PHOENIX – One of the bigger questions since the Detroit Lions signed Justin Coleman on the first day of free agency was where they planned to play the versatile cornerback starting in 2019 – inside in the nickel or outside opposite Darius Slay.
"Position versatility, for sure," Lions general manager Bob Quinn said of Coleman's skillset at the Annual League Meetings Monday. "He did play both outside and inside in New England in my time there. Primarily the last two seasons in Seattle he played inside.
"I'd say going forward he's more inside than outside, but we're going to kind of go through the process and see how he fits within the group."
With teams in their nickel defense about 70 percent of the time these days, in Coleman, the Lions have a player they feel can add a sturdy dimension to their defense in the slot, with also the ability to also play outside in different packages.
"Justin Coleman is a nickel corner, who has position versatility, knows scheme and played well the last couple years in Seattle," Quinn said. "It was a good fit."
Coleman played for Lions head coach Matt Patricia in New England in 2015 and 2016, and spent the last two years in Seattle playing in all 32 games with 10 starts in the slot. He recorded 55 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and an interception playing inside for the Seahawks last season.
Coleman was graded the sixth best slot cornerback in the NFL by Pro Football Focus last season, so that's a big upgrade for Detroit in the middle of their defense.
"I kind of consider myself just another player to come help the team," Coleman said at his introductory press conference. "I do a lot of studying. Corner, safety or nickel, it doesn't matter. I feel like wherever I'm capable of playing, and wherever I can help, I'm definitely going to give my best."
The Lions have a number of players who have position versatility at the cornerback position, something that's become more and more attractive to teams. Quinn and the Lions plan to put all their cornerbacks out on the field for the start of the offseason training program and training camp, and "figure out where guys are going to play."
That includes fellow veterans Rashaan Melvin, Jamal Agnew, Marcus Cooper, Teez Tabor, Mike Ford and Dee Virgin, who all have playing experience, and most possess position versatility.