LIONS INSIDER

Tim and Mike: Who was the Lions' most important free agent acquisition?

Posted Jul 11, 2013

Detroitlions.com writers Tim Twentyman and Mike O'Hara debate the most important free agent acquisition for the Lions in 2013, talk Matthew Stafford's contract extension and more

While the countdown clock ticks louder and faster for the start of training camp in a little more than two weeks, the Lions are conducting normal offseason business. Matthew Stafford's contract extension is Exhibit A in that regard.

The five-year contract extension that Stafford signed on Wednesday is the latest move in a busy offseason for the Lions. The roster is still likely to be tweaked, but most major player acquisitions have been made.

Many analysts rate the signing of running back Reggie Bush as the most important addition of the offseason, and the recent signing of Israel Idonije adds an important asset to the defensive line.

Off the field, it's been a relatively quiet offseason compared to the players' misadventures of last year.

Stafford's extension is the story. He had two seasons left on his original six-year contract. Did both sides get it right in settling on a deal with a maximum value of $76.5 million that keeps Stafford a Lion through 2017?

Mike: The financial numbers are staggering - $53 million on the extension and $41.5 million guaranteed – but that's the going rate for quarterbacks these days.
I say the issue isn't the money, but the value of having the player, and keeping Stafford is the only move that makes sense. He is the quarterback of the present and the future. Signing him now takes away the contract issue as a talking point and possible distraction for both sides.

There also is some salary cap relief for the Lions. They can use it in contract talks with other players. The next big one on the agenda is Ndamukong Suh.

Tim: This organization doesn't exactly have the best track record when it comes to quarterbacks. In Stafford, they've found a franchise player they can build around and they've designated him as "their guy" going forward.

Stafford is 25 years old and this is a great value deal for the Lions. They've secured their quarterback for the next five seasons and have freed up salary cap space to get Suh's extension done in the coming years and continue to add weapons around Stafford. The $15.3 million they are paying him annually the next five seasons is a manageable rate.

Really, this was a win-win for both sides and Lions president Tom Lewand said this was one of the easier extensions he's done because Stafford and the club wanted a lot of the same things.

Before Stafford's extension stole the headlines, the team signed Idonije. What is the impact of signing Idonije?

Mike: What stands out for me is how Idonije took advantage of the opportunity when the Bears made him a starter in 2010, and how he performed consistently in that role for three years. He had eight sacks in 2010, five in 2011 and 7.5 in 2012. That shows that even though Idonije is a veteran – he turns 33 in November – he has maintained his level of play.

He'll add flexibility to the defensive line because of his experience playing end and moving inside to tackle to add another rusher in passing situations. He'll put pressure on others for playing time. Competition should help everyone.

Tim: What a great signing for the Lions. He can be a starter at both defensive end and defensive tackle, if the Lions need him to, and if not, he adds terrific depth and veteran experience to a pretty young group of defensive linemen.

I expect to see him play almost 50-50 defensive end and defensive tackle. Like Jason Jones, he can move inside on passing situations. He's very versatile, and if his interview with the NFL Network last week is any indication, he's got quite a chip on his shoulder after the Bears decided not to pursue him. That's good news for the Lions.

It's one of those late signings that can end up making the difference between a good season and a playoff season.

Was Bush the most important addition this offseason?

Mike: Absolutely the most important. No doubt. No question. But let's be clear on one thing: the defense had far more problems than the offense. In the second half of the season alone, the defense gave up winning drives to the Packers twice, the Colts and the Texans. Adding players in the draft and free agency was vital.

But signing Bush adds the element that's been missing among the skilled-position players. Bush can make quality plays, with yards after the catch and big runs that open opportunities for others.

I think we agree on that, right?

Tim: We do agree that Bush is going to make quality plays, have big runs and will be an impact in the passing game. He was a great addition to that offense and the missing piece on that side of the ball.

You started your answer talking about the defense, though, and that's were I think they made the most important addition when they signed safety Glover Quin.

The Lions gave up too many big passing plays at the end of games last year that cost them. Opponents completed 13 plays of 40-plus yards vs. this defense last year, which was the second most in the NFL.

Not to mention that a player like Quin, who's played in all 16 games the last four years, allows defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham to open the defensive playbook a bit because he knows he has a cover safety back there he can trust.

Bush was a huge signing, but getting Quin was a must for that defense.

A quiet offseason in terms of player conduct is a good offseason for the Lions. How will that impact this team when it opens camp?

Mike: That's already been established. Nobody is facing possible suspension. Players don't have to answer questions about teammates who've been in trouble. It all means there is one less issue that can gnaw at a team, and that has value.

When Chris Houston re-signed in March, he said the distractions of last season had a negative impact. It's hard to disagree with him on that.

However, I don't believe in giving credit for staying out of trouble. That's just the way things are supposed to be.

Anything on the roster that needs to be addressed before the start of camp?

Tim: Lions general manager Martin Mayhew is famous for saying there's never a finish line when it comes to player acquisition.

That being said, I think this is the most talented roster the team has but together in more than a decade.

If the Lions were to add one or two more players, I think a veteran offensive tackle and maybe one more veteran linebacker would make the most sense.

There could be a couple of those players available once teams start trimming down their rosters.