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Mayhew: Lions still a buyer as trade deadline looms

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Chandler’s Cross, England — Despite a 1-6 start, the Lions are still focused on trying to win as many games as possible in 2015.

To make the postseason this year would take a near-miracle, and based on his responses about the remainder of the season, general manager Martin Mayhew sounds like a man who’s focused on trying to save his job.

“I think the trade deadline is coming,” Mayhew told beat reporters and members of the team’s website Friday. “We’re going to be probably more buyers than sellers, and we’ve had some dialogue already about some guys around the league. So, we’re actively looking at those situations.”

Mayhew said the team’s performance Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs at London’s Wembley Stadium won’t impact how the team approaches Tuesday’s trade deadline. The Lions’ top football executive noted the team’s intent to add talent after explaining that star wide receiver Calvin Johnson and quarterback Matthew Stafford are not on the trade block.

Mayhew declined to say which positions the team will target in trade discussions, though the GM rarely offers insight into the Lions’ plans.

Being a buyer in the NFL is different than other professional sports as trades happen so rarely, and if the Lions acquire a player, it would likely be someone who could help beyond this season.

While the Lions have spent much of the past year planning for the future, both with regards to the salary cap and compensatory picks in the 2016 draft, upcoming years remain secondary to 2015 despite the team’s start. The Lions are one of three teams with just one win — Baltimore and Tennessee, too — this season, but Mayhew has no plans to start tanking in pursuit of a top draft pick next spring.

“I think as a competitor, and I am one, until we’re mathematically eliminated, man, we’ve got a chance,” Mayhew said. “That’s what I’m thinking. Obviously, we can’t play the football we played last Sunday and expect to get to the playoffs.

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“But, I have that confidence in this group of guys, I have that confidence in our coaching staff, I have that confidence that we can get something done this year.”

Players and coach Jim Caldwell have expressed similar desires as Mayhew to prove that this year’s start is not an accurate representation of what this team can accomplish.

The Lions went 11-5 last season, but this year’s team shares little resemble with the 2014 group that made the postseason with a wild-card berth. The defense ranked second in the NFL last year, but is 27th now. The offense is similarly productive as it was in 2014, but the Lions are turning the ball over more and haven’t had the late-game comebacks that helped them overcome some of the same issues as last season.

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Mayhew used one of those comebacks, the team’s win over the Atlanta Falcons in London last year, as an example of why he’s still confident for 2015. The Lions trailed 21-0 at halftime, and Mayhew said that was among the lowest he’s felt during a game. But, with a field goal as time expired, the Lions won the game, 22-21.

“One of the great things about sports is that things that seem to be impossible, the impossible seems to happen,” he said.

Of course, the Lions are on the verge of impossible as they look at the current standings. The Packers (6-0) are on the fast track to their fifth-straight NFC North title. The Vikings (4-2) — another divisional opponent — already have two wins over the Lions, and the Falcons (6-1) are second in their division and in control of the other wild card spot.

The shrewd move for the Lions might be to focus on doing everything possible to contend for a playoff spot in 2016, but Mayhew disagreed with that notion.

“The best thing for this franchise is to win football game,” he said. “That’s the best thing for any franchise in the NFL. The more football games you win, the more winning momentum you could gain. When you lose football games, you get losing momentum. That’s what we have right now.”