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