Last season the Lions were one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL with injuries and lack of depth to blame for their lack of success. The Lions started the offseason with news that Jahvid Best would not be returning to the field for the start of the season, and it just went down hill from there. Best off course never returned, and may never return to the NFL. Titus Young showed flashes of brilliance, but ultimately a knee injury and lack of professionalism plagued his season and his chances of playing in the NFL again. Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles suffered season ending leg injuries, and Brandon Pettigrew, the Lions top tight end and best option in the middle of the field was maddeningly inconsistent and injured for the last quarter of the season.
Fast forward to the 2013 offseason and Lions fans and NFL analysts will all agree that the Lions’ front office has learned from their mistakes and are making adjustments to return to 2011 form where the team captured a wild card birth with a 10-6 record. So far this offseason we’ve seen the Lions not only address the need for Jahvid Best’s replacement, but upgrade the position entirely. They have solidified the back end of their defense with the re-signing Louis Delmas and Chris Houston, as well as signing a proven starter in Glover Quin.
On paper, the Lions secondary looks pretty good. If the Lions can develop one of their three corners taken in last years draft into a starter in Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood, and Jonte Green, they should have a formidable secondary to compete with the likes of Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers twice a year.
The Lions also made a salary cap friendly move by not choosing to re-sign Cliff Avril, and signing an unproven defensive end with a lot of upside in Jason Jones, which gives the Lions some youthful talent in Jones and allows room for the team to re-sign Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh in the future if they choose to do so.
With that said, there are still moves to be made in free agency. With Titus Young gone and Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles recovering from injury, the Lions will be very questionable at receiver this season. Drafting a receiver at some point in the draft should be a must, but adding a receiver that can stretch the field and take some pressure of Calvin Johnson should be a priority for the remainder of free agency.
Ben Lorimer of Bleacher Report offered a four players the Lions could target before the end of free agency and suggests the Lions take a look at Darrius Heyward-Bey as a player to fill that role in free agency. DHB seems like a good fit at 6’2 with a 4.3 forty, and signing him would help take pressure off the Lions’ front office from drafting a receiver in the early rounds for the third straight year. Finding a suitable down the field threat in free agency would be huge with a need to find another pass rusher on the edge and possibly some depth at the corner and linebacker positions in the draft.
Overall, Lions fans should be thrilled with the front office so far this offseason. After a disappointing 4-12 season there is reason to be optimistic at the direction the franchise is heading, but there are still a few salary cap friendly moves the Lions can make in free agency to help improve the roster before the all so important draft takes place. If the Lions can duplicate the success they have had so far in free agency in the draft than there is no reason to think the Lions can’t push for a playoff spot in 2013.