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TWENTYMAN: Free-agent cornerbacks that could interest Lions

Detroit Lions cornerback Rashean Mathis announced his retirement from the NFL last week.

While still a productive player on the field at the age of 35, Mathis' importance off the field to some of the Lions' young cornerbacks was what he was best known for.

Young cornerbacks Darius Slay and Quandre Diggs were quick to take to Twitter thanking Mathis for helping them along early in their careers after his retirement announcement on

Slay, who is entering his fourth season in the league, is suddenly the elder statesman of the current cornerback group under contract in Detroit. That group also includes Nevin Lawson, Diggs and Alex Carter.

Lawson was a first-year starter in 2015 when Mathis went down with a concussion. Diggs was a rookie starter at the nickel and Carter, the team's third-round pick last year, missed the entire season due to injury.

With Mathis out of the picture for 2016, the Lions will no doubt be looking for a veteran to add to their secondary this offseason.

Here are the top cornerbacks scheduled to become free agents in March:

Josh Norman, Carolina:Norman had a breakout season in a contract year. There's nothing better for a player than that. He was the best cornerback in the NFL this season and is a prime candidate for the franchise tag. He'd be the most sought-after cornerback on the market if he somehow gets there.

Sean Smith, Kansas City:Smith is a big, physical corner at 6-foot-3, 218 pounds. He's been a full-time starter for Kansas City since 2011 and has become their No. 1 cornerback. He's proven to be durable and could pair nicely with Detroit's younger corners. He'll come at a premium price, however.

Janoris Jenkins, Los Angeles: He's been a productive player over the last four seasons for the Rams. In 58 career starts he's totaled 10 interceptions and has gotten his hand on 48 passes. But he's also a bit of a gambler. He has 13-plus combined pass defenses and interceptions in three of his four years as a pro, per Pro Football Focus stats, but has also allowed at least five touchdowns in every season (22 total).

Trumaine Johnson, Los Angeles:Like Smith, Johnson has terrific size (6-2). Lions fans might remember that he drew Calvin Johnson as an assignment in their matchup and he returned an interception for a touchdown in the Rams' win. Johnson had a breakout season with 71 tackles and seven interceptions. Quarterbacks had a passer rating of just 55.0 throwing his way last season, per PFF.

Casey Hayward, Green Bay:Hayward has been a part-time starter in Green Bay the last four seasons and a lot of that has been in the slot. Can he also play on the outside and be versatile? Six of his nine career interceptions came as a rookie.

Prince Amukamara, New York Giants:Amukamara, 26, was the Giants' first-round pick out of Nebraska in 2011. He has been a quality player when he's been on the field, but staying healthy has been an issue for him. Amukamara missed 13 games over the past two seasons due to bicep and pectoral tears.

Brandon Boykin, Pittsburgh:Kind of a crapshoot here. Boykin, 25, has played in all 16 games over his four-year career in Pittsburgh, but he's made just seven starts. He won't be pricey and played well for the Steelers down the stretch. Over the final five weeks of the regular season, he allowed a passer rating of 65.0 when targeted, and had the eighth-highest grade in coverage among cornerbacks by PFF.

Jerraud Powers, Arizona: He's been solid the last seven years in both Arizona and Indianapolis before that. He recorded at least one interception in each of his seven seasons. Jim Caldwell would know him well from their time in Indy together.

Adam Jones, Cincinnati:Jones will turn 33 before the season begins, but isn't showing any signs of slowing down. He's recorded at least 56 tackles and three interceptions in each of his last three seasons. Character is certainly an issue here with some off-the-field incidents in the past and the way he lost his cool in Cincinnati's playoff loss. I'm not sure he'd fit under Jim Caldwell.

William Gay, Pittsburgh: Gay, 31, has played a big role in the Steelers' secondary the last three seasons. He's averaged 63 tackles over the last three seasons with six interceptions over that span. Tough, experienced and still playing at a high level.

Leon Hall, Cincinnati: Hall, 31, is on the backside of his career, but he could offer depth and experience at the nickel spot behind Diggs and provide leadership in the cornerback room.

Patrick Robinson, San Diego: Robinson allowed more than 30 receiving yards just once all season in his first year with the Chargers, per PFF. He'll turn 29 before the start of the 2016 season.

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