Free agency takes a back seat to the NFL Draft almost immediately after the first few weeks end. However, there are names still in free agency, some simply hoping to sign a minimum contract, others waiting to see what team can best incorporate them.
The Detroit Lions are certainly not finished with their roster building as we head into the last few months before training camps start. Now that the draft is finished, the Lion’s general manager Bob Quinn has a sharpened view of how his team is beginning to look. There are, however, a few more free agents still perusing the NFL atmosphere for teams to bring them on board, and the Lions could do well to bring in a few for a closer inspection.
The Far Fetched Options:
Keeping in mind that the Lions will have around $8 million in cap space after signing their draft class, these next few players might be out of reach, but could be immediate impacts.
Anquan Boldin (WR) – Many fans and analysts thought that the Lions needed to upgrade their wide receiver core in the draft after Calvin Johnson decided to retire, even after Quinn snagged the best wide receiver in free agency, Marvin Jones. The Lions front office decided against drafting a receiver whatsoever, leaving the team with few recognizable names. Even though it is not completely necessary to upgrade this position, the Lions could still use a veteran receiver to battle with TJ Jones and Lance Moore for that third wide receiver role.
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Anquan Boldin could supplant either of those two with relative ease, and could revitalize the slot receiver role similarly to Larry Fitzgerald is doing in his late years. The veteran receiver is 35 years old, but is coming off of a year in which he caught 69 passes for 789 yards and four touchdowns (via NFL.com), all with the stellar duo of Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick’s corpse throwing him those passes. In other words, Boldin still has miles left in his cleats. The reasons he may not be so realistic, is both his possible contract demands and where he eventually wants to retire. In 2015, the San Francisco 49ers paid Boldin just over six million dollars, which would be one million less than Golden Tate currently makes with the Lions as the presumed number one receiver (via Spotrac). It’s doubtful that Bob Quinn would spend that kind of capital on an aging vet in a position that, currently, is not a major need.
Leon Hall (CB) – On the other side of the ball, the Lions have a few wrinkles in the secondary that they would like to iron out. While one side of the field is owned by Darius Slay, they have serious questions about the number two corner. It is certainly possible to go into this season with Nevin Lawson opposite Slay and Quandre Diggs in the slot, but there is little depth beyond. Alex Carter is an unknown after spending the entire 2015 season to rehab his injury, Darrin Walls is a solid, if unspectacular, veteran presence, and although Crezdon Butler did break up a two point conversion pass attempt from Aaron Rogers in Lambeau Field to break the losing streak, he may be best suited for an emergency backup role.
Leon Hall, on the other hand, has been a solid NFL corner for the last nine years. The knock on Hall is not his play on the field, nor any antics off it, but his injury history. Coming off of a back surgery this past month, Hall also has had multiple Achilles tears in 2011 and 2013, and multiple concussions over the years. He has played in all but three games in the past two seasons, but as an aging (31-year-old) corner coming off surgery, throwing money at a player who is best in the slot might not be the best idea. Quandre Diggs was a pleasant surprise in the slot last year, and Nevin Lawson may be better in that position as well. Hall would be an upgrade, and could provide the Lions’ young corners more competition and mentoring, but the injuries and amount of money needed probably scare Quinn and co. away.
Jerraud Powers (CB)– Continuing the attempt of upgrading the corner opposite Darius Slay, Jerraud Powers is a more intriguing possibility. At only 28 years of age, Powers could still have multiple seasons playing at his very best. He plays both outside and in the slot, and has considerably less injury concerns than Leon Hall. The issues with Powers are similar to the problems with the other two players in this category; their contracts. While Powers may command a few million less than Hall, he still made 5.3 million last year, and reportedly is looking for close to the same with his next contract. Powers would make an immediate upgrade in the number two corner spot, but also has less upside than someone like Nevin Lawson does.
The Realistic Options:
These players have a better chance at becoming a Detroit Lion. There still may be issues with contracts or skill level, but they could at least provide depth and/or compete in camp.
Damontre Moore (DE) – The Lion’s most barren position is the defensive ends. Ezekiel Ansah is obviously an outstanding DE, whether rushing the passer or playing the run, but beyond him there is a dearth of talent. Devin Taylor came on strong near the end of the season much like most of the team, but he should be used in more of a rotational role until he proves he can bring it every game. Anthony Zettel is an intriguing rookie, but is also a 6th round pick that should not be counted on to produce this year.
Damontre Moore was just released from the Miami Dolphins on Monday, only three years after being a 3rd round pick for the New York Giants. Moore never found footing in either Miami or New York, while playing limited roles behind stars on each team. He might not regain his confidence or play up to his 3rd round draft grade, but as a young (23-year-old) player in the NFL, he still has something to prove. In the right system, with a decent chance, he could thrive similarly to George Johnson two years ago. Many believe that Moore fits better as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but was drafted as a 4-3 DE, and has played there for three seasons. With so little DE depth on the Lion’s current roster, it could be a shrewd move for Quinn to bring in competition for the young players.
Curtis Lofton (MLB) – Stephen Tulloch is still, confusingly, on the Lion’s roster even after the draft. Many thought Tulloch would be cut after the season ended, including the man himself. Others believe that Tulloch is still going to be let go or traded, making the middle linebacker position for the Lions a bit barren outside of Tahir Whitehead. Whitehead is the presumed starter, and a solid option at that, but beyond him are names that do not inspire much confidence. Curtis Lofton is coming off of a season where he was benched for performance reasons with the Oakland Raiders, just months after signing a three-year deal. The Raiders cut him only a year into his contract. While his play is clearly in decline, Lofton is two seasons removed from compiling 144 total tackles (via NFL.com). If the money is right, Lofton could conceivably be a high-end backup for the Lions, and an adequate option in case Whitehead succumbs to injury.
The Easy Options:
Cheap veterans are always a welcome sign to a team when filling out a roster. These players have plenty of experience in the league, while still being affordable and keen to play a role.
Jason Jones (DE) – Yes, Jason Jones is still a free agent. The Lions have shown little interest in bringing the veteran defensive end back, but is a reasonable option should they need to bolster the position. Jones knows Teryl Austin’s system well, is a cheap option, and is a veteran presence on a team with few available. He also has played in all but one game in the past two seasons, and has been a dependable run stopper when called upon. Should the Lions not add any more pieces to the defensive line in the upcoming weeks, Jones should be an easy decision to re-sign.
Mike Neal (DE) – With the Lions placing meager importance in re-signing Jason Jones, it would seem that they prefer to bring in a fresh face to the defensive end position. Mike Neal is a free agent who came off of a four sack season with the Green Bay Packers, playing in rotation as an outside linebacker. Although Neal has rarely played as a 4-3 defensive end, he has the size to do so at 6’3 and 280 lbs. The Packers drafted his replacement this year, and Neal looks to be moving on to another team. While he may prefer a 3-4 style of defense, finding another player to battle Devin Taylor and Anthony Zettel in camp will not hurt.
Bear Pascoe (TE) – The Detroit Lions have something in common with the NFL free agents left; the depth is depressingly bare. Besides Eric Ebron, the Lions have an injured Brandon Pettigrew and Tim Wright. Pettigrew would have to be given an injury settlement if released, therefore is likely to still be with the Lions this year. However, with the possibility of him missing a significant amount of games, the Lions could still use an extra TE on the roster with some experience. Pascoe was a late season addition last year, played in three games, and is unequivocally the best blocking tight end option left in free agency. The options are skim, and the Lions could do worse than re-upping with Pascoe as the 3rd string.
Who else would you like to see the Detroit Lions target that is still on the market? There will surely be better options as opposing teams whittle down their rosters in the coming weeks, and the Lions could cash in on a few of them. Leave your thoughts in the comments!