The “legal tampering” window is now open and teams are already beginning to meet with potential free agent signings. No matter what end of the spectrum a team finds themselves on – one player away from contention to multiple needs on both sides of the ball – the right move(s) will energize the locker room and the fan base. General Manager Bob Quinn has shown he is not afraid to be active in free agency to bring these types of players to Detroit. Last season we saw him address the offensive line in a big way (TJ Lang and Ricky Wagner).
The Detroit Lions’ biggest needs are at guard/center, defensive line, running back, defensive back and tight end. If possible, filling one to three of these needs in free agency can help alleviate the pressure on choosing between rookies in the draft. With just a shade under $30 million in cap space, the Lions have the opportunity to be major players in free agency. What they do in free agency will be a good indicator of their draft plans. A few free agents could fill those major holes and dictate draft strategy for Bob Quinn and Head Coach Matt Patricia.
Ndamukong Suh (DT) – Miami Dolphins
Yes, you read that correct. Ndamukong Suh may very well make a return back to Detroit. The Lions have the money, the need, and the history with Suh. It really depends on if he burnt too many bridges (or vice-a-versa) with his departure to South Beach. Much like Cleveland welcomed back LeBron; I am sure Detroit fans would do the same with Suh bringing back the nastiness, bad-boy mentality that embodies the Motor City.
Suh still performs at a high level and commands attention from opposing teams in their game planning. Suh’s production declined in Miami, but he still is fully capable of playing at a Pro Bowl level. The defensive system in Miami is quite different than Detroit’s. The system and way he was used could be more to blame for his decline rather than his physical prowess.
Consolation Prize: Dontari Poe (Atlanta Falcons)
Malcolm Butler (CB) – New England Patriots
This seems too obvious not to happen. His former Defensive Coordinator is now the Head Coach in Detroit. With the reported falling out between Butler and Bill Belichick (along with disagreement between Patricia and Belichick on discipline), Lions’ fans have been clamoring over the possibility of Butler lining up opposite Darius Slay.
Fortunately, his price tag may not be too high as he struggled last season and has average speed (4.62). However, his familiarity with Patricia and ability to prepare makes him a real possibility for Detroit. His physicality and route recognition skills would be a great addition to the defensive backs meeting room as well. The ability he has shown at covering the slot also makes him a versatile option for Quinn and Patricia.
Consolation Prize: Rashaan Melvin (Indianapolis Colts)
Other Notable Options
Jimmy Graham could sign with the Lions as a pass catching threat. He has lost a step, but his body size and control still makes him one of the few elite pass catching tight ends in the league.
Demarco Murray is a viable option to add to the roster. Tennessee released Murray in light of his injury concern and the strong play of Derrick Henry. His one-cut style could be a nice piece to add in the Lions offense to complement other runners (Abdullah and Riddick). Even if they make a play for Murray, it is not out of the question they add another running back in the draft.
Best Option (For Free Agency and Draft)
The absolute strongest move the Lions can and should make is to bring Ndamukong Suh back home. In addition, they need to sign Malcolm Butler to play in the secondary with Glover Quin and Darius Slay. These two moves, combined with resigning Tahir Whitehead would instantly give Matt Patricia weapons at all three levels of the defense. This would also solidify the draft strategy in the first few rounds as they can focus on drafting starters at other needs (running back, offensive line and tight end) in the first three rounds.
Signing Suh and Butler allows the Lions to draft the best player available (BPA) on their board at either running back or offensive line in the first round. I would expect this to be someone like Derrius Guice (LSU, RB) or Billy Price (Ohio State, G/C). This would also allow them to draft someone like Mike Gesicki in the second round. The tight end out of Penn State was off the charts at the combine with his athleticism and projects as a great pass catching threat. This need becomes even more glaring if Eric Ebron and the organization part ways.
“From Our Haus to Yours”