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TWENTYMAN: Free agency signings open up draft options

The Detroit Lions were big players in the early portion of free agency, snagging defensive end Trey Flowers, cornerback Justin Coleman, tight end Jesse James and wide receiver Danny Amendola. All four filled immediate and pressing needs on the roster.

The Lions addressed further needs in the second wave of free agency with the signing of guard Oday Aboushi, safety Andrew Adams and agreeing to terms with cornerback Marcus Cooper.

Detroit is likely to continue to sign free agents in the coming weeks, but the initial haul has really opened up their options in next month's NFL draft, especially with the No. 8 overall pick. Filling needs in free agency along the defensive line, tight end, receiver and cornerback solidified arguably Detroit's four biggest roster needs heading into free agency. It's allowed general manager Bob Quinn the option to trust his draft board and select the best player available at No. 8, regardless the position.

"The fact that we were successful (in free agency) gives us all kinds of options in the draft," Lions team president Rod Wood to WJR in an interview last week. "We have the highest pick since I've been in this role and since Bob Quinn has been our general manager, which opens up the draft additionally to you, because you're going to have guys that were not available at No. 22, where we've been drafting, or No. 20."

"We can look for the best player that fits our scheme, the best player that fills a need or the best players that adds depth to the team."

If the Lions hadn't been able to sign Flowers, for example, who was arguably the top edge rusher available in free agency, it would have increased the likelihood Quinn and the Lions would have gone into the draft looking to grab a talented, young pass rusher early, especially with this being the best defensive line class in the draft in over a decade. With Flowers now on board, the Lions could still opt to bolster their talent and depth upfront along their defensive line, but there isn't as glaring a need heading into the draft in Nashville.

One of the top tight ends, maybe a linebacker like LSU's Devin White, or a young cornerback could also be in play at No. 8. Don't rule out one of the talented offensive lineman early on, either. Quinn has chosen the draft as a way to bolster that group in every one of his three drafts before this season.

The point is, a successful dip into free agency has really opened up the draft for the Lions. Quinn has always gone into the draft with a philosophy of blending best player available with need. After free agency, the needs aren't as great, which is exactly the goal coming out of free agency.

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