TIM AND MIKE: A look at the first two days of free agency

Posted Mar 14, 2014

Senior writer Tim Twentyman and columnist Mike O'Hara discuss the Golden Tate signing and what else the Lions need in free agency

The Lions didn’t start free-agency this year with the same drama as last year, when they signed Reggie Bush, Glover Quin and Jason Jones on the first day, but they filled one critical need by signing wide receiver Golden Tate of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.

Golden TateWR Golden Tate (Photo: Detroit Lions)

Tate got a good contract – five years for $31 million – it was dwarfed by some of the big deals that predictably went to offensive tackles and defensive backs.

Adding a receiver was critical, but there is more work ahead. What are the key issues facing the Lions in strengthening the roster, and how much can help can the Lions expect to get from Tate?

Mike: One player isn’t going to turn around an offense unless it’s a quarterback, the way Drew Brees did for New Orleans when he signed as a free agent in 2006.

Tate is an important addition because he’s a young veteran, with big-game experience, and he catches the ball. He ranks near the top of the league for fewest dropped passes, and he gets yards after the catch.

I’m not sure how much attention Tate’s presence will take away from Calvin Johnson. If you’re a defensive coordinator and have to decide which receiver to double, Johnson or Tate, you’re going to choose Johnson every time. The important thing is for Tate to take advantage of the opportunities he gets.

We might differ on this, but signing Tate shouldn’t mean the Lions forget about drafting a receiver with their first pick on May 8. Disagree?

Tim: I liked the part when you said Tate catches the ball.

You and I are in complete agreement on this one, Mike. Signing Tate does not mean receiver is out of the question in the first round in May.

I’ve said this entire offseason the Lions need to get at least two receivers to help Johnson and quarterback Matthew Stafford.

The nice thing about signing Tate is that he’s versatile. He’s played mostly on the outside, and is probable a little better there, but he can play inside in the slot, too.

Signing a player like Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans at No. 10 would give the Lions a terrific three-man trio at receiver. It would be a pretty forminable unit and still allow the Lions to be dangerous if Johnson misses time.

A lot of what the Lions have done this offseason with the coaching staff and signing Tate has been geared toward making Stafford better and giving him more weapons.

I personally am not a big fan of selecting a cornerback at No. 10. Maybe a safety, but to me, it really comes down to the best player that might be there and in this draft, at that spot, it could just be a receiver or one of the three talented linebackers.

Are you with me?

Mike: We might not be walking side by side on this one, but we’re close enough. The receiver I feel most comfortable with is Sammy Watkins. If the Lions can get him at No. 10, or trade up without giving up too much in this year’s draft, then it’s a kneel-down (football’s version of the slam dunk). Do it, and don’t think a second.

I’m not sold on the cornerbacks – Justin Gilbert or Darqueze Dennard – at No. 10. It looks like higher quality defenders are there. C.J. Mosley, the middle linebacker from Alabama, is an intriguing prospect. Khalil Mack would be a great pick, but he should be long gone.

The dream scenario is that free-agency changes draft plans for enough teams that Watkins is on the board for the Lions. The next best scenario is to draft for defense – linebacker or cornerback – and find a way to take wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. of LSU with the next pick. That might be the second round, or trading back up into the first.

Sammy WatkinsWR Sammy Watkins (Photo: AP Images)

Tim: We can at least both agree then the Lions aren't done finding receiver help.

I’m not expecting anymore huge signings in free agency on the level of Tate. Veteran safety James Ihedigbo visited the Lions on Thursday and said he’d like to sign with the Lions after talking it over with his family. He’d head into the season as the starter opposite Glover Quin, but he’d probably be the last starting-caliber signing in free agency.

The team will add some pass rushing help and possibly a fullback, but the next big impact will be via the draft.

This is the best draft class teams have seen in a decade, maybe more, the Lions should enter it hoping to get at least three starters and maybe four.

Mike: There’s as much interest now in seeing where some of the Lions’ free agents land as there is who signs in Detroit. Willie Young signed with the Bears on Thursday. The Lions got more than they could expect from a seventh-round pick.

Brandon Pettigrew is making the rounds. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he comes back on a contract structured in a way that lets him prove to the coaching staff that he fits their offense.

Shaun Hill and Rashean Mathis are others with uncertain futures.

As of this moment – Thursday afternoon – free-agency is two days old. It seems like two weeks.

Tim: It has been a long few days. I’m not sure why it seems longer than last year when Bush, Quin and Jones signed in a flurry and then we had Chris Houston extended right after. Maybe it was the buildup to this year. The mystery that surrounded it. Last year we knew the targets.

Pettigrew is an interesting one to watch. Will he get Dennis Pitta money (5 years, $32 million) or will a team – potentially the Lions – get him at a bargain?