TWENTYMAN: Lions early players in free agency

Bob Quinn stood behind a podium five days after the Detroit Lions’ season ended with a disappointing 6-10 record and said it wasn’t good enough.

“My position as the general manager here, I’m accountable, I’m responsible,” he said. “I put this team together and I feel like we have a good team. We didn’t win as much as we should’ve this year and those are things that coach (Matt Patricia) and I are going to look back at and evaluate over the next coming months and make sure we have a better team going forward.”

Quinn and Patricia formulated their plan, identified the players they thought could help and were aggressive in attaining them.

First, the Lions added a slot receiver in veteran Danny Amendola. Then, within the first hours of the legal tampering period starting at noon on Monday, unofficial reports broke that the team had agreed to terms with slot cornerback Justin Coleman, tight end Jesse James and edge rusher Trey Flowers. Quinn didn’t waste any time putting his plan into action. All those signings became official Thursday.

Flowers, Coleman and James are all 25 or younger, and in the case of Flowers and Coleman, they’ve played in Matt Patricia's defense before in New England, so there’s a mutual understanding about skill sets and fit. James is an ascending, multi-skilled player at the tight end position.

Quinn has said he made a run at a number of high-profile free agents last offseason, particularly at tight end, but in the end the talks didn’t pan out or the money didn’t match the production.

This offseason was much different. Quinn had the most cap space available to him in his tenure as GM, and took an aggressive approach, signing players who seem to fit into the schemes Patricia, defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell are implementing.

Flowers is a disrupter on the edge with 21.0 sacks over the last three seasons, including 7.5 last season. While that might not jump off the stat sheet, he recorded 78 pressures last season (including the playoffs), which was the second most among edge defenders. He had 77 pressures in 2017. He’s a plus run defender, and can play all over the defensive line, which makes him a terrific fit for Patricia’s defense. Add Flowers to the mix with Damon Harrison Sr., A’Shawn Robinson, Da’Shawn Hand and Romeo Okwara, and something special could be brewing along Detroit’s defensive front.

Coleman played for Patricia in New England in 2015 and 2016, both inside cornerback and outside, and spent the last two years in Seattle playing in all 32 games primarily as their No. 1 nickel corner. He recorded 55 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and an interception last season, and was graded the sixth best slot cornerback in the NFL by Pro Football Focus.

James was part of a talented skill group in Pittsburgh. He sometimes got overshadowed a bit, but he averaged better than 14.0 yards per reception last season, and he can block on the edge.

Amendola, 33, is coming off a 59-catch, 575-yard season with the Dolphins. According to Next Gen Stats, his average of 3.2 yards of separation from defenders on routes last season ranked in the top 20 of all receivers and is better than any receiver the Lions had on the roster last season, even Golden Tate (3.0).

“I’m in the best condition of my life,” Amendola said Monday after signing. “I’m as fast as I’ve ever been. And I’m as hungry as ever. So I’m ready to play at a high level, and do whatever I can to help this team win.”

All four players fit a very specific need for the Lions on either side of the ball, and Quinn can still add to some of those needs in the second tier of free agency and in the draft next month.

Quinn is ready to win, and he showed that by aggressively going out and spending on the kind of difference makers and playmakers he believes are needed for this team to turn the corner.

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