As the city of Detroit looks to rebound from its current economic situation, the hometown Lions are looking to rebound as well. Following those really, really bad years, (0-16 in 2008; 2-14 in 2009) the Lions made some adequate moves in the draft and free agency. The Lions were on their way back to the top; or something like that.
After the most promising 6-10 season you'll ever see and the 10-6 Wild Card season, Detroit looked like it was on its way to becoming a viable contender in the NFC North. Over time, questions about the discipline of this bunch became recurring themes in their media coverage. Doubts about this team's behavior sprawled over time, ranging from Ndamukong Suh's constant run-ins with Commissioner Goodell to criticisms of Coach Schwartz' leadership have overshadowed the talent that was there otherwise on the field.
Things really hit the fan in 2012. The Lions took a gargantuan step backwards, finishing with a 4-12 overall record and a 0-6 mark in the NFC North. This was all while having one of the most efficient offenses in the league passing, where they ranked third with 308 yards per game. Quarterback Matthew Stafford almost threw for 5,000 yards for the second consecutive year but wasn't as effective as he was in 2011, posting just 20 touchdowns to his 17 interceptions. This resulted in a nosedive that saw the Lions finished their year on an eight-game losing streak. Couple that with a defense was that ranked in the middle of the pack , the Detroit Lions have some work to do this offseason.
The team is still young so their window of opportunity isn't closing by any means. Veterans were beginning to see Detroit as this soft landing spot to win football games; players like a Kyle Vanden Bosch or a Corey Williams. I'm not so sure if the Lions are as appealing following a season like they had last year. This offseason marks a time to rebound and get the train back on the tracks to move forward.
With that said, the Lions from a football perspective are a leaking roster with a lot of gaping holes to fill. They can pretty much start anywhere this offseason. Obviously they are set at positions like quarterback with Stafford and defensive tackle with Suh and Nick Fairley, but questions remain at running back, wide receiver and in the defensive backfield.
Impending Free Agents:
RB Kevin Smith
RB Joique Bell
RB Jerome Harrison
RB Stefan Logan
WR Kris Durham (exclusive rights)
WR Kassim Osgood
TE Will Heller
OT Jason Fox (RFA)
OT Gosder Cherilus
OT Corey Hillard
C Dylan Gandy
C Don Muhlbach
DE Cliff Avril
DE Andre Fullen
DT Sammie Lee Hill
DE Lawrence Jackson
DT Corey Williams
DE Willie Young (RFA)
LB Justin Durant
LB DeAndre Levy
CB Drayton Florence
S Louis Delmas
CB Chris Houston
CB Jacob Lacey
CB Pat Lee
CB Ricardo Silva (exclusive rights)
S Amari Spievey
K Jason Hanson
P Nick Harris
Potential Free Agent Targets:
Our Devin Shanley expressed that he feels that Detroit is going to go for a big name this offseason. They just need that one big-name signing to re-energize this team in some way. I agree. While the names were different, I thought "Who better than Charles Woodson?" Woodson was just released by the division-rival Packers and is looking for a place to play football. He is a Super Bowl Champion and Defensive Player of the Year, and he anchored one of the most ball-hawking defensive backfields in recent memory.
Over the past year or two in Green Bay, players like Tramon Williams, Morgan Burnett and Sam Shields came on from up under Woodson. As Father Time caught up to Sir Charles, he began to play a little more at safety to keep himself on the field, and it worked for him. Now, the Packers feel that they will be able to survive without him, which leads us here.
This would work from many different angles. Again, a signing like Woodson would definitely bring some excitement and buzz to this team who is one year removed from the playoffs. With the Lions backfield in its current state, Woodson would probably see some more snaps at cornerback if he is still capable of playing the position, in which I don't see why not. He's a Michigan man already, which helps. On top of everything else, he is the type of leader that the Lions need in their locker room. It could work for all parties.
On the other end, Charles Woodson MAY have that loyalty to Green Bay still and not sign with a division rival. That doesn't mean he isn't a target though. Look out for the Woodson decision.
Another former Packer, Nick Barnett was just released by the Buffalo Bills after their big defensive experiment kind of just, blew to pieces. I'm expecting the Lions to retain LB DeAndre Levy but beyond that, Detroit's linebacker group is in need of depth. Barnett has proven himself as a starter in Green Bay and would be a more-than-capable addition to a group in need. He has experience playing in the 4-3 as well, both in Buffalo and in Green Bay, and should be able to hit the ground running if he lines up in silver and blue.
Linebacker may be a position where the Lions make make a move in the draft to shore up but bringing a veteran into this group would be good from a locker room standpoint for a rookie or any young player to learn from... He too is a Super Bowl Champion in his own right despite being on injured reserve for the Packers in 2010.
Taking a look at the other side of the ball, Detroit had one of the worst rushing offenses in the league. Their leading rusher, Mikel Leshoure, ran for 798 yards last year. The season before, Jahvid Best showed enormous potential before nagging concussions sidelined him for over a year. Now, the Lions need to make a move and former Giants back Ahmad Bradshaw might be just the guy.
Let me lay it all out here: Bradshaw is probably not the most coveted guy in free agency but he could potentially be the prize when it is all said and done. He is 26 years-old, one year older than the "kid" Matthew Stafford. He is a proven back that will get this offense where they need to go. He is a capable blocker, which will help Stafford in the pocket. He is the type of running back that will make this team better. He is a two-time Super Bowl Champion coming from a winning culture. Something that the Lions could use. This is the signing that the Lions need to make. It isn't the "sexiest" signing but it is the smartest move that I believe is there for the Lions.
When we analyze things like a upcoming offseason, we look at things from a perspective of what could happen. This is something that should and ought to happen. The Lions need a back, they need leadership, they need winners, they need Bradshaw.
Northern Exposure Part II: The Chicago Bears | Part I: The Minnesota Vikings