First of all, I must take a moment and bid a fond farewell to Brett Favre. As much as I have agonized over watching him defeat the Lions time and again over the years, I must also say I was very lucky. Twice a year, I got to watch a Hall Of Fame QB - one of the all time greats - do his thing. Goodbye Brett - and best wishes on the rest of your life.
Now, back to the Lions. While many of the free agents that have been visiting the Lions have been less than stellar, it appears that they all have one thing in common:
They are all in need areas for the Lions. Any WR visiting? No. Lions upgraded safety early with Smith to be a veteran presence for Bullocks and Alexander. Any safeties visit since then? No.
The FA have thus far been at DT, MLB, DE, RB, CB and OT.
DT: I still think the Lions should go for Dwayne Robertson of the Jets, but it looks unlikely now. They seem likely to sign the system-veteran Darby, and look to rely on him, Moore and Cody at DT. It seems likely to me they may draft a DT with one of their two 3rd rounders.
MLB: They were unable to get Vilma, according to Barry, and it actually surprises me a bit -- but the Lions I'm sure didn't want to give up a third, and that seems to be what they would have needed to give up for him. Can't say as I totally agree with that move -- although a 3rd rounder for someone with one year left looking for a big payday likely wasn't in the long term interest of the team - which is what Marinelli seems to be looking to as he trys to build a solid foundation, not just pile up patches. I would like to see them draft a MLB with their second rounder, as it appears there will be 2-3 solid MLB picks available when the Lions choose in the second.
DE: They haven't cut Kalimba yet, and I think he may be either used for depth in the rotation -- likely after being asked to take a pay cut -- or put forth as trade bait on draft day. With how desperate teams are for DE's, some other team may -- like with Rogers -- feel they can get him over the hump and able to translate his potential to success on the field. I feel the Lions (justified or not) have a lot of confidence in Alama-Francis, and feel he will be a solid contributor at DE next season, and that he will only get better from there. While that remains to be seen, because of this I don't see the Lions drafting a DE early, especially not with their other needs. 4th round.
RB: This position is definitely a need with Calhoun and KJ, the only two backs under contract, both ending last season on IR. CAlhoun has never really been given a shot due to injuries, and his time may be up. KJ will likely be back -- but what will he have left after two major injuries in as many years? TJ would have been nice to bring back at the right price, but as his Seattle contract shows, he wasn't going to come at a price the Lions could afford to pay. I think that the deep draft at RB and the availability of at least a half dozen other FA RB of TJ's skill level led to this decision. Again, I would have liked to see him back, especially since he seemed to enjoy playing for the Lions but am thankful they once more didn't break the bank for a mediocre player. It's not like their SB bound and need just one or two guys to get there... All of the being said, I hope they don't sign Dunn unless he's really cheap. Julius Jones either. Many teams have Had luck with either late round or undrafted RB - especially the big bruising backs like TJ -- in recent years. They are looking for someone who can start right away, so I can see using a 5th on a RB. (depending on who is available, and when they select a DE - maybe flop the 4th-5th for RB DE.)
CB: I really like what the Lions have done this off season in the entire secondary. They essentially let everyone go and started from scratch. Why not? no one performed so well last year as to be irreplaceable by far. I even contend they may have done better last year canning everyone and going with the best UDFA they could find after having a massive competition. But I digress. Bringing back Smith was a good move -- he was developing well, and some players take a few years to really bloom - especially at CB. You see many older CB who really came into their own after 3 or 4 years in the league. At worst, he is a great nickel back right now, at best he is a borderline starter. The trade to bring Bodden in gives them at least one quality starter who is better than any CB they had last year, and thus upgrades the unit as a whole already. He is also the versatile, physical type of corner the T2 needs. Kelley (sp?) would be good to bring in for the right money, but I can't see breaking the bank on him. He is a good T2 corner who's skills are declining. He would make a good starter while a younger draft pick gets rotated in and learns the D - taking over in a season or two. The Lions are not in a position to be able to immediately upgrade all positions, so some band aids like Kelley at CB and Darby at DT will be necessary until they are able to build a better core through the draft. With who they have, I can see using a 3rd rounder on a good T2 corner -- there will be plenty left to choose from in this deep CB draft, and fewer teams running the T2 actually means there will be more CB the Lions want available later in the draft than pure cover guys for the 3-4.
OT: I saved the best for last. The O-Line. With Peterman doing so well, and Mulitalo being one of the best, yet most overlooked, acquisitions last off season, the Lions are doing well at G. Ramierez seems like he is ready to at least be a backup, and possibly push Peterman and/or Mulitalo for playing time. Despite many rants and raves about him, Raiola is still considered one of the better centers in the league. He is not a pile mover, but is flexible and smart. He also blocks well in space on screens and play action passing in the flat, which I think we will see more of this year under Coletto. What the Lions do need is at least one high quality Tackle. Backus has played injured the last two years, and although Scott played well when he was in, he too has not proven he can stay healthy and produce at a high level. Woody did about as well as Peterman, but as you can see by the HUGE contract the Jets paid him -- it wouldn't have paid to keep him. Big contract = fat and lazy once shame on you. Twice, shame on me. Hope the Jets have better luck with him after his payday than the Lions, but I wouldn't count on it if I were them. I again am glad to see the Lions showing restraint instead of throwing big contracts at Kalimba caliber players out of fear. Marinelli is holding the line, and doing what he can while trying to build through the draft. This being said (I was in the take-Joe-Thomas-camp last year), and while it may never happen under Millen (as it hasn't since he took Backus) - I'd like to see the Lions go OT for Round 1. A first round OT pick will push for a 3 way competition between the rookie, Backus, and Scott for the starting tackle spots. This will lead the best 2 to start, and still have a starting caliber T backing them up. This would be a novelty for the Lions - even though in the NFL it is essential to a winning team.
That is my overview of needs, and how the Lions can/should address them. Don't bother telling me Millen is still running the franchise so it'll never happen, because I haven't forgotten.
However -- I do have hope. The last couple of drafts - while Millen's stamp still screwed a few things up -- have been head and shoulders better than before Marinelli arrived. Now that Marinelli appears to be more secure in wielding his power, I think we will see his influence over more of the draft and FA pickups -- and already have. So I look forward to more Ernie Simms type picks this year, versus flashy picks.
Sign Kelley and a DT (Darby?)
3. DT & CB
4. DE or RB
5. RB or RB (whichever they didn't draft in the 4th)
6. Like it'll matter, but LB, CB or Dline depth
Roast away and tell me: did I miss any need areas? Agree or disagree with where I say to draft for needs? Disagree with what the needs are? Ideas on who to draft? Comment away!!