Lions Free Agent Target List

Every offseason I approach my free agent and draft board as if I were a member of the Lions front office.  I try to factor in resources, time limits and other teams interest in my free agent rankings.  I don’t take the Madden approach where I just target the best players out there and gradually work my way down the list.  Julius Peppers is probably the most talented free agent available, but he’s not on my list because I think his contract demands will be too high, he has work ethic issues and the Lions would have to get into a bidding war with teams like the Redskins and potentially the Patriots.

My first approach is to rank the positions of need, and I believe they are as follows:

  1. Defensive End
  2. Defensive Tackle
  3. Cornerback
  4. Running Back
  5. Guard
  6. Tackle
  7. Wide Receiver
  8. Safety
  9. Quarterback
  10. Linebacker
  11. Center
  12. Tight End
  13. Fullback

Then I rank the positions of free agents by quality of available players:

  1. Defensive End
  2. Cornerback
  3. Tight End
  4. Running Back
  5. Guard
  6. Safety
  7. Quarterback
  8. Linebacker
  9. Wide Receiver
  10. Center
  11. Tackle
  12. Defensive Tackle
  13. Fullback

I cross-reference the two rankings to come up with my target rankings:

  1. Defensive End
  2. Cornerback
  3. Running Back
  4. Guard
  5. Defensive Tackle*
  6. Wide Receiver
  7. Safety
  8. Tight End
  9. Quarterback
  10. Tackle
  11. Linebacker
  12. Center
  13. Fullback

I usually do not figure the draft into my free agent rankings because there is little to no way to know if the players you are interested in will be available at your pick, and ignoring a position group in free agency and targeting it in the draft is how teams end up reaching for players.  I will make one exception to this rule, if the Lions are drafting in the top six and there are several obvious strong candidates, then it is safe to assume that the Lions will be able to address that position without reaching.  I lessened the need at defensive tackle because it is almost a given the Lions can address this need with the second pick.  Since free agency is so weak at defensive tackle, the best option to address that need is the draft regardless of where the Lions picks fall.

Free Agent Target List:

Defensive End:

  1. Aaron Kampman – Kampman is a premier pass rusher, excellent run stuffer and at 31 is still in his prime.  Coming off ACL injury, but shouldn’t be an issue.
  2. Kyle Vanden Bosch – KVB has familiarity with the scheme and has played for Schwartz before.  Age and injuries have slowed him down and is a short term solution.
  3. Reggie Heyward – Has been a strong pass rusher in the past, but coming off a couple down seasons.
  4. Leonard Little – No more than a situational pass rusher at his age.

Cornerback:

  1. Dunta Robinson – Good all around corner who had an up and down season in 2009 coming off knee surgery.  Young enough that the Lions could get 3-4 years out of him.
  2. Rod Hood – I am a huge Rod Hood supporter and it’s no coincidence that the Titans defense started playing significantly better once they signed him.  He will be a cheaper alternative to Robinson without the injury history too.
  3. Leigh Bodden – I hesitate to put him on the list because the Lions may have burned their bridge with him last season.  He was cut for cap reasons, not performance.  Physical cover corner fits the Lions’ defense way better than he fit in the Tampa 2.
  4. Nate Jones – Good size and he is coming off a productive year as the Dolphins nickel corner and would be an upgrade at the same position for the Lions.
  5. Frank Walker – Had a decent year defending the slot for the Ravens, he wouldn’t provide anything other than solid depth.

Running Back:

  1. Chester Taylor – Taylor is a great complimentary back and has some speed as well as toughness.  Very experienced in the passing game.  He is 30 but hasn’t carried the ball on a full time basis except for one season.
  2. Willie Parker – He isn’t able to carry the full load without breaking down, but he still has game breaking speed and can be a change of pace guy.
  3. Thomas Jones – Jones is a short-term solution and doesn’t provide much big play capability.  He is a more talented version of Maurice Morris.

Guard:

  1. Stephen Neal – Highly productive despite age and he is a great athlete.  Good run blocker and pass blocker, but just a short-term solution.
  2. Rex Hadnot – At 28 he is the youngest of the guards that fit what the Lions are looking for.  Not as consistent as the other veteran options, but is a definite upgrade that could play for 4-5 more years.
  3. Bobbie Williams – More of a run blocker than pass blocker, pass blocking is not a weakness though.  One year fix.

Defensive Tackle:

  1. Dwan Edwards – Edwards is a stout defender against the run and he is a relatively young player.  He played defensive end in the 3-4 for Baltimore but has tackle size.  He would be a good signing to take pressure off of Sammie Hill and whichever rookie DT the Lions end up with.
  2. Justin Bannan – Another Raven tackle who is stout against the run but provides little pass rush.  He would be a rotational player, not balanced enough to be a starter.

Wide Receiver:

  1. Kevin Walter – Walter has experience in the “eraser” position, playing across from a Pro Bowl receiver and making enough plays to draw coverage away from them.  He is not a true burner, but he has speed and good hands.  Production dropped off slightly in 2009.
  2. Chris Chambers – He was a great young player in Miami but plateaued with subpar quarterback play.  He never reached the same level of success with the Chargers after being traded, but exploded for the Chiefs after being cut midseason.  Risky signing, but I’d roll the dice on a short high incentive deal.
  3. Nate Burleson – He is most likely not a viable option because of contract demands, but he was productive in a bad offense with nobody able to draw coverage away from him.  Also risky.
  4. Mushin Muhammad – The Lions are looking for speed across from Calvin, but Muhammad is a big physical receiver that can use his size to get open.  He has great hands and would provide a great veteran presence.

Safety:

  1. Antrel Rolle – Playmaking safety who is expected to be released.  His is inconsistent in coverage at times, but has a nose for the ball and is a decent tackler.  Most likely will price himself out of the Lions interest, but worth inquiring.
  2. O.J. Otogwe – He is restricted, but the Rams used a right of first refusal tag only, which means the Lions wouldn’t have to give up a pick to get him.  They would need to sign him to huge money or use a poison pill contract to prevent the Rams from matching the offer though.
  3. Sean Jones – He was one of the promising young safeties in the league a couple years ago, but has tailed off the last two seasons.  He is a big presence in the middle of the field and is more of a strong safety type.
  4. Ryan Clark – Clark’s performance dropped off in 2009 along with the rest of the Steelers’ secondary when their pass rush evaporated.  He is 30, so he’s young enough to get a season or two out of.  He’s good in coverage and a decent tackler too, a steady presence in the secondary.  Isn’t a playmaker, but doesn’t surrender many plays either.

Tight End:

  1. Ben Watson – Watson has slowly been phased out of the Patriots passing attack since the additions of Randy Moss and Wes Welker.  Watson has good speed for a tight end and has a nose for the end zone.  He’s not a great blocker, but he’s solid and he could help take pressure off of CJ and Pettigrew.

Quarterback:

  1. AJ Feeley – Feeley is a career backup that has proven he can lead a team off the bench.
  2. Chad Pennington – Pennington is known as being a weak armed, but accurate passer.  Pennington doesn’t have good arm strength, but he has good anticipation and can throw a decent deep ball.  He is a great leader and would be an excellent mentor for Stafford.
  3. Derek Anderson – Anderson isn’t a free agent, but should be cut in mid-March.  He had an abysmal year in Cleveland last season after a Pro Bowl year in 2008.  The difference between 2008 and 2009 was not all Anderson’s fault as his top two receiving weapons were gone in 2009 (Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards.)  Anderson established a great rapport with Edwards on the deep ball in 2008 and I think he could be a solid backup at the right price.

Tackle:

There are no tackles I would pursue.

Linebacker:

  1. Keith Bulluck – I prefer keeping Julian Peterson rather than bringing in Bulluck, but I have a feeling the decision will come down to money.  If the Lions can bring in Bulluck for less than Peterson is making, they will do it if Bulluck is recovered from his knee injury.

Center:

There are no centers I would pursue.

Fullback:

There are no fullbacks I would pursue.


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3 Responses to “Lions Free Agent Target List”

  1. Matt says:

    Good list but, with all due respect… Nate Jones has “good size”? I went to college with him at Rutgers. I’ve seen him on the football field and ate with him in the dining hall. He has anything but good size.

    Good, quick, heady player though…

  2. Nate Jones is listed at 5-10 185 lbs, which is good size for a nickel corner. Anything taller makes it difficult to keep their hips low and break on the quicker receivers and anything shorter poses matchup issues with taller receivers that sometimes line up in the slot.

    That’s what I meant by good size. Thanks for the comment and unfortunately he got signed by the Broncos yesterday.

    I hope the Lions make a play for a corner soon, because Will James is in Seattle and if he signs with them they will be out their top 3 corners from last year. Granted they weren’t great, but replacing AND upgrading 3 players at one posiiton is not easy.

    Keep your fingers crossed and thanks for the comment.

  3. […] in March, I put together a Free Agent Target List with a position by position breakdown of what the Lions’ needs were.  Here is the ranking of the […]

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