs in his five-year career.  However, Atogwe’s 2009 campaign ended 12 games in with a dislocated right shoulder, and the Rams tendered Atogwe at the lowest RFA level.  The intent is to match any offer sheet, and/or sign Atogwe to long-term deal, but a trade of his rights is also a possibility.

Panthers CB Richard Marshall, coming off his first full season starting, has an impressive 34 passes defensed and 11 INTs in his mostly-off-the-bench 4-year career.  Inexplicably, the Panthers tendered Marshall with just a 2nd-round offer.  He’s skipping offseason workouts in protest of the lowball offer—and frankly, he’s what you’d hope a second-round corner would develop into.  I don’t expect the Lions to give up a high 2 for him . . . but maybe they should.

Jets RB Leon Washington, also tendered at the second-round level, has the explosion and game-breaking ability that the Lions are looking for at tailback.  However, he’s coming off a compound leg fracture, and the Jets signed future Hall-of-Famer LaDanian Tomlinson to complement breakout rookie tailback Shonn Greene.  Washington seems to be the odd man out here; could his rights had in a trade for less than the second-round pick?

Obviously, the Lions are not one or two pieces away from championship contention; trading away draft picks for veterans only makes so much sense.  But think about it the other way: these are draft picks that worked out.  All of the development of these players is already done—and they’re all just entering their prime.  It’s like getting a chance to re-do the 2005, 2006, and 2007 drafts so that they actually yielded excellent starters.

There's one thing in the way of all these potential acquisitions: the Lions were too bad last year.  There’s a “regressive tax” effect happening here.  If the Lions signed an RFA tendered at the first-round level—say, Vikings DE Ray Edwards—they’d lose the #2 overall pick.  However, if the Eagles did the same, they’d lose the #24 overall pick.  The Lions, by dint of picking early in every round, will have to part with much more value than other teams to sign the same RFAs.

So, will there be a second burst of activity before the draft?  Will Martin Mayhew work his trading magic to secure some of these outstanding young talents at less-than-sticker price?  I don’t know; maybe the storm really is over.  On the other hand, I wouldn’t come out of the cellar just yet.


Free Agency, the Draft, & Uncomfortable Metaphors

>> 3.16.2010

nfldraftrickywilliamsmikeditka As the Lions continue to improve the roster, I’m seeing reactions like these:

There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of the Lions' situation.  Their roster, remember, has been stripped bare of young veteran talent.  Outside of Calvin Johnson, maybe Ernie Sims, and a few career backups/specialists, the Lions have only the 2009 draft class to build around.  Think like this: who will be on this roster in five years?  Three years?  Heck, who’ll be on it next season?  “Larry Foote” is not, and probably never was, an answer to any of those questions. 

The Lions have a "hole" at left guard.  Neither 2007 4th-rounder Manny Ramirez, nor free-agent signee Daniel Loper, nor anybody else played the left guard position at a consistently acceptable level last season.  Therefore, the Lions are looking to upgrade at left guard for 2010:

"We had a revolving door at left guard last year and we need to settle that down this off-season. We need to find a starter and we need to get continuity,'' Schwartz said.

Would Chester Pitts represent an upgrade at left guard?  If he’s fully recovered from microfracture surgery by the start of the season, without a doubt.  He’s a 6’-4”, 310-pound former second-rounder, who’s started at both tackle and guard in his seven-year career.  By all accounts, he’s a wonderful, funny, multifaceted guy.  He’d be a great addition to the roster.

If, however, the Lions draft Russell Okung with the #2 overall pick, they'll be paying him thirty million dollars, guaranteed to protect Matthew Stafford for the next five-to-fifteen years.  They’ll be sinking a jawdropping amount of money into their three top offensive tackles.  If the Lions decide to draft Russell Okung, they’re not just investing in Okung, they’re charging off the fortunes they’ve sunk into Jeff Backus and/or Gosder Cherilus.

Chester Pitts, meanwhile, is fungible.  You can sign a Chester Pitts—almost 31, coming off an injury, talented-but-aging, versatile—any offseason you want.  There will be a Chester Pitts analogue, or possibly several, at every position, every single offseason.  Moreover, you can release a Chester Pitts at any time; he won’t command a lot of guaranteed money.

But drafting a player with a #2 overall pick?  That’s a massive investment.  If the Lions stand pat and draft Okung—or Suh, or Berry, or whoever—then that player must be a cornerstone of the roster for years to come.  If the Lions are convinced that one of those players is going to be a perfect fit for the team, on and off the field, with Hall of Fame upside . . . well, they’re going to take him, Chester Pitts be damned.

Even the big money thrown at Kyle Vanden Bosch and Nate Burleson doesn’t mean the same as drafting a guy #2 overall.  Those players are veterans, professionals, mercenaries.  They were brought in to immediately play at a high level—and if they don’t execute as expected, they’ll be gone the instant the team can replace them, money be damned (see Delhomme, Jake).

Here’s the bottom line, folks: “Building through the draft” doesn’t mean you take the best available guy at the position of highest need with every pick, thereby improving your roster via the draft.  It means you spend several years selecting and combining foundational players who’ll develop and mature together; building a core of talent that will last for years.  When the Lions—these Lions—select a player in the draft, it’s not a blind date; it’s a marriage.


*I just wanted to say "damned" again.


TLIW Axe Hair ACTION Challenge: The Contest

>> 3.15.2010

AXE Hair Action Challenge contest at The Lions in Winter #littleblueflame

Everyone who’s been reading, or following me on Twitter, knows I’ve been teaming up with AXE to give  away AXE Hair Action Challenge prize packages: a quality leather shaving bag full of AXE Hair products, and a Flip digital video camera.

As we approach the final challenge over at AXE’s site, I’m offering up one more of my own:

Tell me about a time when you were proud to be a Lions fan.

When was the last time you held your head up high?  Wore your Lions gear with pride?  Saw someone walking down the street wearing Lions gear and gave them a nod, or said “nice [jacket|hat|shirt]”?  When was the last time you shouted and high-fived somebody over something the Lions did?

What’s your favorite memory of being a proud Lions fan?  A big win?  A memorable Thanksgiving?  A moment shared with your family?  Attending your first game in-person?

I want you to write about this time, this moment, this memory, and tell me about it.  To enter, email me with the subject line “AXE Hair writing contest”, and in the body of the email include the full text of the story.  Also include how you’d like me to announce your name, e.g. “Person” from “Place”, or your commenting handle.  My address is up there in the “The Flamekeeper” widget at the top of the sidebar. 

The winner will receive an AXE prize package—and their story published for the world to see here on The Lions in Winter.


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