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.