Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
NFL Free Agency begins March 11th, so with my first articles as a returning writer on SideLion Report, I will begin a series of articles breaking down top free agents at position the Lions may target, as well as the probability of such players being signed.
Kicking off this five-part mini-series will be the cornerback position. Perhaps the most scrutinized position on the team, the Lions will either look for a big upgrade at the position, or just look for a veteran to aid in the development of the younger players.
So without further adieu:
Charles Tillman, Chicago Bears:
Pros: Plenty of experience as a starting corner, forces plenty of turnovers.
Cons: Getting up there in age, injuries became a factor last season.
Tillman would be a good fit in Detroit due to his experience and his history of outstanding play. Known for causing plenty of turnovers with recording 36 interceptions in his career while also forcing an amazing amount of fumbles with 42. Age will be the major concern, he turns 33 at the end of this month, and injuries took their toll last year as he missed the final seven games of the season due to a torn triceps. But beyond that, his veteran leadership towards the younger players will be the most valuable aspect Tillman would bring to the Lions organization. If the Lions pursue a free agent cornerback this offseason, Tillman is the most probable of the options.
Sam Shields, Green Bay Packers:
Pros: Young, good in coverage, great potential as a ballhawk, possibility of taking talent away from the Packers.
Cons: Too pricy.
Shields is an excellent talent and always seems to have a knack for clutch interceptions. Would aid greatly to the coverage units, although he has far be considered in the category as the coveted shutdown corner. The thought of taking a nice talent like Shields away from the rival Packers is also an added bonus to this deal. However, his asking price will very likely be out of Detroit’s favor, and extending Shields appears to be Packers’ GM Ted Thompson’s top priority of the offseason. Might garner a look, but he is highly unlikely to be wearing Honolulu Blue in 2014.
Alterraun Verner, Tennessee Titans:
Pros: Very young, had somewhat of a breakout 2013 season.
Cons: Struggled down the stretch of last season.
I may have contradicted myself a little bit with the pros and cons of Verner, but he began the season intercepting four passes in the Titans’ first four games, and only finished with one the rest of the season. Still a very athletic and young prospect at only age 25, and the price tag may not be as high as a full breakout season might garner. With that said, however, it is still unlikely for Verner to gain much interest from GM Martin Mayhew this spring due to the rough finish Verner had in the 2013 season.
Rashean Mathis, Detroit Lions:
Pros: Brings veteran leadership, familiar with the organization and the young cornerbacks on the roster.
Rashean Mathis was very solid for the Lions last season. He started 15 games for the team with struggles of rookie Darius Slay and the injuries to Chris Houston. Signs of age showed at times, as he appeared to not have the speed he used to, and he will turn 34 before the 2014 season begins. His experience as well as his familiarity to the young corners such as Slay and Chris Greenwood would still be the most valuable aspect to the team, though. Should be in talks for one more one year deal with the team for that alone, and his re-signing is probable.
The Lions may not pursue much in the way of cornerbacks, but it is likely that Charles Tillman or Rashean Mathis, or both, could be signed by the team. Other than that, the mostly likely scenario for the team to pick up a cornerback would be the draft, whether first round or later rounds.
Up next on Free Agent Focus: Wide receivers.