O'HARA'S BURNING QUESTIONS: What free agent moves in the NFC North affect the Lions?

Posted Apr 4, 2014

Mike O'Hara on moves in the division, passing on DeSean Jackson and signing Dan Orlovsky as a backup quarterback

Burning questions – two moves that other NFC North teams made in free agency that helped the Lions, two others that could make life more difficult, what passing on DeSean Jackson might indicate about the Lions’ draft plans and reacting to the reaction of signing Dan Orlovsky as backup quarterback.

Jared AllenDE Jared Allen (Photo: AP Images)

Q: What two moves so far by NFC teams could have had the most positive impact on the Lions?

A. It’s an easy choice -- the Vikings not bringing back Jared Allen, and the Bears parting ways with Julius Peppers. No two defensive linemen have consistently caused more problems for the Lions in the last four years than Peppers and Allen.

They’ve wrecked the offense, and in Peppers’ case, he wrecked Matthew Stafford’s right (passing) shoulder and his season with a sack on opening day of 2010. It was Peppers’ first game since signing with the Bears as a free agent, and it was a sign of what was to come.

In four seasons against the Lions, Peppers had five sacks, eight quarterback hits, two pass breakups and two fumble recoveries.

Allen has done even more damage in the last four years – 9.5 sacks, 14 hits, four pass breakups, an interception and a forced fumble. And he’s had some big games. Twice in 2011, Allen had three sacks in a game against the Lions.

From the Lions’ perspective, it was good riddance to two pass-rushers who were a nemesis in the NFC North.

Q. Uh, Dumbo. Are you forgetting that they’ve both stayed in the North? Peppers signed with the Packers, and Allen signed with the Bears.

A. No, I didn’t forget. I’m just setting up how Peppers and Allen are involved in both ends of the equation – two moves that helped the Lions, and two that potentially can hurt the most.

Based on age and how they finished last season, Allen has more left in the tank than Peppers. Allen, who turned 32 on Thursday, finished strong with 6.5 sacks in his last five games. Peppers, who turned 34 in January, had five sacks in his last seven games.

The Lions will see both twice in 2014, just in different uniforms. They just can’t let them hold a reunion in their backfield.

Q. What can be read into the Lions not making a bid to sign DeSean Jackson? He was released by the Eagles last Friday and signed with Washington late Tuesday.

A. I wouldn’t read much into it. The Lions acted quickly to sign their free-agent receiver, Golden Tate, when Jackson was still on the Eagles’ roster, and there was no indication that he’d hit the market.

If the Lions are going to add another receiver to play a major role in the rotation with Calvin Johnson and Tate, it makes more sense to do it in the draft. That way, they get a young, talented player with a much lower contract than the deal Jackson got from Washington.

Q. Is it guaranteed that Orlovsky will be the backup to Matthew Stafford? And is the fans’ negative reaction to signing Orlovsky justified?

A. I wouldn’t say it’s 100 percent guaranteed that Orlovsky will be the No. 2 quarterback, but he certainly has the best chance at the job. He was the starter for the only two games the Colts won in 2011 when Jim Caldwell was head coach, and that connection can’t hurt.

Orlovsky would have to show nothing in the offseason workouts to get bumped out of the backup job. That’s not likely to happen, although it did once before with the Lions. They signed Shaun King in the offseason in 2006 and released him at his request before the start of training camp.

The reaction to Orlovsky is understandable. Fans haven’t forgotten how Orlovsky accidently stepped out of the end zone for a safety in a loss to the Vikings in 2008. The gaffe made the highlight reel of bloopers.

Here’s bottom line on any backup: Stafford has proven to be durable, starting every game in the last three years, and he has talent. Backup quarterback is not high on the Lions’ list of needs for 2014.

Q. So no question that Stafford is the man to lead the Lions?

A. None. No question at all.