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Twentyman and O'Hara look at who Detroit Lions should target in free agency

Posted Feb 13, 2013

Reggie Bush is getting a lot of mention as a top candidate for the Detroit Lions. Peter King of Sports Illustrated and Willie McGinest of the NFL Network both say Bush would be a perfect fit for the Lions

The Combine starts next week, with all the top college prospects in Indianapolis, but free agency is a big topic.

Reggie Bush is getting a lot of mention as a top candidate for the Detroit Lions. Peter King of Sports Illustrated and Willie McGinest of the NFL Network both say Bush would be a perfect fit for the Lions.

How does that play with you, Mike?

Mike: I like Bush as an upgrade at running back, but the issue is value – how much money should the Lions pay for Bush’s production. After more research, it’s surprising how the perception of Bush’s production exceeds the reality.

You think of Bush as a third-down back, with impact as a receiver out of the backfield. But in the last two seasons in Miami, he has 78 catches in 31 games. That’s 2.5 catches per game. How much impact is that?

It’s easy to say he should get more chances with the Lions because of Calvin Johnson’s presence, but that logic can be turned around. Playing without an elite receiver in Miami should have meant more catches for a back.

I like Bush, but at something like $3 million a year, not the $6-million range.

Tim: The Lions need a big-play threat in the run game and a player who take a short pass and turn it into a big play on his own. That was the part of the offense that was significantly missing without Jahvid Best last year.

Reggie Bush has proven over the years he can excel in that role. He's at his best when he doesn't have to carry the load by himself but be more of a change-of-pace back.

The problem with Bush in that role, though, is that you can’t pay a running back $5-$6 million if he’s not an every-down player. He rushed for more than 2,000 yards over the last two seasons but do you see him as a three-down back with Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell also in the mix?

Bush fits the mold of what the Lions are looking for, but it will have to be for the right price.

Can the Lions find a player with a similar skill set in the draft, and thus be a much cheaper option? I think they can. We’ve seen time and time again late-round draft picks at running back come into this league and make an impact.

If I’m the Lions, I’m looking quality in free agency and I’d rather have two good players at $3 million apiece than one good player at $6 million. I only like Bush if it makes sense financially.

Ndamukong SuhIt’s well-documented the Lions have about $50 million in cap space taken up by Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh. Suh has two years remaining on his contract. Is he a player the Lions should consider trading to alleviate a big chunk of cap space?

Mike: It’s something that has to be given serious consideration, but not this year. Next year is the time to actively pursue a deal for Suh. He has two years left on his contract, with a salary-cap hit of $18.1 million this year.

All signs indicate that it will be tougher for the Lions to re-sign Suh to a long-term deal than it was to get a new deal for Johnson or than it will be for Stafford. Next year, when Suh is going into his last season, is the time to strike a deal.

Suh is a very good player, and very good players have value. In 2009, the Patriots traded defensive lineman Richard Seymour to the Raiders for a first-round pick. Seymour was going into his ninth season when the deal was made. Suh will be starting his fifth next year.

Some players and positions should be untouchable. Should a defensive tackle be one of them?

Tim: As it stands right now, Suh will count around $18 million toward the cap in 2013 and $17.5 million the year after. There could be some significant cap savings of about $12 million in each of the next two years by trading Suh, but I wouldn’t entertain the thought just yet if I’m the Lions.

That’s more a conversation for next offseason.

Suh is a Pro Bowl-caliber player and I want to see how his game can evolve under veteran defensive line coach Jim Washburn, whom the team hired last month.

The thing about Suh is that defenses have to account for him. He impacts a game. The Lions need more impact players and playmakers on that side of the ball.

I’d look to restructure Suh this offseason in the hopes of alleviating some of that cap pressure while still keeping an impact player on the roster.

Getting back to the combine for a moment, which groups of players are you most excited to see work out and talk to?

Mike: Start with whom I don’t care about. This is one year where the quarterbacks might as well not show up as far as I’m concerned. There are no stars like last year’s dynamic duo of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.

I want to see all the pass-rushers – defensive ends and outside linebackers – defensive backs and any running back with speed who figures to be a mid-round prospect.

And I want to see Denard Robinson run the 40-yard dash. Ever since he said he could beat Usain Bolt in the 40-yard dash, I’ve wanted to see if he can run under 4.3 seconds. I doubt that he’ll get close to that.

What about you?

Tim: I’ll start with the pass rushers. There is some top-end talent at defensive end in this year’s draft and the Lions just so happen to be in the need for a playmaker on the edge.

The interesting thing with this group of defensive ends is that all the top-rated players seem to fit exactly what the Lions like in a pass rusher. They’re undersized speed rushers with a lot of versatility.

I have to say I might go check out Ezekiel Ansah’s 40-time in person. The BYU product is 6-foot-5, 274 pounds and ran the 100-meter dash in college in 10.9 seconds and the 200-meter dash in under 22 seconds. He could shoot right up to the top of the group with a great workout.

I’ll also have an eye on the secondary players. Corner and safety is also a priority for the Lions. How good is Alabama’s Dee Milliner, really?

Lastly, the crop of speed backs. The Lions are on the lookout for a back with some "juice" as Martin Mayhew explained it. Running backs with a 40-time of 4.5 and above need not apply.

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