State of Lions Roster Breakdown

January 7th, 2014


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Key Words –

UFA: Unrestricted Free Agent

RFA: Restricted Free Agent

EFA: Exclusive Rights Free Agent


Current Salary Cap: $124,988,965

NFL Salary Cap: $126,300,000

Cap Space: $1,311,035

From Over The Cap


The cap space is very small considering they need to resign some key Lions free agent players, and the fact that we don’t know the new coaching staff makes the overall roster picture unclear going forward.  Here is my roster breakdown and my thoughts on each positions going forward.


Matt Stafford, Shaun Hill (UFA), Kellen Moore

-          It’s pretty obvious that regardless of the new head coach, Matt Stafford would be the starting QB.  The team would go with Matt Stafford’s play.  If he’s on, the team is very difficult to stop.  If he’s off, they’re not nearly as scary. The problem is he is off more than he is on especially in the last half of the season.  The biggest priority for Mayhew is to find a HC who can rein in Stafford and force him to focus on footwork/mechanics.  Shaun Hill has been a quality backup QB, one of the best in the league, but he is set to be an UFA.  Teams would want to pay up to have him back up so it’s hard to foresee Lions retaining him without having to pay a decent amount of money unless Hill gives a Lions a hometown discount.  Kellen Moore’s spot could be in danger with the new coaching staff who probably wants to draft their own young QB for development.


Reggie Bush, Joique Bell (RFA), Mikeal LeShoure, Theo Riddick, Montell Owens

-          The Lions arguably have the best 1-2 punch RB combo in the league and both combined to gain over 2,000 yards from LOS which is a huge help in keeping the offense on the field more often.  Reggie Bush has been a great signing at a very cheap rate considering the production.  Joique Bell is nothing more than a quality #2 back who can run and catch.  I would have to imagine that he is the top priority for Mayhew to resign him, and they would try to tag him at a high price (1st or 2nd round) to ensure that they’ll be able to sign him.  LeShoure has not been the same since his Achilles injury and he has made it known that he wants to go to a different team to get opportunity to carry the rock.  Theo Riddick was decent in his first year with the Lions, but it was more of a Schwartz pick than Mayhew IMO, and will have to fight for a roster spot if Lions do bring in RBs to compete for the #3 spot.  Montell Owens has been hurt, but is a solid special team contributor.




Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Kris Durham (RFA), Jeremy Ross (EFA), Kevin Ogletree (UFA), Michael Spurlock (UFA), Ryan Broyles

-          Beside Calvin Johnson, this is by far the weakest unit on the offensive side.  There aren’t much talent or depth at WR that Stafford sometimes have to force the issue to fit the ball into tiny windows.  We all know what Calvin Johnson is capable of and don’t need to go into further details about his greatness.  Nate Burleson is a great teammate, but he is on a decline.  The best option is to demote him to the 4th/5th WR spot and let the young WRs take over.  Kris Durham may be a RFA, but has no business starting for the Lions.  He struggled to gain separation and his hands aren’t that great.  He is much better suited as a 5th WR on the team, but will the Lions try to resign him? That’s the question.  Jeremy Ross has been a pleasant surprise as a KR/PR, and should be back on the team.  I would love to see him get more looks at slot WR to see what he can do with more PT.  The coaching staff for some reason aren’t willing to give him that opportunity.  I expect both Ogletree and Spurlock to be gone.  Now, the biggest sticking point is Ryan Broyles.  He tore ACLs on two different knees in two years and now tore his Achilles.  His future with the Lions is very murky.


Brandon Pettigrew (UFA), Joseph Fauria, Michael Williams, Dorin Dickerson (RFA), Matt Veldman (EFA)

-          If Schwartz and the coaching staff didn’t get fired, I would have penciled in Pettigrew to return, but I don’t think he’ll be retained considering his inconsistent play and he would be a bit expensive to bring back.  I would expect Fauria and Williams to see more PT at TE.  Dickerson is a good athlete who can run, but I’m not sure if he’ll be back as a Lions because of the unknown of the coaching staff.  I can say the same for Veldman, whom I think won’t be back with the Lions as well.


Riley Reiff, LaAdrian Waddle, Jason Fox (UFA), Corey Hillard

-          Lions have found their two bookends OT for the next 10 years.  RR has been solid, but not spectacular at LT, but it’s plenty good enough for the Lions.  LaAdrian Waddle has been a find as a UDFA and should be a mainstay as a starting OT for years to come.  Corey Hillard has been a solid backup OT and his value as a swing tackle is huge.  Jason Fox has been injured quite often and didn’t look as good compared to Waddle.  I’m not completely sure if the Lions coaching staff would want him back with the team.


Rob Sims, Larry Warford, Dylan Gandy (UFA), Rodney Austin

-          The Lions interior OL has been great all year long.  Rob Sims has been a steady presence at LG, but he turned 30 and is entering into a final year of his contract.  Dylan Gandy has been a solid veteran backup OG for the team, but is an UFA.  I think he’ll be back, but it depends on how the coaching staff feel about Gandy.  Rodney Austin is unproven, but is young as well.  His cheap contract will ensure that he’ll be on the team until his contract runs out.

Dominic Raiola (UFA), Leroy Harris

-          This is probably the biggest uncertainty in terms of knowing who’s going to be there at C.  Riaola played his best season of his career and is arguably has been the best center this past season.  I can see him coming back for a couple years before letting the young C take over.  Leroy Harris has been around for a while, and is a career backup OL.  He won’t start for the Lions.


Ziggy Ansah, Willie Young (UFA), Izzy Idonije (UFA), Devin Taylor, Jason Jones

-          Ziggy showed flashes of what he is capable of as a DE.  He is still unrefined as a pass rusher, but was able to garner 8 sacks for the season. He doesn’t always put a consistent pressure on the QB.  Ziggy has been real good against the run with his strength, quickness and length.  I expect an even bigger jump from Ziggy next season.  Willie Young is better suited as a backup DE, but played real well for the Lions this season.  This will be his first year that he’ll test the FA market, and I can imagine teams would want to pay for his service. Izzy is a nice guy, but he wasn’t the same player he was when on the Bears and is on a decline. I expect him to be gone for this reason.  Devin Taylor has been a pleasant surprise and should only get better as a reserve DE.  Jason Jones never really got to show what he can do because of his injury that he suffered earlier this year.  It’s hard for me to tell about his role going forward since he’s better suited as a DT rather than DE.


Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, CJ Mosley, Andre Fluellen (UFA)

-          Suh finally put together consistent games and was much more disciplined as a run stuffer.  Yes, he has a massive contract that Lions would need to extend in order to free up cap space if they want to sign some FA or rookies from the draft.  That has to be priority #1 for Mayhew.  Nick Fairley is an enigma.  He has the talent to be a dominant DT, but his effort level has been inconsistent and didn’t display the talent that he showed at Auburn on a consistent basis.  He’s entering into his contract year which means we could see the best of Fairley in 2014.  CJ Mosley is a solid DT who does his job as a run stuffer, but won’t offer much as a pass rusher.  He’s actually a good backup DT for the Lions.  Fluellen has been in and out with the Lions and is an UFA.  It remains to be seen if he’ll be brought back by the coaching staff and if he does, it’d be for vet minimum.


DeAndre Levy, Ashlee Palmer, Tahir Whitehead, Julian Stanford (EFA), Cory Greenwood

-          DeAndre Levy put together a great year and justified the contract signing last year when they chose him over Durant.  He has been the best LB on the roster and should be a mainstay for years to come.  Palmer is a great Special Teamer, but is more of a backup LB.  He has done a pretty solid job as a starting SAM LB even though he doesn’t get on the field much.  Lions are likely in the market for a starting SAM LB.  Whitehead has done very well as a special teamer and should contribute in that area once again.  Greenwood is another STer who has done a solid job in his role.


Stephen Tulloch, Rocky McIntosh (UFA), Travis Lewis

-          ­Tulloch has played very well this past season, but is getting up there in age.  This is a position where they need to find their future starting MLB unless the Lions have plans to slide Levy to MLB after Tulloch is done.  McIntosh is likely done with the Lions.  He doesn’t offer much to the team except for special teams, but he has made quite a few dumb penalties so that won’t put the new coaching staff into good graces.  Travis Lewis has been suspended with substance abuse violation, and his future with the Lions is murky at best.


Rashean Mathis (UFA), Chris Houston, Darius Slay, Bill Bentley, Jonte Green, Chris Greenwood (EFA)

-          This is a very young CB group, and like Jeff Risdon said in recent articles and tweets that it’s time for them to sink and swim.  The old coaching staff just didn’t trust young CBs for some reason, yet gave veterans a pass with mistakes.  Rashean Mathis has done well as an emergency stopgap CB and the Lions could work to bring him back for another year.  Chris Houston played his worst season as a Lion and has regressed big time with a different coverage scheme.  He has to bounce back or the contract may look worse and worse though 5 million per year isn’t too bad.  Darius Slay made a lot of mistakes early on, but has gotten better and better as the season goes on.  It’s time for the Lions to develop Slay into a starting CB and stick with him for the better or the worse.  He showed that he has the tools to be productive starting CBs for years to come.  Bill Bentley has done well as a nickel CB and should continue to excel in that role.  He just needs to stay healthy.  Jonte Green barely saw time on the field, but showed a lot of promise in limited time.  He could be a quality #4 CB who can spot start down the road.  Chris Greenwood has potential but has ways to go as a CB.  It seems like he is willing to learn and get better at his craft which is encouraging.  I expect the Lions to resign him.


Louis Delmas, Glover Quin, Don Carey (UFA), John Wendling, DeJon Gomes, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (EFA)

-          As much as Delmas get criticized, he played really well this year and was relatively healthy for most of the season.  Yes, he miss an occasional tackles and take bad angles, but the coaching staff asked him to do a lot at the backend of the defense. I thought he did a great job in that regard.  He is the heart and soul of the defense.  Glover Quin has been a great addition to the team and solified S position for the team.  Don Carey has done well, filling in the nickel back spot which may be his position going forward.  Depending on the coaching staff, he may not be brought back.  John Wendling has always been a good special team player, and that continue to be his role going forward.  DeJon Gomes is young and has potential to be a contributor down the road, but has ways to go. The Lions may be wise to find a quality S just in case Delmas goes down.


David Akers

-          He has been shaky as of late, and the Lions should be wise to find a kicker for the next 15 years.  Fan favorite, Kickalicious, apparently has not done well in workouts which is why he is jobless at the moment.  The Lions would need to find a strong legged, consistent kickers or the musical chair could begin which would be uncharted territory for the fans.


Sam Martin

-          After a lot of complaints about Lions spending a 5th round pick on a punter, but Sam Martin quickly justified the pick by doing well in kickoff and punting.  He has made name for himself with booming punt with long hangtime.  Martin can be a bit inconsistent, but has bright future.


Don Mulbach

-          As long as he can snap, he’ll get the spot as long as he can until he can’t snap anymore or retires.



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6 Responses to “State of Lions Roster Breakdown”

  1. The Strategy Expert says:

    I thought Akers and Muhlbach and Wendling were FAs too?

    Burleson is going to be really hard to retain due to his salary and they can save some space on him while there aren’t a lot of other players we can shed that will provide much monetary benefit. Besides I don’t think there will be room for him after they surely draft a new WR and still have the draft pick from last year on top of that. I was surprised Burleson even made it on this year’s team but I’m going to be extremely shocked if he is still here next year.

    The only other players that have a sizable salary that could be moved on from are Delmas, Houston, and Quinn, and that’s about it. The next guy that could be a casualty after them would be Leroy Harris due to his whopping under $2MM salary next year, not much to work with. Or he’s the starting Center if Raiola doesn’t play for less with us than some other team will offer.

    And I have to say it sounds really nice about the idea of having somebody come in here that can help Stafford. That’s just about the ONLY thing I really care about this offseason. I mean I care about a lot of things, but improving our QB play ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, is what I’m hoping for the most. That’s my #1 PAIN here in Detroit.

  2. ThisGuy says:

    What would you think about the possibility of the Lions trading up from #10 to #2 for Clowney?

    Something like:
    Our 1st & 2nd & 4th, plus next year’s 2nd
    Our 1st & 2nd, plus swap our 2015 1st for their 2015 3rd

    Would that be a good move (and fair value), if the Lions don’t think that they’ll be able to find the right guy at #10?

    • The Strategy Expert says:

      Well not that anybody cares what I think but I would be highly opposed. I think it makes more sense to trade down and to pay extra to move up is counter-productive to what we need to do. We are in a curious and concerning situation and we need to find some value moves for a change and it would be nice to have a higher pick, but the reality is we need to be shrewd more than we need to do something that offers poor strategic leverage.

      Also there will be 4 QBs perhaps that could go in the Top 9, so if you want a specific non-QB player, there’s still some hope that you might not need to even go as high as 2 to get a really high non-QB on your board. That’s at worst the 6th man on your list, so if you are going to trade up then you need to really examine the cost of moving to 2 to get whoever, when you could possibly get that same player much lower than 2, or a comparable other player if have another you like as much as Clowney. But in this case it sounds like you are all about Clowney. So if he’s presumably the 2 pick, then we get no advantage really to try and trade for the 2 pick now. So why not wait and see if he falls to say 6 and then have a plan to get him at 5 perhaps. There is some chance that a team or two not going for a QB could get lured by the top OT or one of the 2 top LBs or Sammy Watkins. Clowney hasn’t had the greatest production last year in addition to his minor traffic ticket concerns, and it could be enough to get those 1-2 teams to pick another option. I think if you really want Clowney then you should at least be conditional to targeting him if he drops a few spots.

    • adminLions says:

      Two issues:
      –why would the Rams want to trade back? What would motivate them to pass on Jake Matthews or a QB to replace Bradford and instead settle for a lesser talent?

      –there is no salary cap room to make up for the lost draft picks with free agents. Those picks are cheaper than the free agents too, and that matters more in the long term.

      • The Strategy Expert says:

        Good point on the draft pick loss costing some FA money, unless they of course are UDFAs, which can solve the problem. But how good will we be if we have 15 UDFAs making the final roster? At least 7 of those guys could ride the inactive list, so it is still an option to round out a chunk of the roster on freebie players whether UDFAs or wire claims of inexpensive players.

        Also the Rams already suggested a hint that they might want a trade down. It sounded like they were willing to gamble on Bradford for longer and that they were motivated to find a trade down partner. If I was the Rams I would ABSOLUTELY be trading down. There is a 0% chance I’m staying at the 2 pick (exact same projected probability I was at with Stafford being #1 in the past) because I believe it’s easy to find somebody to take advantage of AGAIN.

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