10 QUESTIONS WITH TWENTYMAN: What positions will Lions address in free agency?

From time to time this offseason Tim Twentyman will answer 10 good questions from his Twitter account @ttwentyman in a feature we call "10 Questions with Twentyman."

20man: This is my wish list:

1. Cory Littleton, LB, Los Angeles Rams: A prototypical three-down linebacker in a time when teams are desperately looking for linebackers who can cover and play in space.

2. D.J. Reader, DT, Houston: Terrific run-stuffing nose tackle, who also showed the ability to rush the passer in 2019 with a career-high 13 quarterback hits.

3. Byron Jones, CB, Dallas: I base this one off the possibility that cornerback Darius Slay isn't a Lion in 2020. Jones has experience playing cornerback and safety, which makes him position versatile. He's 27 years old and was graded as the eighth best cornerback in the game by PFF last season.

20man: Free agency is first up. This is a loaded free agent class of interior defenders. Led by Kansas City's Chris Jones, who will probably be franchised early next week, this is a really good class with names that also include: Arik Armstead (49ers), Javon Hargrave (Steelers), D.J. Reader (Texans), Jarran Reed (Seahawks), Leonard Williams (Giants), Maliek Collins (Cowboys), Danny Shelton (Patriots), Ndamukong Suh (Bucs), Jordan Phillips (Bills), Shelby Harris (Broncos), A’Shawn Robinson (Lions), Mike Daniels (Lions), Gerald McCoy (Panthers), Derek Wolf (Broncos) and Michael Brockers (Rams), just to name a bunch.

The Lions have around $48 million in current cap space, according to overthecap.com, which will allow them to seek and sign help on defense. I'd be very surprised if one of the names above wasn't on Detroit's free agent wish list. Defensive tackle is a position of need, and should be addressed first in free agency. The only player with any real experience under contract for the Lions is Da'Shawn Hand, and he hasn't been able to stay healthy his first two seasons.

That being said, I wouldn't be opposed to doubling up at the position, signing a proven free agent and then taking a youngster in the draft, whether it's Derrick Brown or Javon Kinlaw in the first round or someone later in Day 2.

20man: I don't really think there is one, especially when we're talking about the defensive side of the ball. Even if the Lions sign a pass rusher in free agency, if Chase Young is on the board at No. 3, he's still my pick. Teams can never have too many good pass rushers. Same thing goes for interior defensive linemen and cornerbacks. Even if they sign a defensive tackle or top corner in free agency, that wouldn't stop me from taking Derrick Brown or Jeff Okudah at No. 3, if they're the top player on my board.

Maybe when we start talking about signing a veteran quarterback or a veteran running back in free agency, it could affect those positions in the draft, but in my opinion, when it comes to the defense, they need so many playmakers on that side of the ball that both free agency and the draft are open for business at a lot of positions.

20man: I think he's really good, and there's no denying his production (16.5 sacks, 21.0 tackles for loss and six forced fumbles) and physical traits. I didn't like the fact that he disappeared at times when I was watching him, mainly the Michigan and Clemson games, but he was dominant at other times. I want to see the testing at his pro day to make sure the physical tools match the tape.

Consider this, however, NFL.com, who I think does a tremendous job grading prospects in the pre-draft process, gave Young a higher grade than both Joey Bosa and Nick Bosa when they were coming out of Ohio State. They've graded Young as a perennial All-Pro based off the college tape. They considered both Bosas to be Pro-Bowl caliber talents.

After Young, there's a considerable drop off to the next pass rushers, which also boosts his stock.

Let's put it this way, if Young is on the board at No. 3, it would take the haul of all hauls for me not to select him.

20man: It's a good question. Really, this comes down to money, like most business decisions do.

Slay, who is heading into the final year of his contract, has made it clear he wants an extension. Slay is 29. Traditionally, and this isn't always the case (see Charles Woodson), we start to see a decline with cornerbacks once they get beyond the age of 30. Again, it's not always the case, but it's a risk.

The Lions and Bob Quinn are doing their due diligence in forming a game plan for every available scenario regarding Slay, whether that's re-signing him, trading him or having him play out the last year of his contract. The latter gets them nothing if he walks in free agency next year. Trading him now maximizes his value coming off three straight Pro Bowls. He's never had any serious injuries, and he's still playing at a high level, but for how long? That's the projection Quinn and the Lions have to make.

For me, it really comes down to two options: Either re-sign him to a front-loaded contract in terms of guarantees or trade him. Letting him play out the final year of his contract and risk a lengthy holdout isn't a great option, though it should be noted that neither Slay or his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, have stated publicly that holding out is an option for them.

20man: I would not be opposed to this at all. I like Jalen Hurts, especially after watching him throw at the Combine. I thought he really helped himself in Indy.

Great teammates, productive player, good leader, versatile quarterback. Fits some of the things Darrell Bevell likes to do on offense. I'd have zero issue with that.

20man: No. Put me in the crowd that's a little skeptical of Burrow. Why was there such a big difference in performance and production from 2018 to 2019? I'm always skeptical of one-year wonders, especially at the quarterback position, even though it was a great year from the kid, I have to admit.

Stafford was playing some of the best ball of his career before the back injury. He's a veteran for a team that needs to win now. He's healthy and ready to roll, and still has plenty of good years left in him. I'd build the team around him (especially the defense), and make a run at it.

20man: It is allowed. We've seen it in the past with players like John Elway and Eli Manning. Normally, it's done with the understanding that another team picking later wants that player – or the player wants to play for another team – and the team selecting that player has input into who the trading team will take later on and what other compensation may be involved.

It's an option, certainly, but if a team really wants to trade up for a player, I'd listen. I'd rather trade the pick and get the compensation up front.

20man: The plan for T.J. Hockenson should be to get him healthy, first and foremost. He ended the season on IR. Once that's behind him, he'll be afforded a true offseason. Players usually make their biggest leap in development in year two.

Hockenson will be fine. That's a tough position to come in right away and make an impact. Look around the league at what the current top tight ends in the NFL did as rookies and you'll see Hockenson was right in line with that production through 12 games. He'll be an important weapon for the Lions for a lot of years.

I think Quinn and Patricia know the impact top picks need to have. Hockenson made a pretty big impact Week 1 last year. He just didn't maintain that level, which was somewhat expected given the difficulty of playing that position.

Looking back at Quinn's drafts, Taylor Decker, A'Shawn Robinson and Graham Glasgow made an immediate impact in 2016. Jarrad Davis was a starter as a rookie in 2017. The team missed on second-round cornerback Teez Tabor in 2017.

Frank Ragnow and Kerryon Johnson were immediate impact players in 2018. Hockenson and Tavai were starters or key contributors early on last season.

It hasn't been Pro Bowl impact like we've seen from other rookies, and maybe that's what you're referring to, but there has been impact from the Lions rookies Quinn has drafted.

20man: The Notre Dame pass catcher measured in at 6-foot-4, 238 pounds and blazed the 40 in 4.42 seconds, making him just the second receiver in Combine history to measure at least 6-foot-4 and at least 235 pounds and run a sub-4.5 second 40-yard dash. The other was Calvin Johnson.

Claypool also did 19 reps on bench and had a 40.5-inch vertical. His size and athletic traits give him position flex, and I think he's worked himself into Day 2, but I wouldn't go as far to say early Day 2, because this is such a historic receiver class. There are going to be some really good names available at receiver early in Day 2, and it will push other guys down. He definitely doesn't get out of Day 2 though.

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