Don't expect early free agent frenzy we saw from Lions last year

Posted Mar 11, 2014

The Lions have more cap space entering free agency than they did last year, but this isn't as strong of a free agent class and the draft is the deepest it's been in recent memory

Last year, the Detroit Lions made an early splash in free agency signing running back Reggie Bush, safety Glover Quin and defensive end Jason Jones, who all turned into Week 1 starters.

Don’t expect the same kind of early haul when free agency officially opens for business at 4 p.m. today, however.

Reggie BushRB Reggie Bush (Photo: Gavin Smith)

That’s not to say the Lions won’t find help in free agency – likely a receiver and either a safety or cornerback – but teams usually overpay in free agency and there isn’t the same level of excitement built up to the first day of free agency in Detroit as there was last year.

“Fans want you to go out and play fantasy football now, but that’s the last thing you should be doing because that money, if you miss, is gone and never comes back,” Former Indianapolis Colts and current ESPN analyst Bill Polian said in a conference call last week. “So I highly endorse that (patient) approach.”

A year ago the Lions were linked to Bush and Quin for weeks leading into free agency. Lions players even openly recruiting them via Twitter and other social media platforms.

There just hasn’t been that kind of buzz this year. The biggest commotion this week is Quin following free agent safety T.J. Ward on Twitter.

Bush, Quin and Jones made sense for the holes the Lions had last year and came at a reasonable price. All signed for less than $6 million in first-year cap liabilities.

Also consider last year’s free agent class had more talent and depth than this year’s class. At the same time, last year’s draft class wasn’t as talented or deep as previous years.

This year is completely the opposite.

The draft in May is considered one of the most talented and deep in recent memory, while this years free agent class has more second- and third-tier talent than top-tier.

Teams like the Lions, who don’t have an overabundance of cap space, are going to be able to fill multiple needs in the draft with talented young players that come much cheaper than players on the free-agent market.

Seattle proved that building a team through the draft is the right formula.

The Lions do have more cap space heading into free agency than they did last year, but there’s a sense they’ll be very precise in identifying their needs and finding the right players that fit those needs.

Receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Golden Tate could be fits in Detroit.

So, too, could safety Chris Clemons. Ward would take some crafty cap maneuvering early in the deal for it to work if reports about his asking price are correct.

The Lions are going to find help, but there just isn’t the buzz surrounding this free agency period as there was last year, and there isn’t likely to be as huge of an initial splash, either.