The Lions’ Free Agency Picture Gets Clearer

>> 7.27.2011

On Monday, I posted the timeline for contracts and signings, and noted that what happens midweek will set the stage for the moves to come:

Besides the rumors of who’s negotiating with who that will hit the wire come Tuesday lunchtime, keep a close watch on Thursday for the release of Lions veterans. Cuts, and whispers of renegotiated contracts for players like Jeff Backus, will hint broadly at the Lions’ approach. Will they be major players for major contributors, or just dipping a finger in the frosting of a rich free agent cake?

A few moves have already been made: Bryant Johnson has been informed of his impending release, Dave Rayner has agreed to return to compete for the kicking job, and free agent OLB Stephen Nicholas will return to the Falcons. Now, the National Football Post is reporting that the Lions have offered Titans MLB Stephen Tulloch a contract with a $10M bonus, and that Lions staff and players alike are helping recruit Tulloch to Detroit.

If they could land him, it would neatly upgrade two positions at once: Tulloch would step in as MLB, and DeAndre Levy would return to the outside. With Bobby Carpenter a free agent, the Lions would still have to add an OLB of some kind, but the LB corps would be greatly improved regardless.

The question remains: what are the Lions’ plans for the cornerback position? The amount of cap room the Lions have left isn’t great; my thought was they’d be able to get a handful of decent players, or perhaps make a big splash on one and get one more good guy. If Tulloch agrees to this apparently-massive deal, I’m not sure they’ll be able to make a run at Johnathan Joseph, as ESPN’s Chis Mortenson rumored.

Then again, as Sports Business Journal’s Liz Mullen pointed out on Twitter, the NFL’s new salary cap is “soft.” It’s a leaguewide maximum total, not a per-team maximum—and even then, there’s some wiggle room ($3M of exceptions in the first year, for example). Perhaps the Lions are simply going to go for broke—add two long-term, quality starters in Tulloch and Joseph, and round out the bottom of the roster with lots and lots of youth. I can’t say the vision I’m seeing through the fog is entirely unpleasant.


randomguy313,  July 27, 2011 at 12:08 PM  

If the Jets can finagle the cap for Nnamdi (Source: Need insider access), I don't see why the Lions could not do the same to keep that cap number low in the event they pursue JJ and Tulloch

Anonymous,  July 27, 2011 at 12:46 PM  

Who's this Andre Levy guy?

telemakhos,  July 27, 2011 at 5:15 PM  

This front office has shown that they go for a few long term, big splash players rather than a lot of decent players. They build for the long-term, not to "fill" every position.

Tiger,  July 27, 2011 at 6:34 PM  

I like this, and brought up the info about Stephen Tulloch raving over Jim Schwartz months ago. I think it is just a matter of time.

I do hope that Jonathan Joseph works out too, but it may be too rich for us, but I have been a fan of him for a few years now.

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Angus Osborne,  July 27, 2011 at 6:41 PM  

Based on the past I reckon any cornerback signed will not be a big name guy. I don't think it's a position massively valued by the Lions.

Mike,  July 28, 2011 at 5:05 AM  

They value CB as much as any position since every place on the football field can make an immediate impact with the right player, they're just following the philosophy that they've laid out time and time again; they will not overspend when they believe they shouldn't. That's why you were never going to hear of the Lions making a strong play for Asomugha, he was simply going to take up more money than his talent (great as it may be) is worth.

For those of you who haven't seen yet, Justin Durant of the Jags tweeted that he would be joining the Lions. Add him into the possibility of Tulloch and you can close the book on a weak linebacker corps in Detroit about as far as you can at this point in the season. If you factor that into the equation, we may not even need a big name CB assuming Houston's return (which I assume to be likely given the size and strength of the CB free agent class this year) and Smith maturation into a good/passable #1, especially considering their preference to build the core of the team through the draft instead of patching together a group of big name free agents.

Even after typing and deleting multiple paragraphs about how they would be able to make a move on a CB or how you'll see them draft a big talent corner in the next few years, I don't see the need any more. I'm beginning to see the picture that I imagine Mayhew and company have painted a long time ago. We have a young CB group that will need time to mature. Most CBs don't reach their potential until 3-4 years into their career. Both Houston and Smith are great examples of this. Both were drafted high second round and had their teams give up on them. Smith was drafted just 18 slots behind Amukamara and TEN slots behind Jimmy Smith in their respective drafts.

This year will be a lesson in why sticking to your guns beats filling a "need", given the right philosophy. If all the Lions do from here on out is sign Tulloch and keep Houston I think we'll be very, very well off.

And so I don't post on this blog without saying this...Lions v Jets in XLVI. I've been saying it for months now, and I'm more confident of it than ever.

Tiger,  July 28, 2011 at 8:41 PM  

JJ is off the board now, so where do we look for cornerback? Any rumblings out there?

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