Saturday, March 13, 2010

Lions Congregation: Free Agency Open

Lions Congregation: Free Agency Open

March 13th, 2010 | by detfan1979 |

Welcome once again where the Pride of the Detroit Lions Bloggers gather and ponder the current happenings of the team.

This week’s Congregation:

1. Who was your favorite Free Agent acquisition thus far via trade or signing?

Al: It has to be Kyle Vanden Bosch, if only for the aggressive way the Lions went after him. He was their number one free agent target from the get go, and were not going to be denied. The fact Vanden Bosch plays a position of need and already knows Jim Schwartz’s defensive system like the back of his hand are pluses.

Vanden Bosh may not be the player he was 3-4 seasons ago, but he still has something left.

Steve: I believe that when Corey Williams, despite his disappointing performance in Cleveland, is paired along with players like Sammie Lee Hill, Landon Cohen (and company), he will become the Lions best early free agent/trade pickup.

His acquisition is also my favorite personnel move, because I think that the Lions have been criminally remiss in addressing their considerable needs in the trenches on both offense and defense. Trading for Williams is a bold change in organizational direction, because he is not just a stop-gap, but should have an impact for several seasons, in my opinion.
If the Lions potentially utilize a high draft pick on an additional defensive linemen, and assuming the not-too-far-fetched fact that Williams will likely be a far better performer than Grady Jackson was last season, the Lions could boast a much more formidable front four than they have during past seasons
Hopefully, by seriously addressing their front seven, the Lions defense will become improved enough that the Lions undermanned, weak secondary will not be as readily exploited by the their opponents, moving forward.

Michael: Definitely ChrisHouston–look at a guy like Ashomugha, who didn’t even intercept a single pass until his fourth season. Athletic CBs tend to take time to develop and, if Houston is going to develop, it will be this year or next. If not, he was rather cheap for a guy with his measurables. Immediately starts andis better than what the Lions worked with last year.

Joshua: While I love the defensive additions, I have to say that Burleson was my favorite. All 4 major moves were positive for the team in different ways but the Burleson deal just highlights that the Lions are going to fill needs in Free Agency. D. Williams last season once again made it painfully clear that most WR face a fairly steep learning curve in the NFL. Martin Mayhew KNEW that a versatile #2 WR was a must this ifseason if he didn’t want his offense getting forced off the field, andCJ playing bridge with3 opposing defenders while Stafford got killed with no one open.

Burleson is not a star #1 WR — but is he fast enough to stretch the field, while being shifty enough to go over the middle. Until a couple of moderate years (his first due to injury) in Seattle he is back to doing what he made his name in the league doing best: Taking the heat off a superstar #1 WR in Scott Linehan’s offense. His familiarity in not only the offense, but his role in it will help the offense thrive IF he can retain the form he was showing last season in Seattle, and that he showed in Minnesota. He will also be a good mentor to the younger guys the Lions will inevitably bring in to learn how to take advantage of what defenses do to contain CJ since he’s seen it all from his side of the field before opposite Moss.

2. Which move will have the most impact?

Al: If (and it’s a big time if) it works out, the signing of Nate Burlesonwill have the most impact, for one reason only. If Burleson becomes a legitimate number 2 receiver, he will make the Lions’ Big 2 on offense,Matthew Staffordand Calvin Johnson, better…and just as importantly, keep them happy. The Lions have tens of millions tied up in Stafford and Johnson, and they desperately need players surrounding them to step up.Scott Linehanis gambling Burleson will do so.

Burlesoncan kill two birds with one stone if can deliver an 70-80 catch, 900-1000 yard season (or just be better than Bryant Johnsonand Dennis Northcutt, who had less than 800 receiving yards combined). Burleson will(hopefully, if Linehan is right)give Stafford a badly needed 2nd downfield weapon, and cause defenses to drop the double and triple blanket coverage on Megatron, something he’s had to deal with on a weekly basis for most of his career.

I hate to say it, but as Burleson goes, so may Stafford, and especially, Johnson.

Steve: If Nate Burlesonremains healthy, he could silence his critics, aid inMatthew Stafford’s burgeoning development as an effective Qb, andforce opposing defenses to acknowledge that, along with a healthy return of TEBrandon Pettigrew, the Lions have more pass receiving options than JUSTCalvin Johnson.

If Burleson proves even measurably more capable than Bryant JohnsonandDennis Northcutt, a task which should not be too difficult, Calvin Johnsonwill become a 2010-11 Pro Bowler, and finally emerge as the devastating, game-altering factor we all know that he is capable of becoming.

Michael: If the Lions draft Suh (which they should), the addition of Corey Williams is huge. Transitioning back to the 4-3 and being part of a heavy rotation should improve and lengthen his career. It gives credibility to a defensive line that lacked even replacement level players in 2008 and 2009.

Joshua: Burleson for all of the reasons listed above in my last post. IF he does well, it will significantly open up the offense in a way 3rd tier guys like Northcutt and B. Johnson were not able to last season. The Lions needed complimentary play-maker at the position, and for once seem to have made a bold move to get their man…IF it works out.

3. After this first week of free agency, is the team better, worse or the same? How much so?

Al: Definitely better, but I think it’s too early to state in black and white just how much. The draft and free agency are intertwined.

What the Lions do in free agency greatly affects what they may or may not do in the draft, and it’s in the draft where true improvement is made. You’d also like to factor in the continued improvement of soon-to-be 2nd year players like Stafford, Brandon Pettigrew, Louis Delmas, Deandre Levy andSammie Lee Hill.

But if you are going to twist my arm? I’ll say they are greatly improved. But when you’re 2-30 over the last couple of seasons, calling them greatly improved is relative. The Lions might win 6 games this season, if they get a few breaks. A 4 win improvement is an impressive accomplishment, but it only means the Lions would have progressed from God awful to merely bad.

But I’m not etching 6 victories in stone. A few more solid personnel moves before the draft, then another draft as good as ‘09…I may get swept up with the rest of the Lions Kool-Aid drinkers.

Steve: I believe that the Lions have made improvements, but they remain in a position where they need to remain aggressive in trades, free agency, and draft impeccably, in order to continue to claw their way towards NFL respectability.

Considering immediate concerns, even after acquiring both Jonathan Wadeand Chris Houston, the Lions secondary remains an unsettling, work-in-progress. They also need to find the means to make upgrades at running back and the offensive line, for starters.
At this point, I believe it is too premature to indicate just how improved the team has become, especially without substantive proof to support it.

Michael: At the moment it is worse. Getting rid of both Buchanon andJames was a move that put the Lions behind the eight-ball–as did releasing White and Grady Jackson. The defense as it stands is no better than last year because it needs a starting CB and tons of depth–that should be easily addressed before training camp.

Joshua: I believe the team overall is better than they were before free agency started. Unlike last year, where they were just filling gaping holes, they are now able to do a mix of filling potholes andrepaving sections of the roster with multi-year fixes andupgrades. While they are still going to need plenty of coal patch after the draft to fill the remaining potholes, there are parts of the roster that are finally starting to smooth out and stabilize (such as the Dline if they draft Suh/McCoy to go with Williams, Hill, KVB, and Avril/Hunter)

How much better remains to be seen after the draft, and really into the season. After all, this is the season of IF — where anything could be. We will once again have to wait for the season to see what IS.

4. The Lions went from picks 2 and 15 in round 5, and pick 2 in round 6 to just pick 18 in round 5 (while adding a mid 7th). Was this worth it for what the Lions got in return (Corey Williams andChris Houston)?

Al: In return for those lower picks, the Lions received 2 players who are experienced, relatively young, of starting quality, and will be, worst case, part-time starters. Best case, Houston should step into the starting lineupimmediately, while Williams either becomes a very important part of the defensive tackle rotation (if either Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy are the Lions’ 1st pick), or starts next to Hill (if the Lions go for Russell Okung orEric Berry instead).

The Lions would be lucky to get a pair of starters out of what was three 3rd day selections. Even if they did stumble onto gold late in the draft, the odds are good such low selections wouldn’t develop into starters right away. Anytime you can deal a 3rd day pick for a player of starting ability, you make that trade…every single time.

Steve: Martin Mayhew may have provided the Lions with several unproven commodities in his recent player acquisitions, but I believe that he continues to impress by showing the acumen to effectively execute the art of the deal.

In the Lions case, parting with draft picks was a painful but necessary option. If Williams and Houston remain healthy and perform ably, the sacrifice will seem marginal.
In particular, given how weak the Lions secondary has become upon Phillip Buchanon’s release, Chris Houston, if he begins to meet some of his considerable potential, could become a steal.
I ultimately believe that the Lions made the right choices.

Michael: Yes, the Lions hit on late round picks in 2009 but that is not always a given. The ages of Williams and Houston (29 and 25) make them great assets. If those two were three years older, this would be a different answer.

Joshua: Since the Denver pick was near Atlanta’s (15 to 18), if I reworded this question to read: If Mayhew picked two starters with the Lions’ original 5th and 6th round picks, how would you feel? I’m pretty sure most of you would shout HECK YEAH! and head out to buy your “Mayhew is The Man” shirt. (Okay, maybe it would just get a few more fans to admit that Martin Mayhew is most definitely NOT Matt Millen. I just like the image of hundreds of Lions fans descending on a Dunham’s looking for Martin Mayhew gear and the poor checkout guy thinking the world is coming to an end.)

Seriously though, Houston is coming into his crucial third year and while his INT count has been low the last couple of years, he still has solid Passes Defensed numbers and is at worst as good as any player the Lions trotted out at CB last season, with a much higher ceiling. Williams should be an impact player on the D-Line giving the Lions at least two legit starters when paired with Hill no matter how the draft goes. Add in a Suh or McCoy and suddenly the Lions interior line is stronger than it’s been since…ummm…since…oh forget it, if I can’t recall off the top of my head too darned long.

Getting even depth players isn’t even close to guaranteed at that point in the draft, with roughly 80% out of the league in under 3 years. Getting two young starters — Williams is 29 and Houston 25 (!) — is definitely a deal.

The Congregation will be meeting on Friday here again next week. Construction is underway right now to set up a new home for the Lions Congregation so it can at least move out of Roar of the Lions’ living room couch and above the garage as it grows. Re-Establishing the weekly Congregation round-table is hopefully just the start of more collaborative efforts and initiatives we’d like to roll out over the next year.

Rating: 10.0/10 (7 votes cast)
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6 Responses to “Lions Congregation: Free Agency Open”

  1. By LionsFaninMa on Mar 13, 2010

    Mayhew’s trade of the 2009 6th round pick is still not complete.

    2009 6th Round traded to Denver = Corey William, Zack Follett, and 2010 7th round selection.

    I’d take that trade all day long.

    Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
  2. By DetFan1979 on Mar 14, 2010

    That’s a very good point LionsFaninMa — We definitely need to remember that it all started with just one 2009 6th rounder. When you look at it that way, it’s even better!

    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  3. By DetroitSims on Mar 14, 2010

    I hear we traded our 7th for Shaun Hill from the 49ers!! Sounds like a good pick up to me!

    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  4. By DetFan1979 on Mar 14, 2010

    I just got home and saw this. Sounds like both a good pick-up, and a good deal! Hill provides the solid, near-starting caliber QB the Lions were lacking! Check “backup Quarterback” off that list of needs.

    Wheeling-Dealing Mayhew is at it again!

    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  5. By JJLions20 on Mar 15, 2010

    I agree the signing of Hill takes a need off the table. Also in an uncapped year your not going to see a hole lot of Veteran QB’s released June 1st. Sounds like a fit as Hill won’t be looking to be the starter (like Daunte) and the focus can be on Stafford’s development.

    The other thing is that the signing of Campbell (if the army agrees to release him 2 months early) serves as the 7th round pick. The addition of another special team player and a LB in development. There will probably be a supplemental 7th round pick, so it’s not like the lions are heading into the draft empty handed. Low cost to fill a need, and it seams reasonable (isn’t a 7th rounder what we got for Kitna when he was dealt?)

    I still say the Lions plan to trade that #34 pick and pick up a few an additional pick in the top 100.

    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  6. By JJLions20 on Mar 15, 2010

    As far as the most important pick-up during this IF season I think it may just be Chris Houston. The reason has to do with depth behind the other pick-ups. With Van Den Bosch there is always Hunter and Avril as DE’s and Devries may be back. With Corey Williams there is probably Sud/McCoy adding to the mix, and then there is Cohen and Fluellen. With Burleson it’s important to send a positive message to Calvin Johnson, and give Stafford another weapon, but there is always hope that Bryant Johnson and Northcutt progresses in their 2nd year of Linehan’s offence. I also expect Williams to have a jump in his 2nd year (WR typically take a couple of years to be able to read defenses). Each of these positions at least have a role player behind the acquisition that was made. What these acquisitions did was push last years starters in to a role player or a rotation player. (Nubs, that was my point about Avril on post a couple of days ago. I don’t hate Avril, it is just that Van Den Bosch is an upgrade that pushes Avril into a specialist/rotation role)
    But with Chris Houston, who is behind him? We still need to draft a 2nd starting CB. You can’t go into the draft planning of drafting two starting CB’s. There will be very little rotation for Chris Houston, and he will be the one counted on to be put on an Island as a safety is rolled to the other side (where a rookie will most likely be playing). So the play and development of Chris Houston may be the most crucial of any of the IF season pick-ups.

    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)

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