The mark of an excellent General Manager in pro football is one who can mine the back roads of scouting, and find those golden nuggets that the other teams have passed on. I think this is the year Martin Mayhew shows just how good a talent evaluator he is. I never paid much attention to the free agents the Lions have signed in the past because of who was signing them. If Matt “I’ll take a receiver” Millen couldn’t get the draft picks right, how in the hell was he going to find something in the free agent talent pool?
Since the Lions have emerged from the darkness of the NFL cellar in 2009 behind the leadership of Mayhew and Head Coach Jim Schwartz, their low round picks have actually mattered. 7th round draft picks started making the team. Zack Follett was a fan favorite until concussions derailed his career. Now that the Lions have gotten the hang of drafting quality players that can contribute, I feel like Mr. Mayhew is working extra hard on the free agents this year.
I know the most publicized signee is Boise St. quarterback Kellen Moore. The quarterback who went 50-3 in college football was deemed too short by the NFL to be wasting a draft pick on. I think he has an excellent opportunity to be the number 3 QB this year, and the back up to Matthew Stafford in the future. Getting a back up quarterback as a free agent is the kind of shrewd move we’re just not used to seeing around here.
The free agent that interested me the most is Alonzo Lawrence. He’s a former cornerback who is 6’2″, 215 pounds and is being converted to Safety. The Lions found Lawrence at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Not to be confused with Macomb Community College, MGCCC has actually turned out professional football players. Terrance Cody of the Ravens is one. He has a fascinating history. He held Julio Jones, a high first round pick, to 0 catches in the 2007 Mississippi-Alabama high school All-Star game. He was the 2nd best cornerback prospect in the nation according to Rivals Recruiting service when he came out in 2008. When he and his big head walked onto the Alabama campus as a freshman, he thought he should be starting. Coach Nick Saban didn’t see it that way. “Me and Coach Saban didn’t really see eye-to-eye”, Lawrence said. ” I came in with a big head , young, wanting to play. I felt like I was supposed to be playing.”
Lawrence transferred to Southern Miss but had trouble with his classes and moved on to MGCC. His Coach there, Steve Campbell, thinks the Lions got a steal.
“I think they got ‘em a great NFL player, I can see him being a Pro Bowler,” Campbell told NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. “I think they signed a difference-maker. It would shock and amaze me if he’s not up there for a number of years.“ “Alonzo is built like a big, physical safety,” Campbell said. “But he’s got hips and the coverage ability of a corner. I could see him playing corner for some cover-2 teams and he does fine in man coverage. Or, I could see somebody just putting him at safety and him doing really well there, because he will tackle, he’s physical and he does have coverage skills.”
The Lions badly need someone to play next to Louis Delmas. Every championship team has that one starter that came out of nowhere. Could Alonzo Lawrence be that find? His former coach Steve Campbell sure thinks so.
Alonzo is a great talent,” Campbell said. “He’s of the same talent/caliber if not even more so than guys we’ve had gone to MSU or Bama or on to NFL. He’s a high-SEC caliber talent.”
Remember that the SEC is the best conference on this planet, so I’m really looking forward to hearing more from Mr. Lawrence.