February 28, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Bob Wojnowski

Reggie Bush is not a fit for Lions

Detroit doesn't need flashy player who might be past prime

Reggie Bush ran for 986 yards and six touchdowns with the Dolphins last season. (Joe Rimkus Jr./Miami Herald)

It sounds exciting. It might even be plausible. But by now, the Lions surely have learned a few lessons, haven't they?

Reggie Bush apparently will be available when free agency opens March 12. The Dolphins reportedly are ready to let him go — too expensive, too much of a luxury, not an essential piece. Hey, a perfect fit for the Lions!

No. Oh, if the price dropped considerably — below $4 million per season — maybe it would work, in theory. In reality, no, it's not wise to invest in a niche running back who's about to turn 28 and has seven seasons of NFL wear.

Sorry if that bores you. But this is the time of year when someone (besides me) needs to keep the shiny, enticing objects away from Lions general manager Martin Mayhew. Bush is shiny and enticing. So is Denard Robinson, whom Mayhew called a "Swiss Army knife type of player." Swiss Army knives are cool and Robinson is intriguing, but before collecting more fancy cutlery, the Lions need everyday silverware just to set the table.

They have too many holes elsewhere and too many salary cap issues to add another pricey offensive piece, especially one past his checkered prime. Bush has topped 1,000 yards once in his career. Last season, he rushed for 986 yards and caught 35 passes, one shy of a career low.

Could he make a short-term impact? Of course he could. Since speedy Jahvid Best was sidelined a year-and-a-half ago with a concussion when the Lions were 5-0, they've gone 9-19. Best's career probably is over, and Mikel Leshoure showed no explosiveness after returning from an Achilles injury. Leshoure and Joique Bell still could be a decent tandem, but outside of Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford, the Lions have no big-play ability.

That's why Bush is enticing, and several reports link him to the Lions. The Dolphins seem prepared to move on, although that could change.

Time to make changes

Incredibly, the Lions offense needs yet more help, with receivers Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles recovering from injuries and Titus Young bottoming out. Not incredibly, the defense needs more help, with so many free agents on the roster, they're facing a major overhaul.

If end Cliff Avril gets a great offer from another team, the Lions should let him leave. Same with safety Louis Delmas and linebackers DeAndre Levy and Justin Durant. I'd suggest Mayhew focus on re-signing cornerback Chris Houston and searching for younger, under-the-radar free agents.

The Lions can't keep overpaying no matter how many times they restructure player contracts to create salary-cap breathing room. They went for it last season by retaining practically every starter, and it blew up on them.

Mayhew and Jim Schwartz bet on the players then. Now, they have to bet on themselves. They need sound moves, not necessarily splashy moves. Just because they might be interested in Bush doesn't mean they're ignoring essential areas such as the offensive line, which is why Bills guard Andy Levitre, 26, is a prime free-agent target.

Under Mayhew, the Lions reached the playoffs before regressing to 4-12, and you can point to awful drafting. Gains made by signing veteran free-agents have dissipated, with Kyle Vanden Bosch gone and Burleson nearing the end. Burleson recognizes it and has been campaigning for Bush, who was drafted No. 2 overall in 2006 but hasn't met expectations.

To me, signing Bush would be the easy (but not cheap) route. It requires no intensive scouting, not even much risk-taking. He was injured early in his career but has been productive the past two seasons, missing one game.

If the Lions were on the verge of a Super Bowl run, I'd go for it. But they can't keep patching and plugging. They need pieces closer to their primes, good players who will be around for a while.

Focus on the draft

So what do they do? Dig deeper for gems instead of caving to temptations such as Young, Broyles, Best or Bush. It's how contenders are built. For instance: The Falcons also are considered a possible destination for Bush but aren't desperate because they have Jacquizz Rodgers, who caught 53 passes last season. They drafted him in the fifth round. Nice concept, huh?

Once defenses figured out how to slow Stafford and keep Johnson out of the end zone, the Lions labored, more evidence they still need play-makers. They'd love to land someone such as West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin or Oregon running back Kenjon Barner, absolute burners, but both have risen so high, they're likely out of reach.

The Lions can't draft a shiny object at No. 5. They'll happily take one of the talented defensive linemen, one of the touted offensive linemen or cornerback Dee Milliner. But I've double-checked NFL rules, and nowhere does it say a team can't select future impact players in later rounds.

Mayhew and the Lions can't afford luxuries and must address necessities. Enticing, exciting, shiny — every team needs some of that. The Lions need more of this: solid, selective, smart.

bobwojnowski@detroitnews.com

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