Change is on the horizon for the Detroit Lions, and that's probably a good thing following one of the most disappointing seasons in recent memory.
The Lions sputtered their way to a 4-12 season, losing their last eight games along the way. That's coming off the heels of a 10-win season and a playoff berth in 2011.
"Something needs to change but I don't think there's any blowing the team up and starting over," kicker
Hanson is right; the Lions have a nice core with quarterback
The No. 1 task for Lions general manager Martin Mayhew and Co. is to surround those players with better complimentary parts.
"I assume, not being an executive upstairs, that there's going to be some significant changes," Hanson said. "We have some core guys but everyone in the organization is going to be evaluated by whoever does that because it wasn't right and it wasn't good and it's not acceptable."
There will be a lot of evaluating going on. In fact, 22 players in all are unrestricted free agents. Three more are restricted. In all, that totals nine starters (eight on defense and one on offense).
"It's going to be a challenge, but it's no different than last year," Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said. "Last year was challenge also. We had to let a couple guys go. We weren't able to get any free agents (because of the salary cap). We know what's ahead of us. We know that we're going to have to work very hard. We can do it."
It's safe to say that the Lions team that storms out of the tunnel to start the 2013 season is going to look a lot different than the dejected one that walked up that tunnel for the last time Sunday afternoon.
"Everyone better be nervous because it can't be like this," Hanson said.
Stafford is signed through 2014 with an option for 2015, but the big hurdle for the Lions next year will be dealing with his $21-plus million salary cap number. Could a long-term extension be in the cards this offseason to lower that number a bit? Stafford has already shown he's willing to restructure his deal (did so in 2011 and 2012) to give the team some relief.
The offense was missing a speed element to their backfield to compliment
It's really as simple as that for the Lions receiving corps. The team lost slot receivers
Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said there's still a window that Young could come back and play for the team, but that will be an offseason process. If Young does not return, the Lions will need to find themselves an outside threat to pair opposite Johnson in the draft or in free agency.
Burleson, Broyles and
Third tight end
This is where it might get interesting this offseason.
It's not out of the realm of possibility the Lions could have four new starters along the offensive line next year.
The Lions will eventually have to make decisions on what to do with
One league talent evaluator told me he thinks Reiff has the perfect body-type to be a very good center, but the Lions have said publically that center is the one position he won't play along the line.
The Lions need to improve the interior of their offensive line and also find their center of the future.
The Lions are set with Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley at tackle. They'll have to make a decision on veteran
The team should also try to work out a deal with unrestricted free agent backup
At defensive end, the Lions have a number of key decisions to make.
The team also has to make a decision on veteran
The Lions need to upgrade the position, especially if they lose Avril, which makes that No. 5 pick a nice candidate to get a terrific young rusher.
Both starting outside linebackers
Durant said Monday that he likes the defensive scheme and thinks it fits his game well. He led the team with 82 solo tackles.
He's been a free agent before and knows the realities of that designation and how every option has to remain on the table, though.
Levy was a third-round pick of the Lions back in 2009 and will only be 26 years old this offseason.
Houston established himself as the best cornerback in the group for the Lions and there will be a market for him. The Lions need to make a significant pitch to keep Houston with the uncertainty of rookie
Delmas is a difference maker for the Lions when he's healthy, but that's been the main issue for the last year and a half. Delmas missed five games last year because of right knee troubles and missed eight games this season with a left knee injury. Delmas said that rest is the best medicine for his current ailment, but the Lions will have to make sure he checks out medically before extending any kind of long-term deal to their 2009 second-round pick.
Kicker Jason Hanson, at age 42, missed only four field goals all season. The guy is simply a machine. The unrestricted free agent says he'll decide his future after taking a break following the season, but doesn't want to play anywhere other than Detroit. The Lions could potentially ask that he play for on a one-year deal for the veteran minimum if they want him back (which they should), and he said this week he wouldn't be opposed to that at his age.
Unrestricted free agents (22)
DE Cliff Avril
T Gosder Cherilus
S Louis Delmas
LB Justin Durant
CB Drayton Florence
DE Dylan Gandy
K Jason Hanson
P Nick Harris
TE Will Heller
DT Sammie Hill
T Corey Hilliard
CB Chris Houston
DE Lawrence Jackson
CB Jacob Lacey
CB Pat Lee
LB DeAndre Levy
KR Stefan Logan
LS Don Muhlbach
RB Kevin Smith
DT Corey Williams
Restricted free agents (3)
T Jason Fox
S Amari Spievey
DE Willie Young
Exclusive rights free agents (5)
RB Joique Bell
WR Kris Durham