Last offseason, I did a little research on the Lions’ secondary problems. It seemed to me that there’d been an “overhaul” back there every year, going as far back as I could remember. I looked it up, and was horrified. Starting with the season-ending injuries to CB Bryant Westbrook and S Kurt Schultz during the 2000 season, the Lions have brought in two or more new starters in almost every subsequent year:
2001: Signed CB Todd Lyght, CB/S Robert Bailey, and S Chidi Iwouma. Subtracted S Corwin Brown, CB Darnell Walker, and CB Marquis Walker.
2002: Drafted CB Andre Goodman and CB Chris Cash; signed S Corey Harris, S Brian Walker, CB Eric Davis, and S Bracey Walker. Subtracted Terry Fair, Ron Rice, Kurt Schultz, Robert Bailey, and Chidi Iwouma.
2003: Signed CB Dre' Bly, CB Otis Smith, and drafted S Terry Holt. Subtracted Todd Lyght and Eric Davis.
2004: Signed CB Fernando Bryant, S Brock Marion, S Vernon Fox, and drafted CB Keith Smith. Subtracted Brian Walker and Corey Harris.
2005: Signed S Kennoy Kennedy, CB R.W. McQuarters, and S Jon McGraw; drafted CB Stanley Wilson. Subtracted Brock Marion and Chris Cash.
2006: Drafted S Daniel Bullocks and signed CB Jamar Fletcher. Subtracted Andre Goodman, R.W. McQuarters, Bracey Walker, and Vernon Fox.
2007: Drafted S Gerald Alexander, CB A.J. Davis, and CB Ramzee Robinson; signed CB Travis Fisher. Subtracted Dre Bly, Terry Holt, Jamar Fletcher, and Jon McGraw.
2008: Traded for CB Leigh Bodden, and signed S Dwight Smith, S Kalvin Person, and CB Brian Kelly. Subtracted Fernando Bryant, Kennoy Kennedy, and Stanley Wilson . . . and Brian Kelly.
2009: Drafted S Louis Delmas, traded for S Ko Simpson, and signed CB Philip Buchanon, CB/S Anthony Henry, CB Eric King, and S Marquand Manuel. Subtracted Leigh Bodden, Travis Fisher, and Dwight Smith.
This list ins’t meant to be comprehensive; any player prior to 2009 on the list played in at least ten games for the Lions. in ‘09 and ‘10, I included any player who was expected to make a significant contribution to the team. This is why players like CB Jahi Word-Daniels, a practice-squadder briefly activated to fill an injury-opened roster spot, aren’t on there.
However, there are some seemingly-insignificant players who might play a role when the curtain goes up on the 2010 season, like CB Jack Williams. Williams, a fourth-round pick in his second season, was signed after Week 7 last year, when the Broncos released him. He blew his left ACL on his first play as a Lion, and was placed on Injured Reserve. He’s a talented young corner who could immediately push King and Spievey if healthy—but we have no idea how healthy he really is.
As it stands, though, we’re right on track for another overhaul this time next year. Chris Houston, as promising and young as he is, was still replaced and traded after his disappointing 2009 performance. Amari Spievey (yes, Meet the Cubs piece on him coming soon) is going to step in and play, but every cornerback has a year or two of ramp-up time. The only possible long-term answer to the #2 safety problem is Daniel Bullocks, but who knows what he’ll be able to contribute?
Eric King, in my humble estimation, doesn't belong anywhere near the starting lineup.
Though the uncapped UFA bonanza is over, and the draft is long in the books, there IS one possible acquisition left out there; one possible target who could forestall multiple-starter secondary churn next season. O.J. Atogwe, the St. Louis Rams’ excellent young ballhawk, has refused to sign his RFA tender—meaning he’ll become an unrestricted free agent come June 1st. As Twitterer @Msu4Us pointed out, Atogwe is from Windsor, so if there’s any “childhood fan” mojo, it’ll likely be for the Lions . . .
On the other hand, the Lions’ front office has already spent a ton of the Fords’ money this offseason, and Atgowe will likely command a fortune on the unrestricted market. Unless the Lions are convinced that Atogwe is THE answer to their defensive problems, I don’t anticipate that dramatic of a move.
No, the likely answer is that one of the amassed throng of mediocre safeties will have to scale the mountain of bodies before them, and plant their flag at the summit . . . where it will stay until next season, when the roster dynamite levels the mountain, and the annual secondary rebuild begins.