A team doesn’t stumble its way to a 4-12 record without having a number of different needs on the roster.
The Detroit Lions are staring at a pivotal next few months in which the roster is likely to have some serious turnover.
“From a front office standpoint, from a coaching standpoint and from a players standpoint; obviously, we're not doing well enough, and you should expect to see some changes on our roster,” Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said after the season.
With 23 players set to be free agents on March 12, the Lions are also likely to be in a position where a number of their rookie and second-year players will be asked to play more important roles in 2013.
Former Cowboys vice president of player personnel Gil Brandt, who is now a senior analyst at NFL.com, says the Lions are in a tough spot because of the salary cap, but that it’s not impossible to get back to their winning ways of 2011 ... if they hit a couple home runs this offseason.
“But Indianapolis, last year, went from two wins to 11 wins, they were outscored by 40 points and they had $34 million worth of dead money. What that says is if you have a quarterback, that’s good enough, and I think Stafford is good enough. Obviously, they couldn’t stop people this season.”
Brandt said the draft will be a key element for the Lions to get back to the 10-win team that made the playoffs in 2011. The Lions have their first chance at an impact player with the No. 5-overall pick (unless they trade up or down).
“To me, the ideal guy to take is the Alabama cornerback (Dee Milliner),” he said. “Now, I think it’s too high for him (at No. 5). I think that’s too high to take corners.”
Brandt used the example of 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver, who he said Lions head coach Jim Schwartz really liked in the 2011 NFL Draft, but was taken in the third round by the 49ers after the Lions had moved back into the second round to get running back
Culliver has played in all 32 games for the 49ers the past two seasons with six starts this year.
“You can find corners later on in the draft,” Brandt said. “I think what you have to do early in the draft is that you have to take a left tackle, a pass rushing defensive end and a quarterback.
“Historically, you can find running backs in free agency. You don’t find left tackles as free agents. You find cornerbacks as free agents.”
To his point, former Lions cornerback Aaron Berry was a good find for the Lions after the draft in 2011.
Berry was an undrafted free agent out of Pittsburgh and was set to start at right cornerback for the Lions last season before his contract was terminated for off-the-field issues. From a strict football viewpoint, though, he was a great find.
“That hurt them in the beginning (of the season),” Brandt said of Berry's termination.
The Lions will certainly be doing their homework on Milliner over the next few months.
They could be looking at a serious need at cornerback if
“The guy that would help their defense the most for what they’ve done is to get (Milliner),” Brandt said. “But like I said, I think they can find a corner almost as good on the second and third round.”