10 QUESTIONS WITH TWENTYMAN: How might the Lions address their needs?

Posted Feb 28, 2014

Senior writer Tim Twentyman answers questions from his Twitter (@ttwentyman) account on free agency, the draft, Ndamukong Suh and more

From time to time this offseason I plan to answer 10 good questions I receive through my Twitter account @ttwentyman in a feature we call "10 Questions with Twentyman."

Likely targets on the free agent market? Phillip Jackson (@PhilWOTG)

20man: The Lions had their free agent meetings in Allen Park before they left for the NFL Scouting Combine. Free agency begins March 11.

It’s no secret they’re looking for help at receiver, safety and cornerback. The Lions will keep their targets close to the vest, but a few of the names I think could potentially fit are receivers Emmanuel Sanders (Pittsburgh) and Jacoby Jones (Baltimore); safeties Chris Clemons (Miami), Malcolm Jenkins (New Orleans) and James Ihedigbo (Baltimore); and cornerbacks Sam Shields (Green Bay) and Corey Graham (Baltimore).

If you had to choose one player for the Lions in the draft, and one in FA, who would they be? Eric Theisen (@eric_theisen)

Sammy WatkinsWR Sammy Watkins (Photo: AP Images)

20man: I’ve made no secrets about the fact that I really like Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins. He’s a player who can stand alone opposite Calvin Johnson, play the slot on third down and even line up in the backfield and do some other things.

The Lions have to find help at receiver and I’d still take Watkins even if they sign a veteran in free agency over the next couple months.

As far as free agency is concerned, getting a young, veteran cornerback or safety could benefit Teryl Austin’s defense immediately.

If money isn't an option then I'd think players like Buffalo safety Jarius Byrd or Tennessee cornerback Alterraun Verner would be ideal fits. But they’ll have a big price tags attached to them if they get to the open market and I’m not sure the Lions will be players in the top-tier market.

Hey Tim is this Suh situation gonna handcuff management as far as going after other players? T-Mic (@Suhrender90)

20man: It would certainly help the Lions pursue free agents, potentially a top-tier free agent, if they can get Ndamukong Suh’s cap number down from $22.4 million to somewhere in the $10-$12 million range, maybe even lower with some crafty cap maneuvering.

The Lions are expecting to get a deal done with Suh, but have a plan either way.

“If it doesn’t get done we’re fine with that,” general manager Martin Mayhew said at the Combine. “We can create some space and we can get some room right now. The cap went up. It won’t be a setback or a cap crunch if we don’t get something done with him in the near future. But I anticipate something getting done.”

The Lions have about $10 million in cap space right now with room to grow.

Do you see the lions restructuring Suh's deal within the next week before free agency starts? Corey Morawa (@cmorawa5)

20man: Suh still hasn’t decided on an agent, the last I heard. At this point it would seem unlikely that a deal could get done before March 11.

If both sides are willing to get a deal done, it could potentially get done, but I’d expect free agency to start before a new deal is in place for Suh.

How many holes do you think the Lions will be able to fill via Free Agency? Zach Rekowski (@LaxBro77)

20man: I expect the Lions to get help at the receiver position and in the secondary via free agency.

I’d also expect for them to further bolster both units in the draft, too.

The Lions addressed three very big needs on the first day of free agency last year with the signings of Reggie Bush, Glover Quin and Jason Jones for less than $6 million in cap space in the first year of all three deals. Add Chris Houston’s extension to that and the total was about $8 million for all four deals.

The Lions can fill holes and they can do it economically.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Friday that the cap will be a record-high $133 million this upcoming season and could increase to as much as $140 million in 2015 and $150 million in 2016.

That will help every team down the line.

What happens this year if Stafford doesn't progress? Daniel Gowell (@mastershake1983)

20man: I honestly don’t see that scenario even being in the cards, Daniel.

The Lions are going to completely reshape their receiving corps to give Stafford and Johnson the help they need.

I also think Stafford will really benefit from the coaching he’s going to receive from Jim Caldwell, Joe Lombardi and Jim Bob Cooter. All three coaches have extensive experience working with the quarterback position. Peyton Manning and Drew Brees both raved about Caldwell and Lombardi, respectively, and Cooter came highly recommended.

A lot of the early moves this offseason were about No. 9 and he should see the benefit of all of them.

Is Brandon Pettigrew really a priority? Sure, he fits the role Lombardi wants. But shouldn't we use that cap room for DBs or WRs? Jack LaBelle (@Ja_LaBelle)

20man: Fans seem to have a love/hate relationship with Pettigrew. I get it, he’s had issues with drops in the past, but I thought he finished the final 12 games of the season very strong this past year.

Pettigrew is one of those players who some fans won’t truly appreciate until he’s gone. He brings a lot to the table. He does a lot of the grunt work that makes plays successful. He’s also been a security blanket for Stafford in the middle of the field.

The Lions missed Pettigrew’s run-blocking and pass-catching skills in a 14-13 loss in Minnesota Week 17.

I’m of the opinion that Pettigrew is an asset, not a liability. The team should in the business of hanging on to assets and they've said they want Pettigrew back.

If all players were equal in the draft, which positions would you address in the first 4 rounds, in order of need. Ryan Stone (@ryanstone050)

20man: Teams will tell you that drafting for need and not trusting the talent on the board is the biggest way to misfire on a draft.

But in your scenario, with all players being equal, I’d address the first four rounds by need in this order: receiver, safety, linebacker, corner.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or CB – Dennard/Gilbert? Chad Kozumplik (@Chad_Kozumplik9)

20man: I’ve said all along I’m not big on drafting cornerbacks high unless they are graded out like Patrick Peterson was in 2011. Gilbert is not at that level.

Ha Ha Clinton-DixS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Photo: AP Images)

There is usually a tough adjustment period for cornerbacks when they jump to the NFL. The speed of the game is so different from the college level. Offensive passing schemes are so complicated.

The Lions insist they’re ready to win now and I’m not sure a cornerback comes in and helps right away unless he’s a special talent.

The safety position is a little different, in my opinion. The last five safeties taken in the first round all started immediately as rookies and contributed.

Coming from Alabama, and the pro-style scheme they play under Nick Saban, Clinton-Dix would have the best chance to come in and make a bigger impact.

Do you think a real top notch LB at No. 10 would lessen the need for another CB? Donn Makedonsky (@Dmakedons)

20man: There’s nothing that ever lessens the need for good cornerback play.

Also consider the injury rate at the cornerback position, which is typically the highest of any position in the NFL.

But you are onto something when you’re talking about linebacker the No. 10 pick, Donn. If a player like Khalil Mack somehow falls to the Lions at No. 10 it might be hard for them to pass on him. He can do so much for an aggressive defense Austin wants to run here.

I’m not sure how they’ve graded Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley, but he could potentially be in the mix there, too. It’s a position the Lions do want to upgrade and add depth.