The delay to the start of free agency caused by the lockout made for a lot of time to speculate about who the Detroit Lions could target once player movement started. The problem is that it only allowed for consideration to be given to players with expired contracts.
The implementation of rules for the next league year means teams are now free to cut players that no longer fit in their plans or budget releasing another group of players to the free agent market. One name has already drawn some attention as far as the Detroit Lions are concerned.
The Green Bay Packers informed inside linebacker Nick Barnett that he will not return to the team for the 2011 season. They will first try to trade Barnett although his contract may make that prohibitive. Nick Barnett will be released if no trade partner can be found. It is then that the Lions could step in.
I first saw the Barnett to the Lions connection pop up on a Pro Football Focus article by Sam Monson that lists five possible landing spots for Barnett. They give a “why” and “why not” explanation for each team. Here is what Monson had to say about the situation with the Lions:
Why it will happen
The Lions have some holes at linebacker, and they need to fill them if defensive front is going to be much use at all. Barnett is an experienced MLB who would allow them to move settle on a position for DeAndre Levy by default. There’s also nothing quite like getting better by robbing your divisional rivals, and Barnett would get two chances a season to show the Packers they really should have kept him over AJ Hawk.
Why it won’t
The Lions might have better places to spend the money and potentially cheaper targets for their linebacker role (Keith Bullock is a name that comes up). He was shown the door because of dollars and it might be dollars that keeps him away from Detroit.
Word is starting to spread about Barnett in the local media as well. Tom Kowalski received a phone call just as the Sean, Terp and Killer show went on the air at 3 p.m. The talk quickly shifted to Barnett upon Kowalski’s return to the microphone. Killer gets a lot of questions about whether or not a particular player is a fit, it appears in this case the answer is “yes”:
Because of the hefty contract, Packers probably can’t trade Nick Barnett … could be great fit in Detroit … Hmmmmm
Whether or not Barnett turns in to a real option remains to be seen but it goes to show that the Lions search will be wider than first thought. The Mayew regime has rarely given us what we expect, don’t be surprised when it happens again.