Just as promised, and just as I predicted the Lions have focused on filling needs in Free Agency. Unlike last season, they went for multi-year starters right out the gate in dramatic action show fashion.
I absolutely loved the A-Team when I was a kid. My brother and I would alternate who got to play whom as we built tanks, planes, boats and concocted other crazy schemes out of leftover parts or pieces of brush in my grandparents’ woods. Funny thing is the A-Team, for all it’s 80’s explosion glory, wasn’t about the violence — it was all about the plan.
The A-Team would come into an impossible situation, with little or no resources except the combined talents of the team. With careful and cunning planning, they would find what they needed to build a workable solution — whether that was a tank out of junkyard parts, or just an elaborate plot to foil the “bad guys”.
Hannibal’s classic quote “I love it when a plan comes together” is the image that keeps sticking in my mind as I look over the first weekend of free agency. (Yes, Martin Mayhew leaning back in his chair grinning with a cigar, black leather gloves and a smug look on his face)
- General Managers league wide saw their FA plans explode after Mayhew’s success in the early hours Friday.
After reading as many sources as possible on these moves, and piecing things together, here is a timeline that shows my understanding of the events leading up through Friday morning’s signings:
Dateline 2009: As per Jim Schwartz, Scott Linehan used Nate Burleson’s name so often that “the Nate Burleson” role was named on many offensive plays.
“So many times he’d say, ‘We really need a guy like Nate Burleson,’ and, ‘Nate Burleson had this,’ and, ‘Hey, this is the way I used Nate Burleson,’ ” Schwartz said. “It got to the point with saying, ‘Well, let’s not get a guy like Nate Burleson. Let’s go after Nate Burleson.’ “
Dateline, February 2010: The Lions know they need to target in on a few free agents and snag them. However, the Lions are still only a 2-14 season removed from 0-16. Needing help almost everywhere still, they knew they needed more than a couple of one year stop-gaps. They needed at least 2 starters from free agency, and would have to trade for one or two more. There just weren’t enough draft choices to fill all the needs in any reasonable time frame.
Dateline Detroit, March 4 2010:
- Martin Mayhew has been making inquiries, and thinks he can strike quick and swing a deal to get Corey Williams, a starting caliber 4-3 DT who doesn’t fit Cleveland’s 3-4 scheme for a good price. He lets knowledge of that leak to the media to take attention away from other Lions’ moves.
- Teams know the Lions are interested in Kyle Vanden Bosch – but how can the Lions keep other teams out of the running? They decide on the parameters of an offer, and agree to send Jim Schwartz to Tennesse to make the pitch to Vanden Bosch himself. This will leave Mayhew free to work the Williams trade at Midnight.
- Instead of finding a Nate-Burleson type player to take pressure offCalvin Johnson, the Lions decide to just go get Nate Burleson.
- Schwartz said he watched every snap Burleson played Thursday morning to make sure they wouldn’t have buyer’s remorse, then spoke to Linehan. He suggested Linehan go to Seattle to woo Burleson. So Linehan got on a plane.
Dateline 12:01 am EST, March 5th 2010:
- Nashville, Tennesse: Jim Schwartz, sitting in a rental car about a block from Kyle Vanden Bosch’s house calls him right at 11:01 pm Nashville time and tells him he where he is, and that he wants Kyle to be a Detroit Lion. Schwartz and Vanden Bosch both turn of their phones as they talk about him coming to Detroit for about 3 1/2 hours, along with Kyle’s wife. Word that Schwartz is at Vanden Bosch’s house (thus explaining why no one, including his agent, is able to contact him) surface at about 12:30 pm EST. Impressed by the personal visit, and the offer Schwartz has brought, Vanden Bosch agrees to become a Lion and works out the details with his agent and Tom Lewand later that morning. No other team has a chance to take a real shot at landing him.
- Seattle, Washington: Scott Linehan is in Seattle as the market opens at 9:01 pm in Washington. Schwartz hits “send” texting Burleson that the Lions want him just before calling Vanden Bosch. Matthew Stafford and Scott Linehan both call Burleson in a coordinated effort, as Linehan arrives and takes Burleson and his father out to dinner. While they are eating, Tom Lewand talks on the phone with Burleson’s agent and puts the finishing touches on a deal to bring Burleson to Detroit in time to “be dessert” as Burleson later put it.
- Detroit, Michigan: Martin Mayhew has already sent out Linehan and Schwarz, with Tom Lewand as the communications man. This frees him up to concentrate on landing the best deal possible to acquire Corey Williams — which he did in giving up the later of Detoit’s two 5throunders acquired from Denver last year, and gaining both Williams and a 2010 7th rounder from Cleveland. For less than a mid-5th pick Mayhew had secured a starting caliber DT.
While there were hints of the Lions wanting Vanden Bosch and the Williams trade, there was NO news linking the Lions to Burleson until he was signed, sending shock-waves throughout the league.
As you can see, the Lions leveraged their current players, coaches, and front office staff to simultaneously land 3 key players in 3 different states. Boom! 3 holes filled.
I love it when a plan comes together. Apparently, so does Martin Mayhew.