Who slated to become a free agent would fit with the Lions?

Posted Feb 2, 2013

Free agency begins March 12 - Tim Twentyman takes a look at which players would fit in with the Detroit Lions

March 12 is the official start of the 2013 season and just so happens to also kick off the start of free agency.

Expect the Detroit Lions to be more active in free agency than they were last offseason when they brought back 21 of 22 starters.

The simple fact that the team has 23 players set to become unrestricted free agents next month - and it's a good possibility some of them sign elsewhere - could force them to go out and get higher-profile players.

How high profile is still up to some debate. The Lions have $50 million in cap space sunk into Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh in 2013. The salary cap is going to stay rather flat at around $120 million.

Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said after the season that he hopes to reduce Stafford's $20-million-plus cap number by renegotiating his deal or signing him to a long-term extension this offseason.

What people have to remember is that the salary cap is very fluid at this point in the season because there's no telling who is staying, who is going or who becomes a "cap casualty."

What looks like a cap crunch right now might not be in March depending on who leaves and if the Lions' front office feels that some of their younger - and less expensive - players are ready to step in and contribute.

With that in mind, lets take a very early look at free agency and five players who could fit with the Lions, strictly from a scheme perspective.

Reggie Bush, RB, Miami

Mayhew said he won't be caught in the same situation again this year that he was last year when running back Jahvid Best couldn't get his clearance to return to contact. The Detroit Lions will likely want to know about Best's future before free agency or the draft.

The Lions missed Best's ability to take advantage of one-on-one matchups in the passing game and his big-play ability as a runner. Bush has a very similar skillset. He's never caught less than 35 passes in a full season and had 88 his rookie year in 2006 with the New Orleans Saints.

Bush has amassed over 2,000 yards rushing the last two seasons in Miami with 15 total touchdowns.

Make no mistake though, Bush will be expensive. He'll likely be looking for a raise on his $4.5 million base salary last season.

Cary Williams, CB, Baltimore

Williams has the size (6-1, 190) the Lions are looking for in the backend, but his experience would be just as valuable.

The Lions drafted three rookie cornerbacks last April, and if they lose Chris Houston to free agency, they'll also lose a veteran mentor to those three guys.

Williams has played (and started) all 16 games the past two seasons in a very good Ravens defense. He's excellent in run support, which is something Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham has said he's on the lookout for in any future cornerbacks.

Williams accumulated at least 75 tackles in each of last two seasons. He had four interceptions and defended 17 passes this year.

Andy Levitre, G, Buffalo

If Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew is serious about upgrading the interior of the Lions' offensive line, he'd be remiss to not at least give Levitre a quick look if he gets into free agency.

Considered one of the best young interior lineman in the league, Levitre has started every game since coming into the league four years ago.

He'd also have a connection to new Lions running backs coach and run game coordinator Curtis Modkins, who spent the previous three seasons as the Bills offensive coordinator and running backs coach.

The one hiccup from a Lions perspective is that Levitre played left guard in Buffalo. The Lions have a pretty good left guard in Rob Sims. Guards are usually pretty interchangeable in terms of the left or right, though.

Brian HartlineBrian Hartline, WR, Miami

This isn't a flashy name, but Hartline emerged as a serious weapon in the Dolphins' offense this year. The former Ohio State product had 74 catches for 1,083 yards and one score. He averaged an impressive 14.6 yards per reception.

The Lions will be getting Nate Burleson back from injury (broken leg) and also have Ryan Broyles (ACL) and Mike Thomas under contract next season, but those three players are more natural in the slot.

At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, Hartline has good size and could excel with Matthew Stafford throwing him the ball and Johnson getting the bulk of the coverage shifted to his side.

Hartline is due a raise from his $1.3 million salary from last year, but isn't likely to break the bank anywhere.

Danny Woodhead, RB, New England

As a kick returner and passing down running back, Woodhead fits exactly with the change-of-pace back the Lions are hoping to compliment Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell with.

Woodhead had 40 receptions for 446 yards and three touchdowns this season. He added four more scores on the ground.

It seems unlikely Woodhead, 28, would leave the friendly confines of New England and quarterback Tom Brady, but who knows.