So many needs, so little cap space. The big question that rests on the Detroit Lions shoulders is this; what will this team look like after free agency? Let’s take a look at the possibilities and then let’s narrow down what could happen for the Detroit Lions.
With players like Dominic Raiola and Nate Burleson restructuring their deals last week, the Lions are looking to have a total cap hit at about $113.9 million dollars. The expectation for the league wide salary cap should be about $123 million dollars. That means the Lions have just under $10 million dollars to spend. Martin Mayhew has gone around and said ‘that more contracts will be restructured over the next few weeks.’ What can we expect from that?
I’d think that quarterback Matthew Stafford will be the first player to get his contract restructured or renewed as the Lions will try and lower his cap hit of $20.3 million dollars to something like $12-13 million dollars. I could be low-balling him on that too so let’s say $15 million dollars to be safe. That opens up $4.7 million dollars more. Next on the list would be tight end Tony Scheffler and back-up quarterback Shaun Hill. Together their cap hit is $5.2 million dollars so I say release them if they’re not willing to restructure. Both players have their roles on the team and I can say neither one of them deserve $2 million dollars apiece per season. Either way they should be able to clear up at least $3 million dollars there. With those three players, that opens up at least $7 million dollars and that would put the Lions to about $16 million dollars in cap room.
We’re not done though.
This one should be a no-brainer, Jahvid Best needs to be released.
Best is taking a base salary of $876,000 dollars but his cap figure is almost touching $2 million dollars. All together he needs to be released or traded and whatever happens… happens. At the end of the day, you’re clearing up cap space and that’s what you need.
Next on the list will be Stephen Tulloch and Ndamukong Suh. Tulloch has a base salary of $3.5 million dollars. If he took at least a $1 million dollar pay-cut, that would help the Lions sign their 3rd and 5th round pick (whoever they may be). Taking that $17 million dollars in cap room and expanding it even bigger would be Ndamukong Suh. The player who has had run-ins with police and on-field anger issues, could do us all a favor and take a pay-cut right? Suh is scheduled to make $11.5 million dollars this season and I think a reasonable number to lower it too is $8 million dollars. It’s not a huge pay-cut but it will allow the Lions to make a splash in free agency, which will be the equivalent to Suh jumping off the high dive in that new reality show he’s in.
Overall, those six players should be able to restructure, be traded or released. In doing so that should open up over $13 million dollars in cap space and all together the Lions would have about $22 million dollars to play with. With that being said, let’s take a look at the five free agent players the Detroit Lions should target.
1. Running back from the Miami Dolphins – Reggie Bush – In 2012, Bush had a base salary of $4.5 million dollar’s but he was a cap hit of almost $6.1 million dollars. Reports from the scouting combine were that Lions will make a ‘strong’ push for Bush. Hopefully at the end of it, they don’t overpay.
2. Free safety from the New York Giants – Kenny Phillips – From the looks of things, Phillips is done in New York. As much as the Lions could take a look at a guy like Andy Levitre, it seems like they’re confident in having Reiff play the RG spot for now and figure it out next year. Levitre may still be an option but getting a safety is a must for the Lions. Phillips made a little over $2 million dollars last season. Increase it by a million and you have Phillips locked up for a couple of seasons.
3. Outside linebacker from the Buffalo Bills – Nick Barnett – Barnett was set to make $500,000 dollars this upcoming season before being released. In two seasons with the Bills, Barnett saw some of his best years as a pro recording over 200 tackles. Originally, Barnett and the Lions were supposed to agree on a contract until the Lions signed Stephen Tulloch two years ago. They now have Tulloch and two unrestricted free agent linebackers in DeAndre Levy and Justin Durant. I think they could get Barnett for under $1 million dollars.
4. Cornerback from the San Diego Chargers – Antoine Cason – A young 26 year old football player? Why not?! This almost seems like a must for the Lions. Yes, they could get Chris Houston back but if you can get Cason for the same price or cheaper that would seem like the smart thing to do. Cason was less than $2 million dollars in 2012 and even though he’s probably looking for a pay-check, the Lions might be able to give him somewhere around $5 million dollars a season.
5. Cornerback/safety from the Green Bay Packers – Charles Woodson – I understand he’s 37 years old. I understand he’s been hurt. I understand the odds of him coming here are very slim but look, he thinks he has at least two years left in him. What’s wrong with a 2 year contract worth $6 million dollars? I don’t see any harm in that. Woodson would be that veteran presence in your secondary that you need, especially since you drafted three cornerbacks last season and are in line to draft another this year.
Those are the five guys I’d like to see the Detroit Lions target this shopping season. Certainly I could say Dwight Freeney and Osi Umeniyora but in all honesty, I don’t see either one of those names coming here and I don’t see Cliff Avril coming back. The best thing the Lions can do is get Lawrence Jackson back and Willie Young back. Both on cheap deals and then draft another DE and call it a day. So as inch closer to March 12th – the official first day of free agency – what will the Lions look like when it’s all said and done? Drum roll please…
The first signing for the Detroit Lions:
Reggie Bush – 4 year deal worth $16 million dollars. Bush takes a pay cut from last year as he realizes that he’ll have to split time with Mikel LeShoure. Either way, Bush will be the number one back and should serve as a great presence in the Lions offense.
Kenny Phillips – You need a guy like this as you don’t have anyone at safety. He’s only 26 years of age and has been healthy up until last year. His injuries aren’t a long list like Louis Delmas so overall I think Phillips would be a good fit here. Let’s give him a four-year-deal worth $12 million dollars.
Antoine Cason – He’ll be getting several offers from many different teams such as the Broncos, Colts and Jaguars but I think the Lions can reel him in. They may pay a couple extra hundred thousand but it’ll be a worth as you’d be spending the same amount of money for Chris Houston to stay. The only difference is that Cason will produce better numbers. If Cason goes elsewhere like the Jaguars or Colts, expect Houston to be back especially since the Lions are making it sound as if it’s a priority for them. I still can see Cason signing a four-year-deal worth $21 million dollars in Detroit.
Nick Barnett – He’s a free agent and has to be looking for work. He’s effective and may pull some comparisons to Julian Peterson as an over-aged player who is past his prime but I don’t care. Give him a one-year-deal and worry about OLB next year. Barnett signs with Detroit for one-year at $550,000 dollars.
DeAndre Levy – Levy is hitting the market but I don’t think he’ll be going anywhere. He made just under $2 million dollars last year and I think he’ll sign a two or three-year-deal worth the same amount of money. He hasn’t been productive enough in his career to earn a payday yet.
Overall the Lions can potentially sign a total of about 5-6 free agents. Ideally I think these will be the 5 guys. After you add up and subtract their available cap room of about $23 million dollars, the Lions will use about $17-$18 million dollars of that by signing the players above. That leaves $5-$6 million dollars of cap space and could even allow them to bring at least one more player. The odds of that happening aren’t realistic but I think the players above are realistic options for the Lions. If the Lions can sign these players above, they’d be able to go into the draft and focus on key needs like DE, FS/SS and getting younger on the OL while being able to grab another CB. This will be a very interesting free agency period for the Detroit Lions when it starts on the 12th.