Lions mailbag, Part 2: RB options, Quinn’s big year, Hicks’ assets
Allen Park -- We tried something different with this Detroit Lions mailbag, splitting it up into two parts. On Thursday, we explored the importance of finding another wide receiver this offseason, potential breakout candidates and trading down in the draft.
Today, we answer a second batch of your questions about the upcoming draft and free-agency period.
What position would be best to address in FA, knowing BQ will spend wisely?
In this case, you're looking for a position that's deeper in free agency and thinner in the draft. You'd love to find a veteran tight end, but the market is pretty barren. And while it's flush with pass-rushers, you're not likely to find a bargain in the group.
One spot that might make a lot of sense is running back. There's plenty of example of rookie backs contributing immediately, but how many guys did the Lions have to do through before hitting on Kerryon Johnson last year?
Adding a veteran complement to Johnson probably won't eat up too much cap space and there's some productive options on the market such as Mark Ingram and Tevin Coleman.
Can Quinn fill all the holes on this roster in one offseason and win a playoff game or the division this year, and if not, what does it say about him after 4 full years, and please, no Caldwell excuses.
Absolutely, and if the Lions aren't back in the postseason this year it suggests Bob Quinn is failing at his job. I don't know what Jim Caldwell has to do with this question. Seems like you're fishing for something.
Is T.J. Hockenson the apple of Quinn's eye considering the interest in Gronk last spring along with a complete TE being a need to build a balanced offense? OR Will he shy away from an early pick at TE because of the sins of his predecessors?
I'm reluctant to compare Hockenson, a one-year college standout, to arguably the most physically dominant tight end in NFL history. The Iowa product has the tools to be really good, but let's not assume he's going to step in and dominate at a position so few rookies do.
That is the biggest reservation with taking a tight end in the top 10. It's simply unusual for a rookie to hit the ground running at the position. Now, if the Lions are able to trade down into the mid- or late-teens, yeah, Hockenson makes more sense because less is expected of a first-year player outside the top-10.
Quinn won't and shouldn't be influenced by the sins of his predecessors. Each draft pick, free-agent signing and trade must be made based on its own unique merit.
Jordan Hicks on radar?
It's too early for me to suggest the Lions are interested in Hicks, but when constructing a projected free-agency target list for the team, he landed at No. 17.
The skill set, particularly his ability in coverage, would be a welcome addition. But there are durability concerns. He's missed at least four games in three of his four seasons, and after paying big money and getting burned by injury risks in T.J. Lang and Ziggy Ansah, it would be understandable if Quinn is risk-averse on that front.
Additionally, Christian Jones might not get many people excited, but he was quietly effective for the Lions last season and remains a low-cost option for 2019. Upgrading the linebacking corps would be nice, but it's not shaking out to be a top priority.
What is the cap hit on incentive contracts? Say we signed Ansah to a one year deal for the minimum and then pay him $1 million per sack. How do deals like this help or hurt a team with their cap space?
With performance and playing time bonuses, they are classified as likely to be earned and not likely to be earned, based on the previous season's performance.
In your example, if the Lions offered Ansah a $1 million bonus per sack, they would have a $4 million cap charge for 2019 because he recorded 4.0 sacks last season. For each additional sack, that cap hit would count against the 2020 cap. And in the event Ansah finished with 2.0 sacks in this hypothetical, the team would get a $2 million credit to the 2020 cap.
How far down would we have to move to get a team's 2020 first round pick? Trade our 8 spot for a 15? 25?
Last year, the Packers picked up a future first-round selection moving down from 14th to 27th. The eighth pick carries significantly more value than the No. 14 choice, so hypothetically, the Lions wouldn't need to drop down nearly as far. You're probably in the ballpark with a move down to 15-17, if there's a buyer.
With KJ holding down the back field and Theo and ZZ a toss up, which RB could the Lions draft and what round?
If they don't address the position in free agency, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Lions draft a back as early as Day 2, although re-signing Zach Zenner, after he emerged as a more consistent option late last season, would lessen the need.
I also don't think we can rule out Theo Riddick being replaced this offseason. His production in the passing game really fell off a cliff last season, largely because he wasn't making tacklers miss. With a $4.4 million cap hit in 2019, and the opportunity to gain more than $3 million in space by replacing him, he has to be considered on the bubble.
Among the pass-catching, middle-round options in the draft, Memphis' Darrell Henderson and Iowa State's David Montgomery are interesting. I'm also intrigued by Oklahoma's Rodney Anderson, who has good size and a well-rounded skill set, but notable durability concerns coming off a season-ending knee injury.
Which position if upgraded this offseason will have the biggest positive impact on the 2019 Lions?
That's a tough question. A good pass-rusher could elevate a defense that was playing well at season's end to a very good unit, especially if that player could help generate more turnovers with steady pressure.
But there are other ways to manufacture a pass rush, so I'll go tight end. If the Lions can find a true dual-threat at the position, who can improve the team's run blocking as well as provide Matthew Stafford with a reliable target across the middle, the offense could be so much better.
Biggest FA Lions could possibly land realistically?
Money shouldn't be an option if the Lions want to swing for the fences this year. You're going to see the team tied to Trey Flowers for obvious reasons, and of all the big names on the market, he does seem like the most likely target. He fills a need, he has extensive history with Matt Patricia and the lower season-by-season sack totals should prevent him from getting a contract in the same stratosphere as DeMarcus Lawrence.
At which round will they go TE or will it be from free agency?
Assuming the Lions stand pat in the first round, the earliest a tight end is likely to come into play is the second round. You can make a strong case for any of the top-three in this class -- T.J. Hockenson, Irv Smith or Noah Fant -- at that spot.
There's a bit of a dropoff after that, so if you need to move up several spots to secure the bag, by all means.
As for free agency, the solution probably isn't there. Pittsburgh's Jesse James might be the best option, or Cincinnati's C.J. Uzomah.
Do you see Blount as a Lion in 2019?
No. LeGarrette Blount, who turned 32 in December, bombed last season, averaging 2.7 yards per carry. His east-west running style and below-average vision didn't mesh with Detroit's revamped blocking scheme. There's no reason to run it back next season, no matter the cost.