While there are still a few weeks before unresticted free agents become available for signing, there has been plenty of buzz around the league about teams jockeying for the best players. The Detroit Lions are cramped for cap space, so it’s not likely you’ll see another free agent signing to the degree we would all like to see (under current salary cap, without any contract restructurings).
Everyone’s talking about who should be signed. I think it is just as important to recognize the players that should not be signed for a variety of reasons. I’m sure we can all remember plenty of free agents that took nose dives in Detroit during the Matt Millen era, and while Martin Mayhew and the rest of the staff have done a pretty good job of selecting appropriate talent for the Lions during rebuilding, mistakes can still be made. Here is my opinion on which free agents the Lions should stay away from.
I’m right there with nearly everyone else in Detroit: I’d love to see Cortland Finnegan end up a Lion. They’ll have to re-work some contracts and perhaps sacrifice a player or two, but it very well could happen with all of the connections he has with the Lions’ staff. I don’t think this is the year to draft a defensive back, and that’s why it’s important to land the right free agent(s). If Mayhew wants to make a splash in free agency, I can see them going after a guy like Trufant if Finnegan and other top free agent DBs fall through.
Trufant is a solid defender, don’t get me wrong. But he’s 31 years old and doesn’t offer much other than playing coverage. He isn’t the playmaker he was earlier in his career and has never been a huge turnover threat. In his last four seasons (46 games including 2011 in which he played six games due to injury) he had only five interceptions and 30 pass defenses.
His coverage abilities are declining and aren’t enough to make up for the lack of big-play potential. He will likely be expecting a heftier salary than the Lions should be able to afford as well.
Routt was able to build his reputation in 2010 with the Raiders which earned him a three year contract from the late Al Davis. He is durable, only missing three games in his seven year career. Though he increased his interception and pass defense totals from 2010 to 2011, he did give up several big plays and was the most penalized corner in the league last year.
The Lions don’t need another Alphonso Smith on their roster. Routt may well turn out to be a great cornerback, but since he is relatively unproven, I don’t think the Lions should be that team to take the risk on him, especially because he’ll be looking for a long-term contract.
Other DBs to avoid: Bryant McFadden, Jim Leonhard
This should be a no-brainer but once Moss dropped the news on Twitter that he wants to come out of retirement, fans from every team in the country get at least a little bit excited. The Lions will take no interest in a guy like this. He’s been out of the league and it’s unclear if he’ll be able to come back in any kind of deep-threat shape. He’s high-maintenance, a hot-head and can disrupt a locker as well as anyone.
There is no room for a distraction in the locker room, and more importantly, the receiving corps. Calvin Johnson is the feature wideout, Nate Burleson (assuming he is retained) is the veteran leader and Titus Young is the upcoming role player that needs quality guidance. Moss may still have the speed to be a great deep threat, but he won’t be catching balls from Matt Stafford.
Other WRs to avoid: Plaxico Burress, Donte Stallworth, Steve Smith (PHI)
It appears Slaton may be on his way out of Miami. I’ll admit, I liked this guy a lot when he was drafted in the third round in 2008 by the Houston Texans. He played in all 16 games as a rookie, rushing for 1,282 yards and 9 touchdowns. Not too shabby. The following season, Slaton fumbled four times in four games and was benched in favor of Ryan Moats, Chris Brown and eventually Arian Foster. While he suffered a shoulder injury, it was clear his ball security was an issue and he never fought his way back up the depth chart. He hung around Houston until September of 2011 when he was waived and scooped up by the Dolphins.
It’s clear the Lions are looking for a solid running back in the off-season with Jahvid Best’s future in jeopardy and Mikel Leshoure being uproven. They need one who is dependable and has some elite skills. While Slaton has shown he put up top running back numbers consistently, a back with a case of fumblitis is the last thing the Lions need. I think he’s a head case now after fumbling 10 times in his first two seasons. He only has 177 rushing yards over the past two seasons. I have not heard of any ties Slaton has to Detroit, but it’s probably good to keep it that way.