Martin Mayhew has built up a level of trust with fans as we’ve seen the results of his work. I find that interesting considering that it seems like every personnel decision except for the drafting of Ndamukong Suh was met with some measure of resistance.
Aaron Curry was the popular fan pick over Matthew Stafford, the selection of Brandon Pettigrew was, and to some degree still is, controversial, the Kyle Vanden Bosch signing was met with skepticism from a fan base that had just been burned by the previous coach bringing in “his guys” and this most recent draft failed to address the positions thought to be of primary concern. Despite all that, the Detroit Lions are one of the most talked about teams heading into the 2011 season and we haven’t even had the free agency period yet.
Ah, the free agency period. Another potential opportunity for fans to create their own agenda only to have Martin Mayhew go in another direction. Get ready, it might happen again.
Just as they were entering the draft, the Lions are thin at cornerback and linebacker. News leaking out of the NFL labor negotiations previously revealed that players will be eligible for unrestricted free agency after four years of service which has made the list of players who will be on the market made known before the CBA negotiations enter the final phases. As such, most Lions fans have focused in on Nnamdi Aosmugha at cornerback with Johnathan Joseph as an alternate as Asomugha is likely to command a salary out of the Lions price range and Stephen Tulloch at linebacker.
Outside of Nnamdi Asomugha, I wouldn’t be particularly surprised if the Lions sign the players mentioned above but I also wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t sign them. Martin Mayhew‘s greatest strength is that he sees a broad picture when looking across the NFL’s personnel landscape. When fans are looking for big names, Mayhew is looking for big value. One tweet from Michael Schottey caught my eye today:
If you would rather pay twice the amount for Cromartie or Joseph than the equally talented Chris Carr, not thinking like Lions [Front Office]
The Lions saw value in Nate Burleson and Kyle Vanden Bosch a year ago and paid them accordingly. Nnamdi Asomugha and Johnathan Joseph may be the best two cornerbacks available, but will the price they command exceed a level where they represent value to the Lions? It might and that is where a less-hyped guy like Chris Carr could come in to the picture.
Another possible departure from the preconceived “fan plan” is that the Lions could end up being a lot less active in free agency than many assume. Martin Mayhew has found useful players without having to engage in a bidding war by exercising patience and pouncing on advantageous opportunities. Tom Kowalski suggests that could happen again:
New head coaches mean lots of turnover … Look for Mayhew to seek trades rather than blowing bundle on FA (i.e. A. Smith & Lojack)
The next two weeks are sure to be filled with a lot of excitement as players finally start moving and teams head to camp. We can be sure that the Lions will be players in the personnel game, we just can’t be sure how exactly it will happen.