Greg DePalma’s take on the Lion’s free agency outlook. Hear Greg & Ourlads’ Dan Shonka weekly on Thursdays on the Prime Sports Network: http://primesportsnetwork.com/category/pro-football/
With a franchise quarterback like Matthew Stafford coming off a career season, the Detroit Lions are not that far away from contending for their first NFL Championship in 60 years. To complete the job second-year G.M. Bob Quinn needs to find the right mix of talent starting with a front-seven on defense lacking the difference-makers necessary to take that next step.
Top free agents
-WR Anquan Boldin
-OT Riley Reiff
-OG Larry Warford
-RB…Are the Lions confident that Ameer Abdullah can stay healthy and carry the load at a high rate? No matter, at some point this off-season they need to add a power-back to the rotation.
-WR…The Lions have a pair of solid players here in Golden Tate and Marvin Jones. But they sorely lack a true No. 1 option with imposing size which was proven last season when 36-year old Anquan Boldin doubled the TD receiving totals of Tate (4) and Jones (4) with eight. If Quinn can find a way to steal Alshon Jeffrey away from his division rivals in Chicago he’d net the best available player that fits his primary need here. Other top FA options that could fit here include Kenny Britt and Terrell Pryor.
-OT…Quinn has a big decision to make on the right side of his line with both starters G Larry Warford and T Riley Reiff set to hit the market. With an emphasis on improving the run game I expect if Quinn keeps one he’ll opt to resign Warford who is the far better run blocker of the two.
-DL…This is the top need for the Lions with Ziggy Ansah as the only proven performer they can expect to rely on next season. At 33, Haloti Ngata is a shell of himself and should be dropped for additional cap space.
-LB…This is another key need area. Their best player DeAndre Levy has only played six games the past two seasons and can’t be counted on moving forward. While not as important as the line, the Lions can still use a few upgrades here.
Key Injuries/games missed
The only area the Lions suffered from the injury bug came at running back as starter Ameer Abdullah missed 14 games with a foot injury and Theo Riddick missed the last four with a wrist injury. Both are expected to be fine moving forward.
The Lions might not be a finished product, but they have something most teams don’t…a quarterback. This alone gives them an edge over more than half the teams in the league and now it’s up to Quinn to find the missing pieces while Stafford is still in his prime. I have to believe his biggest improvement areas will be the talent up-front on both sides of the ball.
With depth in the draft at running back and wide receiver the Lions can concentrate on the defensive line early including in round one. But if either WR Corey Davis or Mike Williams were available at 21, Quinn should seriously consider taking either player. And I would also look for them to land a power runner in the middle rounds like De’Veon Smith from Michigan.