Demetrius Bell, OT-Buffalo
Regardless of whether or not Jeff Backus returns for another season in Detroit, the end is near, and the heir to Matthew Stafford’s blindside protector has yet to be found. The Lions have had little success with offensive tackles in the draft historically, and even if they land a decent player in this April’s draft, they will likely need time to develop.
Free agent Demetrius Bell will be looking to exit Buffalo after losing his starting position following a week 4 injury. Bell is considered a developmental player, although he has looked strong in his limited starting experience. Many consider the offensive tackle to be a strong run blocker, but his pass blocking skills are sufficient enough for him to be a legitimate starting left tackle in the NFL.
Bell is a risk for several reasons, including his youth, limited experience, and recent knee surgery, but from a financial standpoint there is little to no risk involved whatsoever. If the Lions do pursue Bell in free agency they will have little competition, and if they are able to land him it will be an inexpensive salary that should have minimal impact on the cap number. Bell is the low risk, high reward player that the Lions need, as they are looking to rebuild the offensive line without taking on another massive contract.
Terrell Thomas, CB-New York Giants
New York Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas was certain to land a huge contract following the 2011 season, until he tore his ACL in the second pre-season game. The risk of not signing an extension may have cost Thomas millions, but it should also allow a team like the Lions to be in the hunt for his services. Thomas has torn his ACL twice in his career, once in 2005 while at USC, which means that teams will be less likely to offer him a large contract, or any sum of guaranteed money. This decrease in value, and increase in risk could put the Lions in the mix this offseason.
From a scheme standpoint Thomas is a perfect fit for the Lions. Good size and strength allow Thomas to be physical at the line of scrimmage and re-route receivers, which is something the Lion secondary lacked in 2011. The cornerback has ample speed and route recognition, which allow him to excel in both zone and man-to-man coverage. Thomas is a potential “shutdown corner”, that could be had at a decent price if the free agent market stays true to its past.