Tom Lewand acknowledges that the big signing isn't always the right one

Posted Feb 15, 2013

Martin Mayhew says the Detroit Lions will be "players" in free agency this year, but that doesn't necessarily mean the team will go out and sign a big-name guy

Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew is on record saying the team will be more active in free agency this year than they were a season ago.

That's no real surprise seeing how the Lions have 23 players set to become free agents on March 12 and should have a little more money to play with than they did a season ago.

Exactly how much money will be in play is yet to be determined because there's still the potential for more restructuring of contracts and even an extension of quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Obviously, that will be a significant factor in how big of a splash the Lions can make. They could find themselves anywhere from $7 to $15 million under the cap when it's all said and done.

Nate BurlesonThe last time the Lions did significant shopping in free agency was before the 2010 season when they targeted receiver Nate Burleson and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch. Both players represented significant upgrades in positions of need and brought veteran leadership to the locker room.

Burleson and Vanden Bosch weren't the biggest names on the market at their respective positions, however. The Lions identified a particular skillset that fit with their scheme and both had the intangible qualities needed at the time.

"Free agency is an area where you have to understand the opportunities that are there and understand the risks that are there," Detroit Lions president Tom Lewand told "When we, in 2010, added guys like Nate Burleson and Kyle Vanden Bosch, those were tremendous value for us."

Scoring in free agency isn't always as easy as identifying the best player available at a position of need and going after him. Most of the time, teams end up overpaying for those services.

Sometimes a player simply isn't the same after a big contract is in hand. Have Mario Williams and Nnamdi Asomugha made a significant difference for the Bills and Eagles?

Expect the Lions to be players in free agency, just like Mayhew said, but to be selective, too.

"We're always looking at the right value proposition for the organization to add quality football players and the opportunities to do that," said Lewand, who also commented that the Lions will be "selectively aggressive" in free agency. "To the extent that there's opportunities like that out there this year, that's exciting.

"But we have to be smart in how we analyze that. The one thing I think Martin does very well and a guy like Brian Xanders, who I've known for a long time and admire also does well, is have the perspective to understand that it's not a compartmentalized process.

"You don't look at free agency in a vacuum. You have to look at it in combination with everything else when it comes to player acquisition and you have to look at it in the complete perspective as it relates to the salary cap."