Cortland Finnegan, CB-Tennessee
Cortland Finnegan is probably the most talked about possibility as far as free agency targets for the Lions in 2012 for two reasons. First, he has all but stated that he will not return to Tennessee next season, and second, he played under Jim Schwartz when he was the defensive coordinator for the Titans. While not enough on its own to lead to the amount of conjecture that this possibility is receiving, the Finnegan to Detroit buzz would actually make sense for the Lions beyond his connection to Schwartz.
Cortland Finnegan is the type of player that Jim Schwartz covets, and beyond that, he is the type of player that Gunther Cunningham needs to make his defense work. Finnegan is a very physical player who will get in the face of receivers, and is not afraid to step up and make some plays in the run game. As a starter in Tennessee, Finnegan racked up 75 tackles in 2011. The scrappy defender has great footwork that allows him to break quickly on passes thrown in his direction.
Finnegan’s physical style and ball skills are a perfect fit for Cunningham’s defense from a schematic standpoint, but financially, this move may not be as realistic as some other options. He is also known as an instigator around the league, and when considering the problems the Lions had throughout 2011, and their perception around the league, Finnegan’s presence could add to the already eroding discipline level in Detroit.
Michael Griffin, S-Tennessee
Michael Griffin is also a former Schwartz player from Tennessee, and like Finnegan, he has basically stated his intentions of leaving the franchise to pursue free agency this off-season. The Lions lack depth at the safety position, and while Spievey continues to develop, he is a liability in coverage and often takes poor angles and misses tackles. Griffin is a sure tackler who was tied for third on the Titans defense this season with Finnegan at 75 tackles.
The Lions also ran into durability problems at safety this season, losing Erik Coleman to injured reserve early in the season, and losing Louis Delmas for a month later in the season. These injuries led to John Wendling being on the field at times, as well as the acquisition of Chris Harris during the season. Griffin has started 64 of the last 65 games for Tennessee, and like his Titan counterpart, is a sure tackler who is dependable in coverage.
While not as dire of a need as cornerback, the safety position could use an upgrade, and is in desperate need of some depth. Amari Spievey is a great reserve safety, and the addition of Griffin will give the Lion defense some swagger, as well as the ability to make a tackle. Griffin’s services will be in high demand however, which could drive up his price on the open market. Lions fans should hope that he is keen to a reunion with Schwartz, and that he is willing to sign at the right price.