Welcome once again to the Lions Congregation. This week’s panel takes a look at the continuing free agent developments and their effect on the Lions.
This week’s Congregation:
1. With the loss of MLB Larry Foote to Pittsburgh, which diminishes the versatility of DeAndre Levy since he will likely be called upon to fill the role as starter in the middle, do the Lions need to address their LB personnel? Are Ernie Sims or Julian Peterson still tradeable?
Al: With Foote having kissed off the Lions andtheir fans with his “Thank God I didn’t sign a longer deal there” comment andturning tail for Pittsburgh, I can’t see the Lions trading either Sims or Peterson. Levy was the Lions’ insurance on the outside, so what quality depththey had is gone. More importantly, with it being an uncapped year, the Lions can afford to keep the highly paid Sims and Peterson on the roster.
There have been reports about the Lions possibly using special teams kamikaze Zach Follett more at linebacker (as he was starting to see limited action towards the end of the ‘09 season), and a possible wild card could be Army’s Caleb Campbell, who has bulked up to LB size during his two years of active duty.
But anything the Lions get from them away from special teams is gravy.
So yes, the Lions do need address the linebacker position. But I think it’ll be in the draft, sometime in the 2nd day…just as they found Levy in the 3rd round in ‘09.
The fact that Landon Johnson was scheduled to make a free agent visit, indicates that the Lions are also very concerned about the loss of Foote, even if they were frustrated with his freelancing on plays and were of the opinion that he had actually struggled to adapt to the 4-3 defense last season.
Ultimately, I believe that the Lions can ill afford to stretch this position group too thin, by utilizing either Peterson or Sims as trade bait. Given the weakness of their secondary, anything the team can do to bolster it’s front seven, and prevent their secondary from becoming overexposed, is of eminent importance
Michael:The Lions need to work on their LB personnel, but not in a way that effects the three starters. Levy is at his best in the middle andmoving around can only stunt his growth at this point. The Lions do need to continue to overhaul the linebackers though, getting rid of the final holdover from the Tampa 2 scheme–Jordan Dizon. On top of that, the LBs that are left need to have versatility or special teams capability. Having Follett, Ciurciu, and Palmer on the same coverage unit should excite Lions fans andrecently Landon Johnson visited withthe team. All of those men are ST aces with the ability to fill in at LB in a pinch.
Ty: I actually have thought that the Lions’ linebacking corps needed to be addressed anyway. Foote was never going to be a long-term solution; Sims’ undersized frame and undisciplined play are a poor fit for this defense, and Julian Peterson is clearly on the backside of his career. I hold out hope that Follett or Dizon will step up during the course of the season, but ultimately view OLB as a position of need.
NetRat: They have addressed it somewhat, Follett is going to be tested at the various positions as will Campbell who they recently signed (again). They will add more talent in the draft and possibly free agency, depending on how the draft goes, who comes down on their salary demands, and how the players look in the workouts and OTA prior to the draft. Footewas out with an injury last year and even that corp of LBs without him didn’t miss a beat imo.
Joshua: First off, the Lions aren’t that loaded in salary at the LB position. Sims and Levy both have very reasonable salaries at this point, and Peterson is the only whopping salary — however, in an uncapped year, this is a moot point. I do think that letting Foote leave means that the Lions really are not in a position to trade either Peterson or Sims this season. However, keeping Foote would have been expensive and Levy was (is) the future at MLB. Foote was having trouble adjusting to a 4-3 MLB, much less a 4-3 OLB. That is why he went back to the Steelers, where he knows his roles inside and out, could get the money he wanted, and have a shot (possibly) at another ring.
As for depth, Follett and the recently-re-signed Campbell are special teamers for now. Either one could improve enough to be a stronger backup, or even take on a starting role. Lets also not forget Jordan Dizon. While the last regime picked him for the middle, he can back-up all three spots, and could be a solid SLB to replace Peterson if needed. It is the development of these young players that will dictate what the Lions do.
I still wouldn’t be surprised to see them pick up an OLB in the 3rd or later if the right guy is BATFAN. They got their starting MLB in Levy in the 3rd, and that is supposed to be the hardest LB position to fill in a 4-3. It is not unreasonable to think Mayhew can find starters for the other two positions in the 3rd or 4thround.
2. The Lions have Chester Pitts visiting, and Ryan Lilja remains on the market as well. Would you like to see the Lions add yet another veteran stop-gap to help fill out their offensive line, or would you like to see them utilize one of their high draft picks on upgrading the offensive line? (Please note that Lilja was still on the market when the questions were sent out, and answers submitted. The speed of the league is lightning at times)
Al: If the Lions don’t take Russell Okung or Trent Williams 2nd overall (and from most accounts, despite what some mock draftssay, they won’t. The Lions are a locked in on Suhor McCoy), I don’t see the Lions taking an offensive lineman the first two days of the draft. Of course, with Martin Mayhew’s “Take the best player on the board, period” philosophy, they could surprise me.
But the team’s needs are too great at other positions, specifically running back, cornerback, wide receiver, linebacker and the defensive line, for the offensive line to take priority. Though you could argue offensive guard is a need, but the Lions are not going to take a guard high in the draft. They just aren’t worth that kind of money.
So the most logical scenario has the Lions looking for line depth via free agency, especially in an uncapped year.
Steve:If the Lions eventually sign DL Anthony Hargrove, then signing an offensive linemen like Pitts becomes less imperative. I would like for them to bring in a veteran(s) to compete with Manny Ramirez, and cover for Stephen Peterman, if he is ultimately unable to recover from his season-ending injury.
Michael:LG is a big hole on this roster but if Lions fans took a real objective look around the league, they would see that the Detroit offensive line is below average but not as horrible as we all complain about. With that said, the Lions need at least a stop gap (Pitts) but preferably a long term answer at LG (Rob Sims/Draftpick) It is a very average draft for OG this year but plenty of OT and OC prospects have worked out at multiple positions. A OT prospect who drops (Ciron Black, Ed Wang) could compete for LG minutes while backing up multiple positions.
Ty:The Lions need stability at the left guard spot; the best way to do that is draft a talented rookie and plant him there. No veterans available to sign would represent a long-term solution–I’d rather the problem get solved, then patched up again next offseason.
NetRat: It doesn’t have to be a high draft pick. Guards can be had from round 4 on and there are many left tackles who could start at guard for a year or two until he’s ready to play LT as well. The Lions are looking at FA guards, looking at Okung and moving Backus, and looking at others besides… but how much of that is their need to address the left guard spot and how much is to confuse the other teams about their draft plans… it’s like Mayhewto tackle both tasks simultaneously.
Joshua:I really don’t buy that the Lions are looking seriously at Williams or Okung at #2 — just the fact that their is a lot of doubt over who is better, and that neither is considered better than Suh OR McCoy tells me all I need to know: neither is likely to be BATFAN at #2. This doesn’t preclude upgrading LT and LG positions — the Lions could opt for a late-round OG (starters in round 4 or 5 often for real NFL GM’s like we have now) or a LT that slides into three. Taking a developmental LT in round 3 would allow the Lions to play him at LG while he makes the adjustment to the NFL andthen either leave him there, or slide him to LT when Backus retires/leaves. He could then also be a utilitarian backup for both OG and OT.
I was sorely disappointed in Daniel Loper last season, as I was pretty sure he would finally be able to grab on to the LG position and solidify it. Injuries sapped him of his effectiveness; if he can stay healthy it will be interesting to see if he takes his restricted tender and is back for 2010 to compete for the LG job.
In looking at the remaining FA OG’s Lilja is not considered a strong run blocker, and Pitts (if healthy) is more of a stop-gap. No matter what, they will be filling a need for depth/competition at the position in free agency, but will be getting their long term solution in the draft. Whether that is this year or not remains to be seen based on how the draft falls.
3. The Lions brought in Shaun Hill via trade from the 49ers to fill the role of veteran backup. Is there still need at the backup QB position? What are your thoughts on the deal? (Detroit gave up a 2011 7th rounder)
Hill will fit in nicely as Matthew Stafford’s backup. He has experience as a starter with the Niners, and had some success, actually winning games (10-6 as a starter in SF). Hill is experienced, already knows Scott Linehan’s offense and what he expects from his QB.
Without question, Hill is a vast upgrade over the gone for good, over the hill Culpepper and the perpetually stuck as 3rd string Drew Stanton. Honestly, the odds are good Hill will see time on the field, considering Stafford’s physical playing style can lead to injury (as we saw twice in 2009).
To acquire a solid NFL backup QB for a 7th round draft pick is a steal of a trade. It’s another feather in the cap of GM Martin Mayhew.
As for another backup QB, it may be in the cards. If the Lions thought Stanton was anything more than a highly paid baseball cap wearing clipboard holder, they wouldn’t have made the trade for Hill. My best guess is the Lions are on the lookout for a QB later in the draft, as the free agent crop is less than inspiring. (Thus the trade for a qualified backup) If the draft doesn’t bear QB fruit, and worse comes to worse, the Lions will ride out the Drew Stanton Experience for one more season as the emergency QB.
Steve:I think that Hill is a shoo-in as the backup. Hill’s deal is exceptionally contract-friendly, which with his experience and relative NFL success, indictates that Martin Mayhew has really done a very good job.
I would like to see the Lions sign another QB to pressure Drew Stanton, even if I am pulling for Stanton to emerge as a reasonable backup, in the future..
Michael:For the backup QB position? No. For the third QB position? It isn’t popular with the Green and White contingent, but yes. In two different coaching staffs, Stanton has failed to win the number two job. For whatever reason, he doesn’t have the trust of Linehan and whatever promise he once had is draining by the day now that he is 25 and quarterbacks at that age are perceived as being “complete.” Still, Charlie Whitehurst was just traded for a haul of draft picks so maybe Stanton deserves one more chance. If I were on the coaching staff, I would make sure Mayhew gets me gets me a number of camp arms, either in the 7th or in priority UFA. If a 23 year old is able to outshine Stanton, he stays. If Stanton wins, he needs to be given time in the preseason to show the rest of the league what he can do
Ty:The deal for Hill is one of Mayhew’s best. While we’ve seen a seventh-round pick can yield a worthwhile player, Hill is a veteran, in his physical prime, who has started and won a respectable number of NFL games. He’s also well-versed in the offensive system, well known to Scott Linehan, andwell-natured about his role behind Matthew Stafford. I would be perfectly okay with a quarterback group of Stafford/Hill/Stanton.
NetRat:They will have 4 QBs on the roster for camp. One won’t make the team. Stafford is going no where, and neither is Hill unless they get a can’t refuse trade offer or the guy sucks so bad they don’t want him (not likely). and once again Stanton will be fending off someone for the last QB spot. Oh, and that 2011 7th rounder the Lions had to give up, they got that (or a very similar pick) by signing a street QB last year then trading him for a 2011 7th round pick. In other words, they got Hill for nothing.
Joshua: Who wouldn’t love a FREE quality backup QB? That is exactly what Detroit got since they used a 7th for Hill — exactly what they got by trading waiver-wire pickup Kevin O’Connell last ifseason. Hill is a capable backup who isn’t quite a long-term starter in the league, but will be supportive of the starter as well as able to come in andwin games. I would like to see the Lions try out at least 2 camp arms to compete with Stanton for the #3 spot — either 7th rounder or UDFA. Hopefully Stanton shows something, and is able to do enough for the Lions to trade him. As Matt Schaub, Matt Cassel, and now Charlie Whitehursthave shown young backups with potential do have trade value.
Thanks once again for joining us for the Lions Congregation!! Look for us to meet here once again next week to discuss the Detroit Lions!!