Friday, February 3, 2012

Lions Congregation: Priorities

Welcome once again to the Savanna where the Lions bloggers congregate and ponder the current happenings of the Detroit Lions.  Have a question? Email 

This week, the panel ponders the following question from Will in Lansing:

Based on their performance last season and available alternatives, who would be your top three or four pending  free agents for the Lions to re-sign? 

Zac of The Sidelion Report

There are three Detroit Lions players whose contracts expired following last season that all need to be brought back: Cliff Avril, Jeff Backus and Stephen Tulloch. Prioritizing that list is a difficult task. I can see how one might put Avril at the top of that list but losing him to free agency might be easier for the team to overcome than the other two. For that reason I'll keep my list at three names and prioritize them all as number one.

Avril plays at the deepest position of the three but is a budding superstar worthy of the lofty sum his new contract will pay him. Jeff Backus has no heir apparent and is still a quality, albeit not Pro Bowl level, left tackle. Stephen Tulloch anchored the center of the Lions defense in a way Lions fans haven't seen since at least Stephen Boyd. Even if the Lions go on to use their first round draft pick on one of these position groups, the Lions will be worse off next year without any of the three.

NetRat of the NetRat Lions Blog

I'm not going to worry about "alternatives" until I know who gets re-signed to their own teams.  The Lions have a large number of free agents and restricted free agents and I think many of them need to be re-signed to compete with this year's crop of draft picks and any trades or other acquisitions the Lions manage to get.  I'll break it down to long term (meaning a critical part of the team and needs a long term contract), short term (meaning depth for another year and yet still important to the team) and finally stay or go (meaning they could be replaced or not, don't care).
Long Term
Cliff Avril DE UFA
Stephen Tulloch LB UFA
Eric Wright CB UFA
Don Muhlbach C UFA

Short Term
Jeff Backus T UFA
Rashied Davis WR UFA
DeAndre Levy LB RFA
Corey Hilliard T RFA
Ben Graham P UFA
Shaun Hill QB UFA
Drew Stanton QB UFA
Stefan Logan WR UFA
Kevin Smith RB UFA
Sammie Lee Hill DT RFA
Ashlee Palmer LB RFA
Andre Fluellen DT UFA
Stay or Go
Bobby Carpenter LB UFA
Erik Coleman S UFA
Leonard Davis T UFA
Isaiah Ekejiuba LB UFA
Maurice Morris RB UFA
Chris Harris S UFA
Jerome Harrison RB UFA
Brandon McDonald CB UFA
Maurice Stovall WR UFA
Obviously they all need to be asking realistic contract dollars to remain in their category.  I do have them listed pretty much in the rank I would look at as well.
Joshua DetFan1979 of ROTL

This question made me come to an wonderful, yet entirely alien, concept. The Lions have more than 3 free agents they need to resign - way more.  

Be it starters or depth, the Lions have at least a dozen FA and RFA that they need to bring back. 

While narrowing to three is tough, I decided to focus on three players who have no immediate replacement on the roster, and who would be good to lock up longer term. 

#3 Eric Wright - he was a solid contributor (when healthy) in the backfield.  He's not the "shutdown corner" everyone craves but is rather the type of solid mid-level guy that will make up the roster on a playoff team. If you pay the superstars their money, you need quality starters and depth that are moderately priced for your other positions.  Wright is that kind of guy. Toss in the ridiculous FA contract numbers for top corners and rookie learning curves and Wright becomes a priority signing -- just like Chris Houston last year. 

#2. Stephen Tulloch - while the playoff game against the Saints was his worst of the year by far, he provided a solid, steady, playmaking presence in the middle that has been lacking for quite some time.  Despite the potential, Levy and the platoons of MLB candidates of the prior  couple of years didn't even live up to Paris Lenon level of play. Tulloch should come at a reasonable price and knows the Lions scheme -- and knows its his best chance to be an impact player. 

#1. Cliff Avril - despite what some silly talking heads may say about him being replaceable, Avril has shown improvement each season. He is a skilled, young, versatile pass rusher.  The reason he'll be expensive to sign is that teams will be lining up with bags of money if they let him go. Which they will not.  

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