March 11, 2013 at 11:49 pm

Chris McCosky

Patience might pay off for Lions during free agency

Glenn Dorsey, drafted by the Chiefs in the first round out of LSU in 2008, missed most of last season with a calf injury. (Tim Umphrey / Getty Images)

Allen Park — Patience might turn out to be a virtue for the Lions during this free-agency period.

Which would be nice since as it stood Monday, about 24 hours before the official start of free agency, the Lions had little else going for them but patience.

It didn't appear the team was any closer to an agreement with quarterback Matthew Stafford on a contract extension that would significantly lower his salary cap number, which stands at $20.8 million.

Without that, the Lions were between $5 million and $6 million under the cap, and that's without accounting for the $1.3 million tender they gave to restricted free agent offensive tackle Jason Fox on Monday or the expected tenders on Willie Young.

The Lions, though, could fairly easily create additional cap space by restructuring some contracts (Stafford, Ndamukong Suh has an $18.1 million hit, Jeff Backus $3.5 million, Stephen Tulloch $4.8 million) or releasing some others (Ron Bartell $1 million, Mike Thomas $1.5 million).

Still, the Lions probably won't be looking to get in on any early-bird specials, which might not be a bad thing. If this is truly a buyer's market, as some agents and team administrators believe, then players' asking prices potentially could go down the longer they wait.

The Lions likely will leave it to the teams with the most money — Cleveland, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Miami — to make the early splash when shopping opens at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

The presumption, though, is that only one player — Pittsburgh receiver Mike Wallace — is going to command a contract in excess of $10 million per year. So, even the big spenders aren't expected to overspend.

Which is also good for the Lions; it would help maintain a relative low ceiling.

So what do we expect the Lions to do early in the process?

Of their own free agents, the Lions have already made offers to cornerback Chris Houston, safety Louis Delmas and defensive tackle Sammie Hill. All are expected to test the market and of the three, Houston probably has the best chance of coming back.

They are also expected to make offers to defensive end Lawrence Jackson, special teams ace Kassim Osgood and kicker Jason Hanson, who is still contemplating retirement, and long snapper Don Muhlbach.

The Lions aren't expected to make immediate offers to defensive end Cliff Avril, outside linebacker Justin Durant or right tackle Gosder Cherilus. There is also a chance they will not tender restricted free agent safety Amari Spievey.

As for other free agents, it's a good bet that Miami multi-purpose back Reggie Bush is a primary target. The Lions and Cardinals are expected to be in the bidding.

The Lions will almost certainly bid on some defensive linemen, as well. Players they may have interest in include former Seahawks defensive end Jason Jones, former Rams defensive end William Hayes and former Chiefs defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey.

They may also make a play for a safety — perhaps the Texans' Glover Quin. And if Chris Houston signs elsewhere, they will look to sign a veteran corner — perhaps former Charger Antoine Cason.


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