Possible Lions free-agent targets
Go through the gallery above or HERE to see some possible free-agent targets for the Lions.
Lions general manager Bob Quinn and the rest of the team’s scouts have spent much of the past two months preparing for free agency, so this week will provide the first real glimpse into the team they want to build.
Free agency begins Wednesday at 4 p.m., and as of Monday, the Lions had about $30 million in cap space for 2016. They could start negotiating deals Monday afternoon, but none of the new signings around the league will be official until Wednesday.
Quinn has discussed the importance of building the team’s depth multiple times, so some of the free agents the Lions pursue won’t be stars. Even with some of the top-tier free agents, the Lions might not be as aggressive as other teams, as the Patriots, where Quinn worked the last 16 years, were among the quieter teams in free agency.
What is clear is that the Lions have some obvious holes to fill even if they re-sign some of their pending free agents before Wednesday afternoon. Some of the holes won’t be filled until the draft, but in terms of both starters and depth, the Lions need to add help at nearly every position.
Here are some possible free-agent targets for the Lions:
Best available: Robert Griffin III and Brock Osweiler
Value option: Chase Daniel
Lions ties: Drew Stanton, Matt Cassel
Analysis: The Lions probably won’t spend much money on a backup because it makes more sense to develop a rookie. However, if the Lions want someone capable of starting behind Matthew Stafford, Daniel fits the bill after being the backup behind Drew Brees and Alex Smith. Stanton has been with the Lions, and Cassel used to play for the Patriots.
Best available: Doug Martin and Lamar Miller
Value option: Alfred Morris
Lions ties: Ronnie Hillman, C.J. Anderson, LeGarrette Blount, Stevan Ridley.
Analysis: The Lions likely won’t go for the big names here because they have some options in the backfield already. However, they still need a power back, which is where the 224-pound Morris could fit. He’s had reduced production the past four years, though. Hillman and Anderson were with offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter in Denver, and Blount and Ridley played in New England.
Best available: Marvin Jones
Value option: Jermaine Kearse
Lions ties: Anquan Boldin, Kamar Aiken, Brandon LaFell
Analysis: Even if Calvin Johnson returns for 2016, the Lions need help at receiver long-term. At 25, the 6-foot-2 Jones seems to be a good investment, and he’s a proven red-zone threat. The 6-foot-1 Kearse increased his production in four straight years with the Seahawks. Boldin and Aiken spent time with Jim Caldwell in Baltimore while LaFell recently played for the Patriots.
Best available: Russell Okung
Value option: Mitchell Schwartz, Kelvin Beachum
Lions ties: Kelechi Osemele
Analysis: As much as the Lions might want to upgrade their left tackle spot, there won’t be many options besides Okung, who isn’t much improvement over Riley Reiff. Schwartz has proven to be a solid right tackle with the Browns. Beachum is an experienced left tackle who could be inexpensive coming off a torn ACL in Week 7 last year. Most of Osemele’s experience is at guard, but he’s played some tackle and was with Jim Caldwell in Baltimore.
Best available: Alex Mack
Value option: Ben Jones
Lions ties: Ryan Wendell
Analysis: How much the Lions pursue centers depends on what they think of Travis Swanson. The draft could make sense, but Mack would add experience to a young offensive line. Jones has more experience at guard, but played center in Houston last year. Wendell was with New England the last seven years.
Best available: Malik Jackson, Damon Harrison
Value option: Jaye Howard
Lions ties: Akiem Hicks
Analysis: Because Tyrunn Walker is versatile, the Lions could go for a run stuffer (Harrison) or a pass rusher (Jackson). Howard will be cheaper and was solid against the run and pass last year as a 3-4 defensive end. Bob Quinn helped the Patriots trade for Hicks last year.
Best available: Olivier Vernon
Value option: Derrick Shelby, William Hayes
Lions ties: Courtney Upshaw
Analysis: The Lions need a No. 2 or No. 3 end to compete with Devin Taylor, and Shelby is a good candidate with some starting experience. He’s also good against the run and pass, and at 27, he could be a younger version of Jason Jones. The Dolphins put the transition tag on Vernon, so they could match any offer. Hayes had at least four sacks each of the last four years with the Rams. Upshaw has been an outside linebacker in Baltimore’s 3-4, but knows Jim Caldwell and Teryl Austin.
Best available: Danny Trevathan
Value option: Vincent Rey
Lions ties: Danny Lansanah
Analysis: The Lions haven’t tipped their hand on whether they’d rather spend on an inside guy or outside guy. Trevathan is a three-down middle linebacker option who’s 25 and coming off a Super Bowl win in Denver. Rey has experience playing inside and outside. Lansanah is older at 30, but he arrived in Tampa Bay when Lions linebackers coach Bill Sheridan was defensive coordinator.
Best available: Janoris Jenkins
Value option: Sean Smith
Lions ties: Patrick Robinson, Jerraud Powers
Analysis: The Lions like their young group of cornerbacks, but they need someone with experience who can compete with Nevin Lawson for playing time. The 28-year-old Smith has at least 12 passes defensed in four straight years, three with Kansas City and one with Miami. Robinson was with Lions cornerbacks coach Tony Oden in New Orleans, and Powers was with Jim Caldwell in Indianapolis.
Best available: George Iloka
Value option: Rodney McLeod
Lions ties: Mark Barron, Rashad Johnson, Nate Ebner
Analysis: Iloka makes the most sense as a strong safety to pair with Glover Quin, but Quin’s versatility gives the Lions options. McLeod started every game for the Rams the last three years and is a ball hawk. Barron was with Lions linebackers coach Bill Sheridan in Tampa Bay, Johnson was with Teryl Austin in Arizona and Ebner is a strong special teams player from New England.