A new piece on NFL.com breaks down the top 85 free agents and four Detroit Lions make the list. Gregg Rosenthal offers his breakdown of each player and it provides a pretty clear indication of how the Lions should approach each situation.
Let’s take a look.
Nov 11, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Detroit Lions defensive end
(92) sacks Minnesota Vikings quarterback
(7) in the first quarter at the Metrodome. The Vikings win 34-24. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
The first Lions player on the list is Cliff Avril, checking in as the 13th best free agent on the market. Rosenthal provides the following commentary:
"He’s not great against the run and only played 66 percent of Detroit’s defensive snaps in 2012, but Avril hustles and gets to the quarterback. He’s a solid bookend starter who will be paid like a great one."
The Lions offered Avril a three-year deal worth $30 million last offseason before resorting to applying the franchise tag. Avril thought he was worth more but didn’t back that up with a year that followed his previous career trajectory. That doesn’t mean Avril lost on his gamble, it just takes one desperate team to break the bank, but it means the Lions, already tight for cap space, shouldn’t look to up their offer.
Next up is Chris Houston at 27th. More Rosenthal:
"The cornerback market is deep this year, and there’s not a huge gap within the top seven guys at the position."
I’m all for bringing Chris Houston back next year and he should be one of the team’s top priorities this offseason. A deep market increases the likelihood the Lions are able to retain Houston as it will likely keep prices low. Even if the Lions lose Houston, there will be other veterans they can turn to.
Dec. 16, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA: Detroit Lions tackle Gosder Cherilus against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Lions 38-10. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Gosder Cherilus checks in at number 52:
"The longtime punching bag proved last year he can survive just fine as a starter."
Tell me what the Lions do with the fifth overall pick and I’ll tell you exactly what they should do with Gosder Cherilus. Cherilus is expendable if the Lions select Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher. The rookie can take over at left tackle while Riley Reiff takes over for Cherilus. Unfortunately, that’s not the way the NFL calendar works and letting Cherilus walk in free agency without drafting a tackle puts the offensive line in a bad spot. Even so, my guess is that Cherilus ultimately finds himself in the same position as Avril – able to find a bigger contract elsewhere. Perhaps that influences the Lions pick.
Louis Delmas is often mentioned as one of the team’s key free agents but he was only the fourth to be mentioned on Rosenthal’s list. He ranked 63rd:
"Injuries have sapped his explosiveness as a tackler and Delmas was never the most instinctive player in coverage."
The injuries have obviously been a problem and the Lions’ contract offer needs to reflect that. Such a tactic might put him in the Avril/Cherilus camp of finding more money elsewhere if his game tape was better but there are some deficiencies there too. With a deep class of safeties in this year’s draft class it wouldn’t be surprising if interest in Delmas around the league was low. That makes his chances of returning high, and at a good price too.