After a night of sleep on the DB situation, and a couple of extra hours at the office WMAO (I was short-staffed today) I had a few more thoughts, and a few things seemed to become clearer. As nobsnubber put it, and as I thought about it, I too am now convinced the Lions are not going to take a CB before the 4th round. Not happening. See his comment on my prior entry and I agree with him on how the defensive backfield will look for the Lions in 08. As of right now, what you see is what you get.
Before I get into implications of this, I would like to say goodbye to another early Millen draft flop - Boss Bailey -- we'll miss you way less than you missed tackles. As I looked back, he fell into the second round that year due to: Injury concerns, and a fear he would never learn to tackle. The Lions gambled, and lost on both counts. He was often injured and my 4 year old daughter could tackle NFL RB's and WR better than him. Right now. Imagine how hard I LMAO when the Broncos were listed as having "upgraded at the SLB with the addition of Boss Bailey." Bet that line gets scrubbed about a half game into the preseason.
So back to the offseason. A new inventory of the various position groups is needed. Now, according to netrat (whose awesome site - especially salary cap estimates - is listed to your left) the Lions have just a touch over 3 mil under tha cap left (not including the Rookie Pool).
I can see them off-loading Kennedy and maybe netting about 2 mil or so in cap space (correct me if I'm wrong). I also see them ditching or restructuring Kalimba's deal to save some dough -- lets say a mil. So at best they may be able to squeeze out about 5 -6 mil in cap space if needed.
This says to me a few things: Not many more FA signings for the Lions before the draft -- and honestly looking at it (I'll break it down further on) -- why should they? The best players are long gone from what was a mediocre group to start with. I wondered why they didn't go after Briggs, until my Boss - who is a die hard Bears fan - pointed out that when their Dline was hurt last year, their LB were exposed as not being able to stop the run -- Briggs included. Not really the type of LB you need to pay 6-7 mil a year for -- especially with the Lions D-Line. Looking at the guaranteed money and big fat contracts replacable guys like Woody, Duckett, Rogers' new contract, Wilson (S. Giants), DT Kelley of the Raiders, even Boss Bailey and Teddy Lehman got some pretty fat deals. Miami was handing out big contracts to guys like G Smiley and Faneca got that record contract -- and his skills have been noticably declining the last few seasons.
Keeping all of this in mind, I am glad the Lions decided to follow their strategy this year. Notice a trend? They picked up veterans on D in the secondary who know the system, but are at a point in their career where they are more back-up and rotation guys. They are there to mentor and teach the younger guys, and make sure the young guys and this year's rookies buy into the system and learn it. This is a shift in philosophy and has a lot to do, I think, with Marinelli's influence.
I also approve, with the weak FA class, the Lions' cap move to accelerate CJ's bonus so that they lower his cap number for the next 5 years. Smart move on their part so they have money in future years to keep their own good players, rather than letting them hit the market (like Roy and KJ if he recovers well.)
I also keep hearing about Pearson - and I'm sick of it. Listen - the guy is 3 things: Back-up CB, Back-up S, star Special Teamer. The Lions are just using a Dback instead of the usual LB. End of story. If he wins a fight for playing time at CB or S -- that means he is upgrading a position of need, which is a nice bonus. And the Lions can sure use the special teams help.
Thanks for staying with my somewhat rambling post tonight -- I appreciate your readership and comments -- for and against what I think!
So onto a brief look at position groups:
QB: Kitna, Stanton, Orlovsky -- I look for there to be a lively competition for the starting Job this offseason. I think Stanton wins the starting job - in 2009. I see Orlovsky sticking around as the third guy for a while. I also think they'll convince Kitna to stay on at that point unless some desperate team a-la-2006 Lions signs him on to start. Not likely, and he would be a good mentor for Stanton. Like them or not - QB is going to be set for a couple fo years right where it is.
RB: KJ, Calhoun, Cason -- Cason is a camp body, and I see him getting beat out in camp and cut - again. They didn't give him a SB so no cap hit if they cut him before the season. As usual. Calhoun I think deserves a chance, as he's never really gotten a chance to show if/what he has. KJ is coming off another major injury. Is it the start of the Offseason without KJ rehab updates? The success in recent years of late round and undrafted backs (Keith, Grant, Bradshaw, Graham to name a few) has shown that good backs are plentiful -- so plentiful that tops backs are still expected to be around in the 4th this year (!) -- and that is just guys on the radar already -- not including the hungry bruisers who will show up at training camp with a chip on their shoulder and run angry into a starting job. All this says to me: The Lions will be drafting a RB before the end of the 3rd and possibly a second back later. No need to sign any additional FA RB's. I think the signing of Cason showed they are going to wait on the Draft for that position. What they can get for what cap they have wouldn't be worth it.
WR: Williams, CJ, Furrey, McDonald, TBA -- Not much to say here. There is finally no logical or even illogical reason for Millen to draft/sign any more WR's. Someone cheap who can play special teams will win the 5th spot in the offseason. Hopefully someone who has a much better return average on P and KOR then they've been getting please!!!
OLine: LT Backus LG Mulitalo/Ramierz (camp battle) C Raiola RG Peterman/Davis RT Scott -- I'm going out on a limb to say they feel they are set until the draft. I think the competition at G between Peterman, Mulitalo, Davis and Ramierez to start will keep the G position strong again this year (yes -- outside of the kooky we always use a 7 step drop calls from Martz, the center of the line played quite well last season - Raiola included.) It is the OT where more competition is needed. I want to see them take a first round tackle to fight with Backus and Scott -- both of whom are starters, but both of whom could also be improved upon. A three way battle, with the Loser making a great backup. I see them having Davis take snaps to be the backup center. No info, just a hunch as I see him as the 4th man out on at the G position.
TE: Campbell, Fitzsimmons, Owens, Gaines -- Gaines is an up and comer who is already a strong blocker -- which the Lions will need for their run game; but also has shown he can catch the ball well when given the opportunity -- he just wasn't given the opportunity. Something tells me he will be this year. I like that signing, but can see them taking a chance on a TE in the 6th or 7th, or bringing in a lot of UDFA into camp as they are still thin at the position with the injury to Campbell still lingering -- possibly into the season -- and Fitzsimmons and Owens ripe for upgrading.
FB: Jon Bradley -- Maybe they move him back to DT now that Rogers is gone? I'm just not sure. I hope they utilize him more, because even though he was only in on plays where it was obvious either he was going to run it or he was going to block for the runner -- he still did quite well in his first season on offense. If they utliize a FB more in a power run game, then he will be just offense. But I can see him playing both ways if need be, or if he can beat out whoever replaces S. Rogers. As you can tell at this point, I have no clue. FB on the Lions hasn't been any real fun since the Sledge left (I have a signed Ridell mini-helmet from him in my office on display. Was and always will be one of my all time favorite Lions.)
S & CB: See post by me yesterday and comments associated with for the best detail here. Needless to say -- the position has been filled, and no one taken other than a CB 4th or after.
DE: Edwards, Smith, White, IAF -- Yes, Kalimba is still on the team, and under contract. As I said above, I expect them to ask him to restructure to be a backup, or dump him for a pick to package with a 3rd to trade into the second round during the draft. The thinking on the Lions is that IAF is ready to start and make in impact. I hope they're right because by the time they pick an OT, MLB, DT, and RB by the end of the 3rd there are no starting level DE's left. I've read many places that outside of the top 3, there is a huge dropoff and that they are all expected to be gone before the Lions pick in round one. So my take is: Gamble on IAF and draft one later. If he doesn't work, draft one early next year -- because if that happens, it'll be a top 15 pick again.
DT: Cody, Redding, Moore -- they need to plug a hole here and there is no one in FA to do it. That is why someone took a risk on players like Rogers and injury prone Kris Jenkins like they did, for the price they did. I think Redding did better than it looked last year. All too often, the RB up the middle was able to sidle past Rogers to the outside middle, and then cut directly at Lenon for a 10 yard gain after Simms caught up them and finally made the tackle, or a 15 yard gain while Lenon got dragged. They need to get a solid DT in the 3rd, or better yet -- trade up into the second for a better DT prospect. While there is a big dropoff after the top 2 -- there is a good number of solid, motivated DT's who will be available latter half of the second, beginning of the 3rd that will work very well for the Lions. I would have liked to see them gets Robertson but A. He won't be traded for cap reasons, I agree with others who have said he will be designated a June 1st cut.
B. He will be asking more than the Lions can afford, and there will possibly be a mini-bidding war for his services.
C. did anyone notice that the Bengals again were uanble to finish a trade for a DT -- this time Robertson -- after screwing up the cap in the deal. And we thought Millen was inept...even he didn't screw up two trades at the same position, in the same week, for almost the exact same reason. Are they trying to be stupider than the Raiders or something?
Getting back to the point -- they need to draft for DT because waiting around to see if Robertson will be available, affordable, and will come here is just too risky.
LB: Lewis, Lenon, Simms, and other guys who can't play at this level -- I'll have to check, but can anyone else name a Lions LB under contract? Bueller? They need some serious LB help. MLB round 2 -- there should be a couple fo great options for them there again this year, and I hope for once they take one! They also need to bring in a bunch of UDFA at all the LB positions, and draft it late as well. More than the secondary now LB is a position of weakness. IF they draft a MLB in the 2nd, I can see a starting group of Simms-2nd Pick(Lofton?)-Lewis/Lenon doing pretty good. I'd like to see someone win out a competition to beat out Lenon and Lewis -- but even some solid backups with the potential to do so next season would be nice. Anthony Cannon still on the squad? I'm too tired to look it up right now.
And there you have it. A summary of my current mock is:
6. LB or Dline or TE
7. Do these really matter considering Millen is picking them? Seriously folks. There are ZERO 5th - 7th round picks from 2001 - 2007 on the roster. Here's hoping that changes!