Todd had a great question that I felt I should address in a bit more detail. About a month back, I did a piece called Dibbs! Not it! that talked about the huge advantage in picking up talent the Lions have by being first in line on the "waiver wire".
In a teensie weensie oversight, I forgot to explain what the waiver wire is, and the rules. This site sums it up best, and I will quote it almost verbatim here:
"First, the waiver wire is used exclusively for players with less than 4 years of of service to an NFL squad. Once this player is placed on waivers, any team may claim him. If a player is claimed by more than one team, then the team with the worst record is awarded his rights.
This means that a player is retained by a new employer at the exact same contract he signed with his previous employer. This keeps the teams from having to negotiate new contracts with players when they are released. It also helps the teams because there are frequently players who are cut that have ability, the lower your win-loss ratio, the better your chance of nabbing these players.
Players with four or more accrued seasons in the NFL are exempt from the waiver system. They immediately become free agents upon release.
There is no limit to the number of times a player can be cut and picked up by other teams, or sometimes the same team multiple times. Since the Lions went 0-16, they get first choice on all players with less than 4 credited years who are released until such time as a team wins fewer games than them.
Players like Jansen and Foote have vested status in the league, so are UFA (Unrestricted Free Agents) when they are released. Since the CBA was allowed to expire, starting in 2010 there is no salary cap (at this point) and the number of credited years to become an UFA goes to 6 years.
This means that, unless a new CBA is negotiated and it is changed, starting next league year (2010) all players with less than 6 years who are cut will hit the waiver wire.
Look for the bottom of the Lions' roster to continue churning like Houghton Lake in a summer storm. What Mayhew has been doing is bringing in everyone/anyone who is worth a look at positions where there is less depth than the Lions would like, less talent, or the players competing need to be pushed. As some positions solidify a bit (or someone they brought in is ruled out of camp or the final roster) they cut bait and move on.
For example, with Jansen signed to compete with Salaam for backup swing tackle, Foster was superfluous, and thus cut. he wasn't beating out Cherilus -- and he didn't have much chance of beating out Loper, Cook, Jansen and Salaam to make it through camp and onto the roster, so they cut him.
Another intriguing cut was Jon Bradley. Since they will keep two FB and only have two (Smith and Felton) this tells me that they knew which two FB were going to be on the roster -- and now that their roster spots are "there" they will let them compete to see who gets to start. Smith is the better blocker, but Felton is the better runner/pass catcher. It should be a heated battle and I expect both to be used extensively when the season gets in motion.
If the Lions sign another FB off the waiver or FA stack at this point, it either means an injury or they feel that Smith and Felton need to be pushed more again. At this point, they must be happy with the effort of both.
I'll get more into each position grouping, and highlight different competitions as we move through the early summer.
Thanks for the kind words, and yes -- it is great to be back!