Lions mailbag: Boldin's days in Detroit appear numbered
Allen Park — Detroit Lions rookie minicamp is this weekend and OTAs will be in full swing after that, plus there's always residual questions after the draft, so we do have plenty to talk about. So let's get to it with this mailbag thing that we do.
@Justin_Rogers Never heard of a player (Asiata) working out along side the rookies, why do the Lions want such an extended look at him?— Mike Kailing (@Mike_Kailing) May 8, 2017
It's not uncommon. The Patriots are working out safety Taylor Mays, a former second-round pick, as part of their team's rookie minicamp. In Tampa Bay, former Lions safety Isaiah Johnson is getting a look.
As for Matt Asiata, he's an experienced veteran who could provide cheap depth if the Lions like what they see during the weekend tryout. Is he going to unseat Dwayne Washington or Zach Zenner? No, probably not, but football is a brutal game and if one of those two players went down with an injury during the offseason, Asiata could conceivably step in and fill the role due to familiarity with the playbook.
Additionally, Asiata can contribute on multiple special-teams units, increasing his value.
@Justin_Rogers Where are things at with Boldin? Any timeline?— @JeremyBloch (@Jero97) May 8, 2017
There has been no movement, and I wouldn't expect Anquan Boldin to sign anywhere until late July. He's a 14-year veteran, and as he proved last year, he can adjust to a new team quickly.
For those holding out hope Boldin returns to the Lions, I'm not going to say there's zero chance, but the selection of a receiver on the second day of the draft, plus rookie tight end Michael Roberts laying claim to Boldin's No. 80, should be considered indicators the team is prepared to go in a different direction.
@Justin_Rogers Who will emerge as the Lions top wide receiver? Are they solid enough at wide receiver?— John Popovits (@The_Johnny_Pop) May 8, 2017
I don't see any reason it won't continue to be Golden Tate, at least in terms of volume. But on a game-to-game basis, it's going to be fluid, just like it was last year. The team has four weapons in Tate, Marvin Jones, Eric Ebron and Theo Riddick, all capable of pacing on the passing attack on a given day.
Do they have enough? It's debatable, but I'd lean toward yes. They lack a clear, go-to option, but have multiple above-average players for quarterback Matthew Stafford to spread it around.
@Justin_Rogers what's the cap status regarding possible FA signings to fill holes?— Greg Durkee (@Durkee971) May 8, 2017
It's been a while since I've updated my personal chart, but it's not like much has happened since the major flurry of free-agent additions. Inking the draft class is going to eat some of the space, but the Lions also will be adding some funds when DeAndre Levy's release is processed on June 1. I'm going to avoid ballparking it for now, but the team has plenty to sign a veteran free agent still looking for a home.
@Justin_Rogers Since buying the team, the Ford's filled seats and that's it. Do you think we need new owners? Do you think we will regress again?— Chad Stewart (@Chef_Chadley) May 8, 2017
I don't know what you want me to say. The Lions' six decades of struggles have coincided with the Ford family's ownership. Now what? You can't fire an owner. If you want to force a change, you do it with your pocketbooks, and as you noted, the team hasn't had much trouble selling tickets.
And here's the crazy thing, it could be much worse. Two owners just abandoned cities. Others have been notoriously cheap, to the detriment of the organization's ability to lure free agents and retain players. Then there are owners like Washington's Dan Snyder, who meddle too much.
The Fords' have an embarrassing track record with the Lions, but it's rarely been from a lack of effort. They spend nearly all available cap space, have above-average facilities and are currently pouring $100 million into stadium upgrades. The family has made some terrible managerial decisions, and late owner William Clay Ford was loyal to a fault. But Martha Ford has been aggressive during her short tenure, and a quick glance at your timeline, Chad, suggests you've liked what general manager Bob Quinn has done.
I don't mean to sound dramatic, but the options are to deal with it or find another team because there's no immediate plans for the Fords to sell.
@Justin_Rogers What do you see as the Lions longterm plan for the FS position? What are the odds Glover Quin's heir is on the current roster as a CB?— steez tabor (@PlaguesFootball) May 8, 2017
Free safety is a complicated position, requiring an advanced knowledge of the entire defense. Suggesting any player makes a smooth transition would be wild speculation. I know a lot of people want to look at Alex Carter in the role, and it's grounded in some logic. He has the necessary athleticism, has bulked up the past year, and you know he's intelligent, Stanford education and all.
But Quin is probably one of the most consistent safeties in the league and it's a pipe dream to think you replace that easily with someone who hasn't really played the position.
Ideally, the Lions extend Quin and he continues to be the consistent, durable player he's always been, with minimal skill decline due to his age. That gives you two or three more years to find a long-term replacement.
@Justin_Rogers Lions have legit interest in blount or due diligence?— Mike Myers (@MikeMye64038659) May 8, 2017
I have not been able to confirm legitimate interest, but understand the logical connection here. Blount fills a need, is going to come at a reasonable price and Quinn has intimate knowledge of the pros and cons having been part of the Patriots when they traded for the big back.
A signing would not surprise me.
@Justin_Rogers Play the long game and look into your crystal ball. Would the Lions have serious interest in sammy watkins should he hit the market?— Braden Shackelford (@Shack_attack03) May 8, 2017
Tough to speculate that far ahead, but my early guess would be no. Tate remains under contract at a bargain rate through 2018 and Marvin Jones will have three years remaining on his deal. Watkins, even with his injury history, will command a hefty contract, probably in the ballpark of what Pierre Garcon got in March (five years, $47.5 million, $20 million guaranteed).
@Justin_Rogers What ceiling do the Lions see for last yrs draft picks A Rob, A Williams, and M Kill? Rotation? Pro Bowl? Good starters?— Derek Wilczynski (@derekwilc) May 8, 2017
The ceiling, implying the best versions of these players, is reasonably high. A'Shawn Robinson has fringe Pro Bowl potential, while Antwione Williams and Miles Killebrew certainly have the skills to be quality starters.
@Justin_Rogers Which rookie 4th Rd and below makes the biggest impact?— Jamie Johnson (@TripleOGJamie) May 8, 2017
Immediately, probably tight end Michael Roberts. Given his red-zone prowess, three or four touchdowns in a limited role, as he's developed behind Darren Fells, would be a nice impact.
Looking a little longer term, I'm intrigued by Jamal Agnew. The Lions are certainly in position to upgrade their nickelback situation, and Agnew showcased impressive ball skills playing against a lower level of competition in college. He has the speed and quickness to adjust to pro receivers, so there's potential for those skills to translate. Also, look at the highlights, he looks like he'll be a solid contender in the return game down the road.
@Justin_Rogers Both LBs drafted did a lot of blitzing in college, Lions haven't' done it that often. Does that change in 2017?— KuehnObservations (@KuehnObserve) May 8, 2017
The Lions have ratcheted up their blitzing in recent years. I reached out to Pro Football Focus to confirm and they recorded the Lions blitzing on a third of passing plays in 2016, above league average.
I don't believe it's an accident the Lions are attracted to versatile linebackers and defensive backs who have extensive blitzing on the resume. They want players capable of those assignments, because it's going to continue to be part of the defense going forward.
@Justin_Rogers Justin? Why are you so awesome in everything you do or write about?— Lions Nation (@LionNation) May 8, 2017
Weird username choice, Mom.
@Justin_Rogers Do you think the concerns about the running game are overblown? This was comeback team last year and they did improve the OL & TE blocking.— 〽 (@BlizzFootball) May 8, 2017
I do not think they're overblown, but could look overblown in hindsight if Ameer Abdullah returns to form and can remain healthy after last season's foot injury. The blocking has improved, on paper, but so much of an offensive line's success boils down to chemistry. Who knows how quickly this new group will jell.
The Lions have continuously sold us on improvements and commitment to the run game, but have finished near the bottom of the league three straight years. I believe in Abdullah's skills, but I'm increasingly wary about his durability, despite no long-term cause for concern.
@Justin_Rogers Ok Lions drafted a QB. When does Kaaya take over for Stafford?— Ricky (@RickyH174) May 8, 2017
Classic Ricky. I believe the new Madden game will be out in August, so you can play out your fantasy there.
@Justin_Rogers People are saying our 3rd round pick will be red zone & that is it he better be a hell of a lot more or pick is wasted right?— ryan herron (@sportsman5000) May 8, 2017
Very few rookies are ready for a full workload immediately, and even fewer third-round picks. Golladay is making a big jump in competition. It's going to be a process, and assuming the corps are healthy heading into the season, he'll likely have a limited snap count to begin his career, which is fine and normal.
Think of it this way. Killebrew was selected No. 111 in 2016. Golladay was pick No. 96 this year. Should expectations be much different for the two?
@Justin_Rogers Is Theo Riddick healthy?— Sharpe (@WillBChampion) May 8, 2017
No. After the draft, Quinn noted that Riddick is still "dealing with a few things." Things namely being offseason wrist surgery. Still, the team is expecting him to be ready for the season.
@Justin_Rogers Do you agree that Bob Quinn is the best thing to ever happen to Detroit?— One Pride (@LionsSB52) May 8, 2017
I don't know, man, have you had the crack fries at Hopcat? (If this name drop results in free fries, that would be fine by me).