This is the deadest time of the calendar for the NFL, the weeks between OTAs and training camp. For current free agents, it’s a time to aggressively shop their wares to teams like the Detroit Lions.
The crop isn’t strong, but there are some potentially useful veterans on the street right now. The Lions still have some roster holes to fill, notably…
- Power running back
- Receiving tight end
- Speedy WR with some size
- Pass rushing DE/OLB
- Defensive tackle
There are a handful of palatable options at each, though none which figure to be more than minor depth upgrades. Still, the Lions scored with guys like Rashean Mathis and George Johnson in this period in recent years.
For a good list of available talent, check out Rotoworld. I disagree with some of the rankings but the list is pretty comprehensive.
The top names available all come with one wart or another, but given Detroit’s current depth chart at the position, warts are not deal breakers.
Toby Gerhart–he’s 29 and coming off a horrible 2015 that saw him run for just 44 yards and play his way off bottom-dwelling Jacksonville’s roster. Yet Gerhart has always had good hands and can play in the H-back role. He’s also already collected his big payday.
Alonzo Harris–a bruising runner at Louisiana-Lafayette, Harris is someone I really favored in the draft process as a guy with quick feet for his size. He was always someone who could exploit soft tackling and take what the defense gives him, but with enough explosiveness to make long TD runs like this one for Green Bay, where he made the team as an undrafted rookie last year. There are character concerns, but Harris deserves another shot.
Jovorskie Lane–often listed and deployed as a fullback, Lane isn’t a great blocker. The veteran is instead a thumping 250-something pound sledgehammer with surprisingly soft hands. In his Miami days he also contributed positively on special teams, something a deep reserve RB must do to make a living. At worst he pushes George Winn.
One player I briefly considered here was former Central Michigan runner Zurlon Tipton. Alas, he is sadly no longer an option.
The crop isn’t strong, but there are some potentially useful veterans on the street right now
Owen Daniels–his best days are long behind him, but OD still proved a valuable contributor to the Super Bowl champion Broncos last year. Daniels would be as valuable for his leadership and quirky personality as the 20-25 catches he could expect in Detroit.
Given the other options out there right now, Lions fans need to pray the Cole Wick hype is legit.
Denarius Moore–in 2012-13 in Oakland, Moore caught almost 100 passes for over 1400 yards and 12 TDs. He doesn’t offer much other than deep, straight-line speed, but that’s the exact role Detroit has open. A year out of the league will either help him realize he needs to want it more or else the door is now permanently closed.
Austin Pettis–most Lions fans probably know Pettis from watching his college film at Boise State, where his running mate was none other than Titus Young. Pettis has never been more than a No. 4 wideout, but at 6’3” and with reliable hands he could be worth a last-gasp look.
Joe Morgan–like Moore above, Morgan really only offers deep straight-line speed, and the ex-Saint isn’t as big or as seasoned. At this point you’re hoping for lightning in a bottle; it might as well be fast lightning.
Sammie Lee Hill–SLH was once a very solid third tackle behind Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh. Now 30, he fell out of favor in Tennessee. Hill would make a nice backup nose tackle with experience and familiarity with the team, even though his skills were a better fit for the Schwartz-era Lions.
Alex Carrington–another guy coming off an injury, Carrington spent most of the last six years in Buffalo as a hybrid end/tackle. That’s exactly the role the Lions need to fill, the old Jason Jones spot. Of course that would require Carrington to prove he’s better than Stefan Charles, who beat him out with the Bills.
Andre Fluellen–for the sheer reason it would be great for a player to sign with a team 10 different times. “Flu” actually played well in limited duty in his last go around in Detroit.
Mike Neal–the division rival Packers didn’t see fit to even offer Neal a new deal. He visited Detroit earlier in the offseason and word was he was asking too much. Guys like him should be feeling more desperate now, and I like the vengeance factor against his old team. Neal, 29, is strictly a stand-up pass rusher.
Dwight Freeney–the venerable veteran is now 36, but he still managed 8 sacks in a limited role with the Cardinals last year. Coach Jim Caldwell had Freeney in Indianapolis, so there is familiarity. It’s doubtful the master of the spin move would come to Detroit, but he should at least answer the phone.
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