Martin Mayhew and the rest of the front office are faced with some difficult choices to make this offseason. The Lions are on the verge of becoming a great team and it looks like they will have to let go of an important player to make salary cap room. Hopefully, Calvin Johnson’s contract negotiations can be finished this offseason and both parties are looking forward to getting the deal done now. With Calvin Johnson’s new contract, he will be making some serious money which is well deserved as he is the best receiver in the league. What free agents should the Lions re-sign? Here are the three that I think are the most important.
First, you can see the list of free agents for the Lions here. A free agent that is flying under the radar that I would like to see re-signed is Shaun Hill. If Matthew Stafford would to go down next season (heaven forbid), I love the fact that Shaun Hill would be able to step in. Shaun Hill is one of the best backup Quarterbacks in the league. Call me crazy, but I think the Lions can still contend with Hill under center. In 2010, when Hill played most of the year, the Lions were a decent team that caught a lot of bad breaks throughout the season. Think of Shaun Hill as some type of insurance. You hope that you don’t have to use it, but it is great to have.
The second free agent I feel needs to be re-signed is Jeff Backus. I know, I know. Backus is at the end of his career and has been ridiculed by fans for his mediocre performances is some games (I’ve never been so mad at a player than I was at Backus during the Minnesota game). However, it is important to keep Matthew Stafford healthy in order for the Lions to take the next step. Backus is tremendously durable; he has started almost 180 games in a row. Another reason the Lions would be wise re-signing Jeff Backus is the fact the he won’t cost much. I’ve read that the Lions may actually end up paying him less than the do now. Why wouldn’t you want to do that?
The last Lion that should be re-signed is a difficult choice. As SLR’s own Michael Olsen pointed out in January, it will basically come down to Cliff Avril or Stephen Tulloch. This is a very, very difficult choice and there are pros and cons of both players. Avril was probably the best defensive player last year for the Lions, but that means he will cost that much more. Tulloch isn’t as talented as Avril but would cost the Lions much less. Avril has been reported to saying that he doesn’t want to the Lions to use their franchise tag on him. If Avril is asking for elite defensive end type money and the Lions decide not to use the franchise tag, they would be smart in letting Avril go. Cliff Avril has been great to the Lions, but an enormous contract would put the Lions in a salary squeeze for the next several years. Also, Lawrence Jackson and Willie Young have the ability to step in and somewhat fill the gap that Avril would leave. So in the end, I would like to see Stephen Tulloch re-signed, unless Avril and the Lions can get good deal done.