March 11, 2009 at 1:07 am

Bob Wojnowski

Say this for Lions' brain trust: They haven't messed up in free agency

It's way way way way way too early to say new Lions general manager Martin Mayhew and new coach Jim Schwartz have a firm grasp of their jobs. Way too early.

But in the talent procurement stage of the Lions' latest rebuild, I'm willing to muster this lofty praise for the new brain trust: They didn't screw up.

Hey, when you're taking over an 0-16 team, avoiding expensive mistakes is a start. After watching Mayhew get surprising value again out of the Cowboys -- trading quarterback Jon Kitna for cornerback Anthony Henry -- I was intrigued. And after seeing him sign a couple of decent free agents, well, I'm fairly OK with what the Lions have done so far this offseason.

Oh, they didn't have any big-impact signings. They never were going to invest a ton in the top guys, like defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth, who signed with Washington. But the Lions picked up potential starters at cornerback -- Henry and Phillip Buchanon -- and added Bryant Johnson, who could, theoretically, blossom as a No. 2 receiver after injuries slowed him in San Francisco.

"Where we are as a team, it was more important to get more players than just one," Schwartz said Tuesday. "There are a lot of ways to improve your team, not just with the high-ticket players that make the headlines on the Internet."

The Lions didn't make any of those high-ticket signings to stir fake buzz, and they didn't make any ridiculous ones, overpaying for an overrated guy.

They didn't overload one position or overvalue their own free agents. That was one of many problems under Matt Millen, hanging onto their own draft picks, waiting for them to develop. On this roster, nobody outside of Calvin Johnson is worth hanging onto at any cost.

Of course, free agency merely is the primer for Mayhew, Schwartz and Tom Lewand. The draft is where they'll make their careers (or destroy them). Schwartz says the right things about thoroughly investigating Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford, and when asked if he'd want Stafford to sit a year if the Lions drafted him No. 1, Schwartz gave the perfectly evasive response: "It depends."

So far, the grade for the Lions' front office is a C, not bad, not great.

Although you could call it a D for: Didn't screw up.

You can reach Bob Wojnowski at bob.wojnowski@detnews.com">bob.wojnowski@detnews.com