Detroit Lions Rebuild: Nothing Is Sacred


Oct 28, 2015; Chandler

Going through a rebuild is not easy on an NFL franchise.  The fans have to go through the excruciating uncertainty of not knowing if it will work, if they’ll ever see a winning football team.  The players have to go through a period of time when they could lose their job, ending up cut or traded.  Fans see that as simply moving from one team to another, but many of these guys have roots in this city.  It’s their home, and often times their children’s home.  Despite that, no one is safe during a rebuild and nothing is sacred.  Some of the players and coaches that will not be with the team will be very good.  Some might be great.

Nothing is Sacred, Not Tenure, Not Money, Not Greatness

We often look fondly upon the moves that Martin Mayhew made to start the last rebuild.  he’s fired now, and we’ve looked before at the various missteps that led to his firing, but no one can argue that one of Mayhew’s first moves with the Detroit Lions was simple genius.  We say that now, because we know what happened afterwards.

I’m speaking of course of the Detroit Lions trading pro bowl wide receiver Roy Williams to the Dallas Cowboys for a king’s ransom.  It’s now considered the worst trade in Cowboy’s history, but Mayhew’s last second trade allowed the Detroit Lions to pick up pieces to help build the franchise from the ashes of 2008. Rather than signing the unhappy wide receiver to an extension, he was traded to his home state for three draft picks and allowed to wallow in what was left of his career.

What fans often forget is that Roy Williams wasn’t terrible when he was traded.  He was struggling, but so was everyone on that talentless quagmire of a football team.  It isn’t the first example of a team moving on from a big named player so they could move on in a new direction, but it’s the closest to home.  The Indianapolis Colts allowed Payton Manning to leave, a sure fire hall of fame quarterback.  Teams trying to rebuild often make sacrifices.

What does that mean for the Detroit Lions?

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For one, it means that players we all consider safe are not so.  In fact, there are only a few that could be considered even close to safe, and in every single one of those cases it is due to contract alone.  Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Ziggy Ansah, Darius Slay, none of those guys are a sure bet to be on the roster in 2016.  Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  Unfortunately, it isn’t just about how good they are anymore.  This team is in a rebuild.  To rebuild, you need the right pieces, and sometimes that means selling high to acquire more tools to fix your team.

Ziggy Ansah, Darius Slay, Riley Reiff, and others are nearing the end of their respective contracts.  If the Detroit Lions find a team willing to pick them up (And sign them to an extension) in return for more than their worth in players and/or picks, I have no doubts they will pull the trigger.

What about bigger name players?  We’ve already explored what could happen with Matthew Stafford in all of this, but what about Calvin Johnson?  DeAndre Levy?  Glover Quin?  Guys with a clear role on the team and contracts that will make it difficult to move them?  There is going to be a lot of bean counting going on, and moves that would not make sense from a team maintenance standpoint are on the table since we aren’t going to be looking at 2016 impact, but 2017, 2018, 2019, and beyond.

Older veterans like Stephen Tulloch or Jason Jones may be able to hold onto their role as a veteran presence, but a new GM might decide to go all in on youth and unload their contracts, moving on to rookies or cheaper free agents hoping that the dropoff isn’t too severe.  Moves like that may not be popular as immediate moves, but they can pay off in the long run and that’s what the team is going to be banking on.

What do you think?  Will the Detroit Lions move on from big name players like Calvin Johnson in their rebuild?  Will they keep their vets around for leadership, or try to pick up a younger player and hope they grow into it?  Will they load up on draft picks and build from the bottom up?  Let us know in the comments or get ahold of us on Twitter @SideLionReport or myself @MathBomb!

Next: Detroit Lions Who are Likely Gone in 2016