General manager Martin Mayhew and his staff have identified nine of the Lions’ 23 unrestricted free agents as players they’re aggressively pursuing to return in 2013. Free agency is a way to fill in some of the remaining gaps and add depth and talent to a roster aiming for a turnaround from a disappointing 4-12 campaign in 2012.
Over the next week, Detroitlions.com will take a look at positions of need for the Lions and who is available in free agency that might offer some help.
Who’s out there: Sean Smith, Brent Grimes, Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, Aqib Talib, Keenan Lewis, Cary Williams, Derek Cox, Bradley Fletcher, Greg Toler, Antoine Cason, E.J. Biggers, Dunta Robinson, Adam Jones, Mike Jenkins, Charles Woodson
Analysis: I still believe safety is a bigger concern for the Lions secondary right now, but I could be swayed from that belief if they lose Chris Houston in free agency.
Retaining Houston will be a focus for the Lions.
We haven’t seen enough from Bentley and especially Greenwood to say with any certainty how big of a need cornerback is.
The Lions are trying to get bigger and more durable in their secondary and they’ll certainly be able to do that with this free agent class. It's filled with a lot of size and young, proven players.
Smith, 25, is big (6-3, 218) and a cornerback who'd be ideal in the Lions scheme. Unfortunately, he’ll probably command upwards of $8 million per season on the open market. The way this league is valuing big corners, Smith might set the market.
Grimes and Talib could come cheaper than their talent might indicate because of extra baggage both will be carrying into free agency. Grimes is coming of an Achilles injury and Talib has been followed by character and on-the-field effort concerns for years.
A player who fits a lot of what the Lions would like their secondary to become is Williams. He’s been durable, starting all 32 regular season games the last two seasons. He has good size at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds and was very productive in 2012 with 75 tackles, four interceptions and 17 passes defended.
Like Williams, Cox has good size (6-1, 195), but has struggled with injuries in the past. He showed great production in just 12 games last year with 60 tackles, four interceptions and 11 passes defended.
Keenan Lewis was only a starter one year in Pittsburgh, but also has good size (6-0, 208) and played well starting 16 games for the Steelers in 2012.
Another name that seems like a fit for the Lions is Cason (6-1, 195). New management and a new coaching staff in San Diego might want to go in a different direction.