On the eve of free agency which is set to begin tomorrow at 4 PM EST, the Detroit Lions sit with around $10 million dollars and some change in cap space. That’s roughly $5 million more than last year and I know we all remember the signings of Jason Jones, Reggie Bush and Glover Quin. So what does that mean this year? Well here’s a little preview of what could happen tomorrow or over the next couple of days.
Let’s start with the big name guy in former Cleveland Browns safety, T.J. Ward. He had 112 tackles last year, 2 interceptions, 1.5 sacks and most importantly he played in all 16 games while being awarded NFL All-Pro honors. So what’s next for him? A LOT of money that the Lions don’t have. I understand what I said about having more money than last year but T.J. Ward is going to get paid around the $6 or $7 million dollar range and is just simply out of the Lions’ price range, unfortunately.
At safety, the next player up is Antoine Bethea who has played for the Indianapolis Colts during his six seasons in the NFL. He has played under Jim Caldwell before and could very well be interested in coming to Detroit. However, the number that raises eyebrows is that he got paid just over $5 million dollars this past season and I find it hard to believe that he takes less than that, despite being 29 years-old.
The safety that I see most in play for the Detroit Lions though is Major Wright. Wright has played his entire career for the Chicago Bears and is due for a nice contract at the age of 25. I believe that he could get a deal similar to Glover Quin and would be a great asset to the secondary here in Detroit. Other options at safety are Mike Mitchell, Taylor Mays and Malcolm Jenkins. There is some speculation that Jenkins will land with the Eagles while Mitchell will land with the Redskins.
Since we’re talking secondary though, I say we look at the cornerbacks starting with the top corner in Alterraun Verner. With Sam Shields getting a huge and outrageous contract from the Green Bay Packers, the market is now high for corners and Verner is way out of the price range for Detroit despite all he’s said about taking less to win. They’ll all get paid and the Lions will have to settle for a veteran corner who is labeled as a second-tier corner. I’m alright with that because we just need more bodies back there that aren’t named Rashean Mathis and Ron Bartell.
Who do the Lions settle for? Not Aqib Talib, not Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie or even Antonio Cromartie but I would think of guys like Javier Arenas, Corey Graham and Asante Samuel. To be honest, I’d be fine with all three but realistically it would be one of the three and I think it will be Corey Graham who is still young at 28 years-old and played for the Lions’ new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin in Baltimore. Graham had 74 tackles and 4 interceptions last year in what is being considered his best season yet. Signing him around the $2-3 million dollar range would be ideal.
Now to the biggest area of need, wide receiver. Everyone wants to draft one and everyone doesn’t want to draft one. Let’s take advantage of a strong class of receivers. I’m not talking go out and sign Eric Decker or Hakeem Nicks. Take a look at two guys. Those two guys being Emmanuel Sanders and Lance Moore. Moore has worked with new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi in New Orleans and Emmanuel Sanders actually hit the favorite button to my tweet that mentioned him coming to Detroit. Shortly after, he hit the un-favorite button to the tweet but it was him with the blue check mark and all. Sanders and Moore could alternate amongst each other from the slot and the number two spot. Overall, they both would help with Stafford and they both would keep Calvin Johnson healthy.
Overall Predicted Deals
CB – Corey Graham – 3 years for $11 million dollars (includes signing bonus)
SS – Major Wright – 5 years for $24.5 million dollars
WR – Emmanuel Sanders – 4 years for $16.5 million dollars
WR – Lance Moore – 2 years for $3 million dollars
Most of these contracts aren’t huge and two of them will be back loaded (Major Wright and Emmanuel Sanders) but overall, you’re talking about four solid signings and really leaves the Lions to do whatever they want at the 10th pick of the NFL Draft. I’d also expect running back Joique Bell to get a long-term deal with Ndamukong Suh, eventually.