Skip to main content

Free agency: Five questions facing Lions

The beginning of free agency is just a few days away. It will be general manager Bob Quinn's first significant opportunity to bolster the talent and depth on this Detroit Lions roster.

"We have the guys that we want to target at each level, different positions across the board, so I really want to build the depth of this team," Quinn said at the Combine.

"That's something that I really, truly believe in. You know, we have some good players. I think the depth really needs to improve and that's something that I'm going to set out and do in free agency, hopefully."

The Lions will have plenty of room under the salary cap – around $30 million as it stands right now – to accomplish that feat, and that number could grow by another $11.1 million if Calvin Johnson decides to retire.

Here are five questions facing the Lions to begin free agency:

1. How does Calvin Johnson's decision affect what the Lions do?

"I mean, it obviously affects it because of the salary that he has, so that's something that's going to take into effect what kind of plans we can do, how flexible we can be with the type of players that we're going to add in free agency," Quinn said.

"So, that's all part of the puzzle. My job is to put that puzzle together."

His decision is the difference between about $30 million in available space, or around $40 million.

What can't the Lions do with $30 million that they can with 40? It's probably the difference between a couple signings, whether that's free agents or some extensions with current players.

The Lions would obviously prefer a decision before the start of free agency on Wednesday, but aren't demanding it.

"That's just the decision that we've made internally, to not put a deadline on Calvin," Quinn said. "So, that's something that we've talked about, myself, Coach Caldwell, Rod Wood, so that's just the way we're going to go about business in terms of what Calvin's decision may or may not be."

Besides the monetary ramifications, a Johnson retirement would leave the Lions in need of another receiving option to go with with Golden Tate, Eric Ebron, Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah.

This isn't a great class of free-agent receivers, but there are some mid-market options that could fit.

2. Will Quinn and the Lions look to Tier 1 of free agency or be mid-market players?

Quinn has talked a lot this season about depth and building the middle of the roster.

He joined the Patriots' scouting department in 2000, the same time Bill Belichick was hired as head coach. The team went 5-11 that first season.

The following offseason the Patriots signed players like LB Mike Vrabel, WR David Patten, G/C Mike Compton, LB Larry Izzo, RB Antowain Smith, LB Roman Phifer, DE Anthony Pleasant and DE Marc Edwards in free agency.

A lot of those players weren't Tier 1 or top-end free agents that offseason, but immediately contributed to the Patriots' Super Bowl season in 2001. Some became core pieces to their run of Super Bowls in the 2000s.

There's a lot of overpaying that goes on in Tier 1, but if its done right, it can immediately help a ball club. Look at Denver and the signing of DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward, Aqib Talib and Emmanuel Sanders in 2014 -- All players that helped the Broncos win the Super Bowl this past season.

So, there are two schools of thought here. It will be interesting to see which one Quinn chooses.

3. How many of their own free agents are re-signed?

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and safety Isa Abdul-Quddus make the most sense. Defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker was already re-signed Friday.

Ngata was an impact player the second half of the season after getting over some nagging injuries.

Abdul-Quddus is a great special teams player and proved he can be a very good starter at strong safety if given the opportunity.

Others to think about would be defensive end Jason Jones, who's good against the run and was third on the team with 4.5 sacks in 2015. Linebacker Tahir Whitehead has proven he can play the MIKE or SAM, and he knows Teryl Austin's defense.

Lance Moore, Dan Orlovsky, Darryl Tapp and Don Muhlbach should also be in the conversation.

4. How much will extensions for their own players dip into the pool of available money?

The 2013 draft class for the Lions was one of the better in recent history, and a number of those players will be entering the final year of their rookie contracts.

The Lions control a fifth-year option on Ziggy Ansah, which they will no-doubt exercise if they don't extend him, but Darius Slay, Larry Warford, Devin Taylor, Sam Martin and Theo Riddick all have just one year left on their contracts.

Slay hired agent Drew Rosenhaus this offseason to try and get a new deal done. Martin and Riddick could be next in line for extensions.

How much does Quinn value some of these players and how many will he try to get done?

5. How does free agency affect the draft?

If you don't get a player in one, you'll have to get him in the other.

Free agency is designed to fill holes and add depth with players teams have already seen perform in this league. But you have to pay a premium for them

Think of free agency like a grocery store trip. Take a list and stick to it. Deviate too much from the list with things not on the list to begin with, and your bank account (salary cap) won't be the only thing that suffers.

The top teams build through the draft. This draft is deep at defensive tackle and offensive tackle, two areas of need for the Lions. There are some versatile linebackers and secondary players, areas where the Lions could look to build depth.

Teams that draft well expect to get three potential starters, two potential contributors and a couple developmental players.

What teams don't get in free agency can always be supplemented in the draft.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content