Free Agents: Should the Lions gamble?
By James Greene
As the Lions finished 9-7 last season, a lot of questions surround the organization’s plans to take another leap. Their 2017 schedule contains games against the Giants, Falcons, Ravens and Steelers to go along with their regular NFC North games with the Packers. Four of those teams are notorious for having high octane offenses. For Detroit to be successful this season they will need to match points, slow teams down defensively, or a little of both to win.
To take the next leap and fight for control of the NFC north, the Lions should focus their attention on picking up valuable veteran free agents before the draft. Which free agents are worth a gamble in the motor city?
Let’s start on offense. In a division that features Aaron Rodgers, being able to score consistently is a huge key in solidifying the top seed in the NFC North. The first place to start is in the trenches. It doesn’t matter what receiving core the Lions start the season with. If Stafford doesn’t have adequate time to let plays develop and throw the ball, big plays won’t be made. Depth at the offensive tackle position needs to be addressed and there are currently two serviceable players at that position available in free agency.
King Dunlap, 31, and 30-year-old Ryan Clady are both veteran offensive linemen who would be perfect for teams that are ready to win now. Dunlap who comes in at 6’9, 331 pounds, and played valuable football for Philadelphia before being a member of the dysfunctional L.A. Chargers. At 6’6, 315, Ryan Clady would we better suited as a backup for depth purposes, at one time missing 30 out of 32 games. Clady is another experienced player, and he has shown flashes of being able to play at a good level but not reliable as a starter.
The Lions do not need to find a superstar on the offensive line. They need to obtain a stable of quality line players that can add depth. They added starters in Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang, but as we saw last season, injuries happen to offensive linemen too.
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If Ameer Abdullah can stay healthy all season, combined with Theo Riddick and Zach Zenner, the Lions should be set in the backfield. If you’re wisely anticipating one of those three backs not being available all season, there should be some additional thought. Bringing in a veteran like Jamaal Charles to give Stafford some different speed options could spark some needed tempo.
Detroit needs to bring in some help for Golden Tate, in the form of tight ends and receivers. Michael Floyd and Anquan Boldin are both available and would both give Stafford big targets to throw to. Former Pro Bowl receiver, Victor Cruz, is also an option who gives defenses another deep threat to worry about. 32-year-old Jacob Tamme could also be serviceable in multiple tight end formations.
Lastly, the defense needs a lot of work. A main key will be trying to build this unit up front, to get pressure similar to when Ndamukong Suh was a Lion. Of course, having a mix of veteran leaders and having a good draft class can go a long way in making this happen.
On the back end, the availability of Jason McCourty, Tramaine Brock, Brandon Flowers and Darrelle Revis could give Detroit some serviceable options with a lot of experience. Having a strong front line and linebacking core that’s able to get pressure on the quarterback will help the Lions. Former Jaguar, Jared Odrick, is a player you could add to your defensive line at a cheap price that’ll give you good snaps as a rotational player. Sio Moore, at only 27, gave Arizona good production at the inside linebacking position and could help add depth that they desperately need.
The draft on Thursday will answer a lot of questions on the Lions’ focal points. With an established franchise quarterback in place, Detroit is ahead of the game in many ways. If the Lions are able to have a good draft and keep veterans in the locker room for leadership, the Packers could find themselves in another fight for the division this year.
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