Reggie Bush would give the Lions the explosive threat out of the backfield they finally found in 2010 first-round pick Jahvid Best. (Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Allen Park -- If you were listening closely to Martin Mayhew — though admittedly the Lions general manager speaks softly, and not very often — you already knew where he was headed this offseason.
He was headed out to do what he should've done a year ago.
After standing pat last season, and paying the price with a 4-12 finish that should've put everyone's job in jeopardy, the Lions vowed this winter to be "selectively aggressive" again in free agency, just as they were in 2010 and 2011. And they practically trumpeted their intentions to add playmaking talent to both backfields — on offense and defense.
So it really shouldn't come as a surprise that two of the more versatile players fitting that description on the market, which officially opened for business Tuesday afternoon, quickly emerged as the prime targets for the Lions.
Running back Reggie Bush, the veteran, all-purpose star who spent the last two seasons for the Dolphins, and safety Glover Quin, one of the leaders of the Houston Texans elite defense, flew to Detroit on Tuesday night to visit the Lions at their Allen Park facility today. For both players, it's their first scheduled free-agent visit, and as this courtship game goes, the Lions hope it's the last for each of them.
Their fans should, too. Because a dual signing involving these two — presumably at a reasonable price, given the Lions supposed salary-cap limitations and what appears to be a buyer's market — would be an impressive start for the Lions in this critical 2013 offseason. Each was probably the second-best player available at his position at the start of free agency.
Bush provides the explosive threat out of the backfield the Lions finally found — and then lost — in Jahvid Best, the key that finally unlocked the offense for Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson and the rest. Best's concussions in 2011 may have ended his career, and Mayhew admitted back in January that counting on his return this past season was "probably the biggest mistake that I made."
"We didn't have a real plan to replace him, you know?" Mayhew said.
Yeah, we know. And so did opposing defenses, which is a major reason why an offense billed as one of the NFL's most dynamic units was anything but that.
"We need that shifty back that can come in and be a change-of-pace guy and catch passes out of the backfield," Mayhew said. "A guy who can run routes and get one-on-one and beat a linebacker, do that kind of thing. That's what Jahvid gave us, a guy with some juice and some elusiveness. So we'll be looking for that guy."
They found him quickly in Bush, the former Heisman Trophy winner and No. 2 overall pick who rushed for over 2,000 yards in his two seasons in Miami while also catching 78 passes and scoring 15 touchdowns. And though other teams reportedly were pursuing him — Arizona, Cincinnati and Washington — by Tuesday it seemed almost a foregone conclusion Bush would end up with Detroit — even Barry Sanders was endorsing the move — and perhaps for less than many around the league had predicted.
In Quin, the Lions hope they've found a more reliable answer to one of their glaring needs on defense. They'd hoped Louis Delmas could be the anchor for their secondary after his breakout rookie season in 2009. But for all his talent — and contagious, live-wire energy — Delmas, a free agent who may end up signing with St. Louis, wasn't able to stay on the field due to persistent injuries, missing 13 games the last two seasons.
Partly as a result of that, the Lions played a losing game of musical chairs in the secondary, prompting Mayhew to acknowledge back in January, "We need impact players, especially on the back end. We need guys that can impact the game."
Quin can do that in multiple ways, which is what makes him such an attractive free agent. Drafted as a cornerback, he moved to free safety in 2011 and even served as a de facto linebacker in the Texans third-down defenses. And while that versatility may be his greatest strength — he's an excellent blitzer, led the Texans in tackles and added a pair of interceptions and forced fumbles last season — Quin also has proven to be extremely durable, starting 60 of 64 games in four seasons in Houston.
There are other holes for Mayhew to plug, certainly, particularly at defensive end and at cornerback. But defensive lineman Jason Jones, who started his career with Jim Schwartz and Jim Washburn in Tennessee in 2008, seems like another logical fit for the Lions. (The Detroit native already was in for a visit Tuesday afternoon.) And the glut of veteran cornerbacks worked in favor of the Lions as they tried to re-sign Chris Houston. Then there's the draft, where the Lions certainly should find a couple starters in the first few rounds.
But Tuesday, it was first about finding fast solutions for lingering problems. And soon enough, we should know if Mayhew finally has some answers, not just the right intentions.
Glover Quin, a safety who last played for the Texans, will meet with the ... (Wade Payne/Associated Press)
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