NEWS

A look at the open market: who best suits the Detroit Lions at their positions of need?

Posted Mar 10, 2013

Detroitlions.com writers Tim Twentyman and Mike O'Hara take a look at the biggest positions of need for the Detroit Lions and offer their top three free agent choices for each

The negotiation period has begun between NFL teams and player agents ahead of Tuesday’s official beginning to free agency.

The Detroit Lions have said publically they’ll be players when the official bell rings for free agency at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday. There are needs to fill coming off a disappointing 4-12 season, coupled with 22 unrestricted free agents set to hit the open market.

Detroitlions.com writers Tim Twentyman and Mike O’Hara take a look at the biggest positions of need for the Lions and offer their top three free agent choices for each.

SAFETY

Glover Quin

Mike's three players who fit: 1. Dashon Goldson, 49ers; 2. Louis Delmas, Lions; 3. Glover Quin, Texans.

Why: Goldson’s an obvious choice, with nine picks and Pro Bowl appearances the last two years. Odds are he’ll never leave San Francisco. Delmas fits the Lions’ secondary. His only issue is getting healthy and staying healthy. Quin is an ascending young player and a four-year starter.

Tim's three players who fit: 1. Glover Quin, Texans; 2. Dashon Goldson, 49ers; 3. Louis Delmas, Lions

Why: Quin is the cover safety the Lions have lacked.  He’s a player who can man up in the slot and cover some of the league’s best tight ends and take away the deep portion of the field. Let’s not forget the Lions gave up 13 pass plays of 40-plus yards last year. It’s hard to imagine Goldson ending up anywhere outside of San Francisco. Delmas is homegrown and the Lions love what he brings to the table – when healthy. He is a medical risk.

CORNERBACK

Mike's three players who fit: 1. Chris Houston, Lions; 2. Aqib Talib, Patriots; 3. Sean Smith, Dolphins

Why: The Lions know what they have in Houston and want him back, so just get it done. Talib is the most talented free agent cornerback on the market and is likely to remain with New England. Smith, a second-round pick out of Utah in 2009, has the size (6-3, 218) that the Lions have lacked on the corner. His performance level didn't match the talent the Dolphins saw when they drafted him, and his asking price might be too rich for the Lions. But a big corner is an asset.

Tim's three players who fit: 1. Chris Houston, Lions; 2. Sean Smith, Dolphins; 3. Cary Williams, Ravens

Why: Houston has gotten better every year he’s been here and he became a legitimate No. 1 corner in their scheme in 2012. Smith, 25, is big (6-3, 218) and the Lions would love to get their hands on him, but he’s going to be expensive. Williams is durable, starting all 32 regular season games the last two seasons, and has good size (6-1, 190) and production (75 tackles, four interceptions and 17 passes defended in 2012). He fits what they’re looking for.

DEFENSIVE END

Mike's three players who fit: 1. Cliff Avril, Lions; 2. Michael Bennett, Bucs; 3. Osi Umenyiora, Giants.

Why: Avril has given the Lions five solid seasons on the left side. There’s no reason he can’t add five more. Bennett’s game has risen steadily, to a peak of nine sacks in 2012. Umenyiora’s pass-rush skills can help for a year or two, the way Kyle Vanden Bosch did.

Tim's three players who fit: 1. Michael Bennett, Bucs; 2. Paul Kruger; Ravens; 3. Connor Barwin, Texans

Why: Why no Cliff Avril? I think he’s as good as gone on the open market, so let’s start thinking Plan B. Bennett is an ascending player, who in his first full season as a starter in 2012, registered 41 tackles, nine sacks and three forced fumbles. Kruger started only six games but still had team-high nine sacks. Barwin is only one year removed from an 11.5-sack season

INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINE

Mike's three players who fit: 1. G Andy LeVitre, Bills; 2. G Ramon Foster, Steelers; 3. G Matt Slauson, Jets

Why: LeVitre’s the best young interior lineman in this year’s free-agent class. Foster made the Steelers as an undrafted rookie and has been a full-time starter the last two years. I added Slauson because he’s one of the guys who ripped Ndamukong Suh a couple years ago. Suh and Slauson were teammates at Nebraska. I want to see them practice against each other in training camp.

Tim's three players who fit: 1. G Andy LeVitre, Bills; 2. G Louis Vasques, Chargers; 3. G Brandon Moore, Jets

Why: LeVitre is the top guard available on the market and has been extremely durable, starting every game for the Bills his first four seasons in the league. There's a minor injury history with Vasquez, but he appeared in all 16 games in 2012 and the 25-year-old has 54 starts under his belt. Moore would be more of a stopgap at age 32, but he’s started every game over the last eight years for the Jets.

Reggie Bush

RUNNING BACK

Mike's three players who fit: 1. Reggie Bush, Dolphins; 2. Steven Jackson, Rams; 3. Felix Jones, Cowboys

Why: Bush has always played a defined role – make plays in space – and he can do it for the Lions. He doesn’t carry the load like Jackson does. He’s an every-down back, and he’s still productive after nine seasons. Jones flashed speed in spots for Dallas and could do the same as a lower-profile player. Just don’t set expectations too high.

Tim's three players who fit: 1. Reggie Bush, Dolphins; 2. Justin Forsett, Texans; 3. Felix Jones, Cowboys

Why: Bush is explosive in space and creates matchup problems in the passing game, which is exactly what the Lions are looking for. Forsett has speed and a career 4.9 average as a change-of-pace back. He had 41 receptions in 2009 with the Seahawks. I like Jones if it’s the Jones of 2012 when he rushed for 800 yards and added 48 receptions for another 450 yards.

RECEIVER

Mike's three players who fit: 1. Danny Amendola, Rams; 2. Ted Ginn, 49ers; 3. Greg Jennings, Packers.

Why: First the disclaimer. I’m not sure any of these three are realistic for the Lions. Amendola has an injury history and wants a big contract. He’s also a slot receiver, which shouldn’t be a priority for the Lions. Jennings has been a Pro Bowl player in Green Bay, and it will be hard to fit his demands into the salary scale. Ginn’s shown more big-play capability in returns than as a receiver. He could compete for the No. 4 spot and improve the return game.

Tim's three players who fit: 1. Greg Jennings, Packers; 2. Brandon Gibson, Rams; 3. Domenik Hixon, Giants

Why: Obviously, Mike Wallace and Greg Jennings would fit the bill, but I don’t see the Lions being that big of players at the position. Gibson had a terrific 2012 season with 51 catches for 691 yards and five touchdowns. Hixon has good size (6-2) but a history of injuries.

KICKER

Mike's three players who fit: 1. Jason Hanson, Lions; 2. Steven Hauschka, Seahawks; 3. David Akers, 49ers

Why: Hanson’s my first pick because of accuracy on field goals. If kickoff distance is an issue, find a punter to do it. Hauschka once was in camp with the Lions. He made 24 of 27 field-goal attempts last year and had 36 touchbacks. Akers had 40 touchbacks. Hauschka and Akers both kicked outdoors.

Tim's three players who fit: 1. Jason Hanson, Lions; 2. Phil Dawson, Browns 3. Steven Hauschka, Seahawks

Why: If Hanson decides he wants to go for round 22 and he still has some pop left in his leg, the Lions are listening. Dawson, 38, connected on 29 of 31 (93.5 percent) of his field goal attempts last season with a long of 53 yards. Hauschka has a big leg and was 24 of 27 on his field goal attempts last year.

PUNTER

Mike's three players who fit: 1. Donnie Jones, Texans; 2. Brian Moorman, Cowboys; 3. Any punter who can boom kickoffs out of the end zone

Why: Jones had a 47.2-yard net average last year with 28 punts inside the 20. Moorman is 37, but he averaged 44.6 yards in his first season with the Cowboys. A punter who handles kickoffs keeps Hanson on the roster for sure.

Tim's three players who fit: 1. Donnie Jones, Texans; 2. Shane Lechler, Oakland; 3. Kevin Huber, Bengals

Why: The Lions signed Blake Clingan last week, but I’d still expect there to be some competition in camp. Jones had a 47.4 net average last season with 28 inside 20. Lechler also had a 47.2-yard average, with nine touchbacks and 21 downed inside the 20 last year. Only 35.5 percent of Huber’s kicks were returned, which is just short of the best players in the league in that area. His net of 42 yards per punt placed him sixth in the league last year.

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