Did the Detroit Lions win or lose in the initial burst of free agent signings?

Posted Mar 16, 2013

Tim Twentyman and Mike O'Hara take a look at who the Lions have signed via free agency and how that will impact this year's draft

The first burst of free agent signings is over, and there are winners and losers in the NFL. In which category should we put the Lions?

Mike: They won more than they lost, so that makes them winners. Signing Reggie Bush was the big prize, and adding safety Glover Quin added a key player to the secondary. Jason Jones will be a solid defensive end.

Free agency also has to be rated on how many core players are retained, and the Lions signed back defensive starters DeAndre Levy, Chris Houston and, most recently, Louis Delmas. But they also lost Cliff Avril, their best pass-rusher, and Sammie Hill, a solid backup defensive tackle.

For what they added and subtracted, I’d rate the Lions as winners, especially signing Bush. It was no secret that they were going to target him, and they scored a bullseye.

Tim: Free agency is supposed to fill needs and the Lions were 4-for-4 in that regard. That makes them winners, in my opinion.

  • They needed a running back with speed and receiving ability – check
  • Mayhew and Co. were on the lookout for a safety with cover skills – check
  • The defense needed an edge rusher to help fill the place of Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril – check
  • Bringing back key pieces of their own secondary - Chris Houston and Louis Delmas - a priority among their own free agents – check

The Lions targeted players and got their men.

What do you see as the biggest impact Reggie Bush will have on the offense?

Mike: You mean besides jersey sales?

He can make yards on his own. Any competent back should get five yards out of a play that’s set up to get five yards. Turning that same play into a gain of 10 or 15 yards – or even the threat of doing that – is a dimension Bush brings to the offense.

It sounds strange to say that Bush can help Calvin Johnson, who had 122 catches last season and set a one-season record with 1,964 receiving yards. But it’s true. Bush either will take some of the coverage off Calvin, or he’ll take advantage of the attention Calvin gets to make plays on his own.

Now, are you rushing out to buy a Bush jersey?

Tim: I’m not a jersey kind of guy, but I bet we see a whole lot of No. 21s at Ford Field next year.

I agree with the impact on Johnson, let’s not forget Megatron had nine touchdowns in the first six games of 2011 when he played with Jahvid Best.

I think he’ll also have a big impact on tight end Brandon Pettigrew and receivers Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles, as well. All three might find more space to operate in the middle.

What does Wednesday's haul mean for the Draft?

Mike: It shouldn’t change what they do with the first pick. Drafting fifth overall provides a chance to add a blue-chip player, and the blue chips in this draft are offensive tackles, pass-rushers and one cornerback, Dee Milliner of Alabama.

The free agent signings and player that were re-signed don’t make an impact on the first pick. A pass-rusher and cornerback are still areas of need, and an offensive tackle would be a solid, safe choice if either Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher is on the board.

In my first mock draft two weeks ago – a Mock 5, making the first five picks – I had the Lions drafting a pass-rusher.

I haven’t changed my mind on the position, but I am on the player. Based on what I’ve heard and read in the last couple of weeks, Barkevious Mingo of LSU looks like a better, more dynamic, choice than Dion Jordan of Oregon.

Glover QuinTim: I think you’re right about the No. 5 pick; Wednesday doesn’t change much there and the prevailing thought is that the Lions will grab the top defensive playmaker on the board – rusher, linebacker or cornerback – unless one of the two top offensive tackle is there.

Signing Bush, Quin, Houston and Jones might affect the later rounds. No longer do the Lions have to get a speed rusher in the middle-to-late rounds of the draft. They can focus more on building their depth and talent on the defensive side of the ball, which they still needs more of both.

Final thought, of the Lions' own free agents who have yet to sign, who should be the biggest target to re-up?

Mike: I’d say linebacker Justin Durant, but the way the Lions have set up their offseason, it looks like they’ve already moved Ashlee Palmer into his spot.

The defense is thin at end, which makes Lawrence Jackson’s return a priority among those still looking for jobs.

Tim: As I see it right now, the Lions are an edge rusher or two short heading into 2013. They’ll no doubt pick one up in the draft, but it might not be a bad move to re-up with a player like Lawrence Jackson on the cheap and see what he can do under a little extra tutelage from veteran defensive line coach Jim Washburn.