Schwartz Pleased with Free Agent Acquisitions

Posted Mar 12, 2010

When free agency officially kicked off on March 5, Head Coach Jim Schwartz and staff didn’t waste any time making key acquisitions to strengthen the roster for 2010.

Whether it was via trade, in the case of defensive tackle Corey Williams, or signing free agents like defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch and wide receiver Nate Burleson, the Lions made it clear that they were going to get what they wanted from the get go.

“I think as the season went on and we got closer to this offseason and closer to understanding the roles from a free agent standpoint, we realized this was going to be a challenge in acquiring new players,” said Schwartz.

“I think looking back from that point to right now I’m very, very pleased to have been able to add some of the players that we’ve added. We still have more work to do and there’s still going to be more work as we go forward before the draft, but this was a challenging environment.”

Because Schwartz had previous coaching experience with Vanden Bosch in Tennesse and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan spent time with Burleson in Minnesota, there was a level of familiarity.
But that factor was not the basis of their decision making.

“This wasn’t a situation where it was bringing in one person that we’ve had experience with,” said Schwartz. “It was identifying players that fit our scheme, that we had consensus on and then aggressively (pursuing) those players. I think we were very strong in what we did and whether they work out or not still remains to be seen, but it wasn’t a process of one person pulling the trigger.”

From the start of free agency up to this point, finding players to fill very specific roles and fit the scheme in place has been the primary focus for Schwartz.

And with the defense, specifically the defensive line, being an area of need, acquiring Williams and Vanden Bosch to anchor the front four was a step in the right direction.

“When I was sitting in the kitchen with Vanden Bosch I had a lot of things to help make his decision a little bit easier,” said Schwartz.

“Probably the best thing I had was Corey Williams. When I mentioned, ‘Hey look, we’ve completed a trade for Corey Williams,’ his eyes lit up because it’s not just about one person rushing. It’s getting four of them going. It’s everybody filling a role and everybody doing a good job. It’s not just Corey, it’s not just Kyle, it’s not just Cliff Avril – or any other player. It’s the combination of all of them.”

Now with the NFL Draft only weeks away, Schwartz is continuing his process of building the Lions for the future through drafting young talent.

With defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy being heralded as being two of the best available in this year’s draft, Schwartz says that there is still plenty of work to be done in preparation.

“We still have a long way to go,” said Schwartz. “We’re not shutting down operations right now and saying, ‘We’re good until the draft.’ There’s still a lot of work.

“The draft starts in May of the previous year with area scouts and people working on junior evaluations. It continues all the way up until we have the final draft board and we get ready to pick them. We’re comfortable with where we are now, but where we are now doesn’t stand alone. We’re still going to add to all of that and we still have a lot of work to do.”

Last season several of Detroit’s young offensive players went down with season ending injuries, including tight end Brandon Pettigrew, running back Kevin Smith and quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Both Smith and Pettigrew are enduring the most lengthy rehab process, dealing with a torn ACL.

Smith, who spent most of last season playing through shoulder injuries, led the team with 774 rushing yards prior to sustaining a season-ending knee injury at Baltimore on December 13.

“He’s in the middle of a long rehab – that’s exactly where he is,” said Schwartz. “Whether he’s ready in June, July, August or September, it’s way too early to tell that. Kevin is a really hard working guy; he’s got a really good attitude. He’s been rehabbing well, but he’s in the middle of a very, very long rehab and it’s not something that you chart on a daily basis.”

Stafford, who suffered both knee and shoulder injuries during his rookie year, has been rehabbing well and will be ready to get back to work on March 15, which is the first day of the Lions’ offseason program.

“He’s ready to go,” said Schwartz.”There are probably some things that he’ll maybe take a little bit slower, just to push through, but I don’t think he’s going to have a whole lot of restrictions.

“He’s had some rehab time where he hasn’t been able to do as much maybe as other players. There’s nothing he can’t do, it’s just a matter of getting him back up to speed and getting him back in the shape he needs to be in.”