With the Detroit Lions’ season officially over, it’s time to start looking ahead at what the team has in store for the offseason.
Obviously we start with the most valuable position, the ball boy. Joe McCoy, the current ball boy is certainly one whom Jim Caldwell can trust. Yes, he did miss some important plays on the sideline this season, but his work ethic and positive attitude sure did create a close-knit team, a large reason why Suh was so emotional after Detroit’s playoff loss. Bet on the Lions’ coaching staff to look for another productive season from McCoy, who we expect to be re-signed as quickly as possible.
Nevertheless, the Lions must also take care of their annual free agent situation. With some big names such as Ndamukong Suh and Dominic Raiola on the list of free agents to be, here is our take on what moves Detroit should consider during the 2015 offseason.
Here is the current list of all the Lions players set to become free agents this offseason:
Dan Orlovsky, QB
Jed Collins, FB
Kellen Davis, TE
Rob Sims, LG
Dominic Raiola, C
Corey Hilliard, OT
Garrett Reynolds, OL
Ndamukong Suh, DT
Nick Fairley, DT
C.J. Mosley, DT
Andre Fluellen, DT
George Johnson, DE
Darryl Tapp, DE
Ashlee Palmer, LB
Rashean Mathis, CB
Cassius Vaughn, CB
Josh Thomas, CB
Isa Abdul-Quddus, S
Matt Prater, PK
Don Muhlbach, LS
Kellen Moore, QB
Josh Bynes, LB
The first impression from this list is the fact the Lions may face losing many valuable players on the defensive line. However, Detroit should attempt to salvage some players from this list to allow as minimal damage as possible.
Players the Lions must bring back:
Ndamukong Suh: Nobody in their right mind should question this. The star defensive tackle had 8.5 sacks this past season and was constantly double teamed, allowing other players on the defensive line to make plays. Detroit must do everything it can to bring Suh back.
Nick Fairley: Fairley was having a solid year up until his week eight knee injury which sidelined him for the rest of the season. However, questions have been raised on if Fairley is even in Detroit’s long term plans, as they opted out of his fifth-year option, which would have costed a little over five million dollars. Ultimately, Fairley remains a solid defensive tackle who would heavily contribute to Teryl Austin’s defense, if Austin remains in Detroit.
George Johnson: Johnson, who was expected to be a camp body in August, was not supposed to make the roster, let alone record six sacks in the regular season. He was one of the best finds by GM Martin Mayhew in free agency last offseason. Although he was limited in terms of his snap count, his contribution was quite noticeable, as Detroit should be able to bring Johnson back at a limited price.
Rashean Mathis: Even at age 34, Mathis will be one of the best free agent cornerbacks available this offseason. He started all 17 games for the Lions this season and has shown no signs of slowing down. Detroit would be smart to draft another CB and allow him to learn under Mathis.
Players who could fight for a spot in training camp:
Isa Abdul-Quddus: Abdul-Quddus excelled on special teams, but struggled when playing on defense. And after excellent performances by both safeties in Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo during the season, playing time at that position will be hard to come by. But improvement on defense could bode well for Abdul-Quddus, who might find himself at a valuable backup position when next season rolls around.
Jed Collins: After not using a FB with former head coach Jim Schwartz, Caldwell brought in Collins, who had a respectable season and did all that was asked out of him. With questions at the running back position and injuries becoming a factor, Collins is a safe bet on tough yard situations with a larger frame.
Corey Hillard: Hillard is an injury-proned lineman who can never stay on the field for a long stretch throughout the season. Yet, in his limited playing time over the past few years, he’s been solid. Detroit would be smart to allow him to fight for a spot on the roster and give him a chance to contribute in situations later down the road.
Matt Prater: After watching both Nate Freese and Alex Henery miss more field goals than they made earlier in the season, the Lions signed Prater in a last ditch effort to try to solve the team’s problem at kicker. Prater made 21 of his 26 field goal attempts this season. He has mentioned that he would like to return to Detroit, and the Lions would be wise to bring him back a let him battle it out in training camp with another kicker.
Kellen Moore: Moore managed to fight his way onto the 53-man roster with his solid performances in the preseason. He will likely never see the field in a regular season game as a starter, but his accuracy on short passes and pocket awareness might allow him to sneak onto the roster again in 2015.
Players the Lions should not bring back:
Dominic Raiola: There’s no doubting the 13-year veteran’s love for the Lions. He has taken pay cuts and always shows his love for the city of Detroit, but age seemed to catch up with him this season. Despite saying that he would like to be back with the Lions next year, Travis Swanson, who started in place of Raiola when he was suspended, shined and will likely take over that spot next year.
Rob Sims: Sims really struggled this year at the guard position, as his age seems to be catching up with him. Quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked over 40 times this season, a career high. And although Sims was not the only one at fault, It’s obvious that the Lions need to upgrade their offensive line, and that means letting Sims walk.
Possible Cap Casualties:
Reggie Bush: Although it’s highly unlikely that he will be cut, Bush suffered injuries this year that saw him fall behind Joique Bell on the depth chart. And with the Lions looking to upgrade on the offensive side of the ball, as well as maintain a solid defense, Bush’s salary could get in the way of this, while cutting him would spare the Lions $3 million.
Stephen Tulloch: Tulloch, who is thirty and coming off a season-ending ACL tear, has a higher chance than Bush to get cut. He is set to earn $5.1 million next year, and Detroit would save about $1.1 million by cutting him. On top of that, LB Tahir Whitehead proved his worth during Tulloch’s absence, while the Lions have a young potential star at the LB position in Kyle Van Noy as well.
Ryan Broyles: Broyles is clearly not in Detroit’s future plans as a WR and has not blossomed like many coaches thought he would a few years ago. He was only active for five games last season and caught two passes. Cutting him would save about $1 million in cap room.
After a disappointing end to the 2014 season, the Detroit Lions know what they must do to get ready for another playoff appearance. If the Lions are able to re-sign a few key players and acquire some more solid players via the draft and free agency, this team has a very good chance of making another postseason run next season.