Twentyman: Re-signing Chris Houston should be a priority for Detroit Lions

Posted Mar 6, 2013

Chris Houston's experience and knowledge of the Detroit Lions' scheme makes him a necessity to bring back for the 2013 season

Chris HoustonChris Houston was traded to the Detroit Lions in 2010 after the Atlanta Falcons had given up on him.

At the time, there were questions about his ball skills and whether he'd ever be a true No. 1 cornerback in the NFL.

The thing Lions fans have to admire about Houston is that he's gotten better every season in Detroit and has turned some those perceived deficiencies in 2010 into strengths heading into 2013.

Houston is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent March 12. General manager Martin Mayhew identified nine of the Lions' potential free agents as players the team will aggressively try to re-sign, and Houston should be among them.

"Corners are tough to find in the NFL and Chris (Houston) started out the (2012) season hurt, he had an ankle sprain coming into the regular season and missed the first couple of games. You realize how much you miss a guy when he's not out on the field," Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said at the NFL Scouting Combine last month when asked about Houston.

"Chris this year added some things to his resume that he really didn't have before. There were a few games that he matched No. 1 wide receivers, guys like Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall, people like that. That was something that we really hadn't used him for, he really hadn't done before."

Houston saw his interceptions drop from five in 2011 to two last season, but he was still the team's most consistent performer in the secondary and a player who was asked to match up toe-to-toe with some of the best receivers in the league.

The best way to describe Houston is reliable. He's not Darrelle Revis, but it's that reliability that should make him a priority for the Lions.

Veteran Ron Bartell, who the Lions signed late last year and who started the final game of the season at right cornerback, is the only cornerback currently signed through 2013 with significant starting experience.

The team drafted three rookies last year – Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green – but they have just eight combined starts between them (Bentley has three and Green five).

"We have great confidence in these guys as football players over the long term of their careers," Mayhew said of Bentley, Greenwood and Green. "Hard to put a timetable on when those guys are going to be able to start for us.

"Obviously (Bill) Bentley started some games for us last year before he got injured, Jonte Green started some games for us last year as well. Greenwood was injured the entire season, but going back into the offseason program he was performing really well for us.

"He's a guy with size and speed. A small-school project, another small-school guy, so all three of those guys have the ability to start, have starter ability, but when that happens for them I'm not really sure."

That is why retaining Houston, 28, is important for the Lions. He's a veteran, he knows the scheme and he's proven that he'll work hard to get better. He's also a good veteran to have in that cornerback meeting room and he's probably not going to command top dollar on the market.

"He's played some quality football for us and has worked on some things early in his career that had been weaknesses," Schwartz said. "He's a vet, he's a pro, he's a guy that's been productive for us."