With the bulk of their free agency activity over, it is time to take a look at the Detroit Lions’ most meaningful additions and hand out grades for each move.
I’d love to hear where you agree and where you disagree.
Stephen Tulloch – The player atop most fans’ wishlist officially became a Lion on Sunday. Tulloch is the tackling machine the Lions need behind their dominating defensive front. The fact that he and Jim Schwartz are already familiar with one another means the two should be able to hit the ground running with very little feeling out process. The only thing that could have made this deal better is a few more years on the contract. Grade: A-
Chris Houston – Not the big name most Lions fans wanted to see but a name most Lions fans should be comfortable with after a good season with the team in 2010. The Lions didn’t give him the extension he wanted last year but were able to retain him when it was clear that the big deal he thought he could get wasn’t to be had. Retaining Houston is a good move for both team and player. Grade: B+
Justin Durant – A young player that brings starting experience is the kind of value play the Lions are becoming known for. Injury problems have limited Durant’s play throughout his pro career but he represents an upgrade over what the Lions previously had at outside linebacker. Grade: B+
Eric Wright – Like Durant, Eric Wright still has plenty of good football ahead of him despite moving away from his original team. He will benefit from the play of the Lions front and management is banking on the possibility that he can regain the look of a solid NFL cornerback. It wouldn’t exactly be correct to label him the Cleveland Browns‘ trash but he did fall out of favor there and could become a Lions treasure much like Chris Houston a year ago. Grade: B-
John Wendling – The Lions put an emphasis on rounding out the roster with strong special teams players last year and Wendling proved himself to be just that. His role won’t be huge but he will fill it very nicely, espcially on punt coverage. The difference between a punt resulting in a touchback and a punt downed at the five yard line can’t be understated. Grade: A
Drew Stanton – No NFL team wants to have to use their third quarterback but that is the situation the Lions found themselves in last season. Stanton stepped in and exceeded expectations in many ways, including quarterbacking the team to their win in Tampa to break the organization’s road losing streak. He may be older than the typical number three but the Lions will find comfort in having him around despite hoping he never sees the field again. Grade: B
Dave Rayner – Despite playing well down the stretch last season, Rayner was retained as insurance against a Jason Hanson injury relapse. Hanson has reportedly looked strong in camp so far while Rayner still has a few days until he can join the team due to league rules. That being the case, Rayner may not have a spot on the team when all is said and done but re-signing him was the smart thing to do just in case. Grade: A-
Rashied Davis – The former Chicago Bears receiver may find some opportunities to catch passes but his biggest contributions to the team may be on special teams. He brings the special teams acumen that Bryant Johnson lacked – a requirement for those manning the last couple receiver spots on the depth chart. Davis is much more likely to contribute in the passing game than Derrick Williams. Grade: B
Maurice Leggett – The former Kansas City Chiefs defensive back probably gets a shot with the Lions due to his connection to Gunther Cunningham. He’s spent as much time on IR as on the field and his biggest plays have come on special teams, not defense. Grade: C-
Quinn Pitcock – The former third-round draft pick played well with the Colts as a rookie in 2007 but abruptly retired prior to training camp in 2008 due to depression. He tried making a comeback with the Seahawks prior to the 2010 season but did not survive final cuts. Cracking the Lions defensive tackle rotation is a tall task but competing against players of that caliber may be what he needs to get his football career back on track, even if it ends up being with someone other than the Lions. Grade: C