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2012 NFL Offseason: Detroit Lions

Draft Grades, Season Previews, Offseason Needs, Free Agents

Detroit Lions (Last Year: 10-6)

2012 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
CB Jacob Lacey, SS Sean Jones.
Early Draft Picks:
OT Riley Reiff, WR Ryan Broyles, CB Dwight Bentley, DE/OLB Ronnell Lewis.
Offseason Losses:
QB Drew Stanton, OLB Bobby Carpenter, CB Eric Wright, S Chris Harris.

2012 Detroit Lions Offense:
Football fans finally discovered what Detroit's offense is capable of if Matthew Stafford could stay healthy for 16 games. The results were even better than expected. He threw for 5,038 yards, 41 touchdowns and only 16 interceptions. More would have been made about his 5,000-plus yards, but Drew Brees and Tom Brady both broke Dan Marino's single-season yardage record.

The massively armed Stafford has the potential to match, or even exceed those numbers in 2012, but there are two potential things that could derail him. The first is his own health. Stafford started every game last year, but missed 19 contests the two seasons prior. Keeping him upright is paramount, so Detroit fans must have been relieved when the front office finally addressed the offensive line in the NFL Draft. General manager Martin Mayhew spent the No. 23 pick this past April on left tackle Riley Reiff. The Iowa lineman, once considered a top-10 prospect, fell because of his mildly short arms, but should develop into a quality blind-side protector for Stafford.

It must be noted that Reiff won't have to play that position right away; Jeff Backus will hold down the fort for a while. Backus is good at opening up running lanes, but was guilty of seven sacks and 11 penalties last year. In other words, it won't be long until Reiff is the new left tackle. In the meantime, Reiff is expected to challenge Gosder Cherilus (nine sacks allowed) at right tackle. The rookie should win that job pretty easily.

The interior of Detroit's offensive front is pretty stout. Rob Sims and Stephen Peterman are both very solid guards. Center Dominic Raiola isn't nearly as good; turning 34 in December, Raiola is a poor run blocker and isn't much better in pass protection. He'll have to be replaced soon.

As mentioned earlier, there are two potential things that could prevent Stafford from either matching or beating his 2011 figures. The second is Calvin Johnson - because of the Madden Curse. Players who have graced the Madden cover have a dubious history of underachieving the following season. But how could the league's most talented receiver succumb to it? Well, because it's not really a curse. Madden cover boys often have to do plenty of photo shoots and attend promotional events for the game, which takes away from their training time. So, instead of working out in full force, Megatron, like the other Madden Curse victims, is maybe doing 80 percent of his normal routine. That 20 percent may not seem like much, but in such a fast game like professional football, it could mean an injury or slight regression. Cleveland fans scoffed at the prospect of their beloved Peyton Hillis enduring the Madden Curse last year, and everyone saw what happened.

Coming off his best season yet, Megatron caught 96 balls for 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns. Those numbers will fall this year, so Stafford's other targets will have to pick up the slack. The two favorites to do so are Titus Young and Brandon Pettigrew. The former is a second-year, lightning-quick receiver who finished his rookie campaign on a strong note. Young caught 19 passes for 231 yards and four touchdowns in the final five weeks. He punched teammate Louis Delmas in OTAs and was kicked out of practice for a while, but he has since returned and everything seems to be resolved.

Pettigrew, meanwhile, caught 83 balls for 777 yards and five touchdowns. Like Young, the big tight end finished well, catching 27 balls for 302 yards and two scores in the final four weeks of the regular season. Elsewhere, Nate Burleson will continue to serve as a reliable safety valve, while second-round rookie Ryan Broyles won't be able to play right away because he's coming off a torn ACL.

Detroit's offense was potent last year, but one thing it couldn't do was sustain a consistent rushing attack. The main reason for this was all of the injuries the running backs incurred. Jahvid Best suffered multiple concussions, which was terrible news for a small, but electrifying runner who dealt with this issue at Cal. Mikel LeShoure missed the entire 2011 campaign because of a torn Achilles. He was then arrested for marijuana possession this offseason. Kevin Smith took over in November and looked impressive - until he too went down with a malady. All three of these backs are talented, but are extremely brittle. They're all expected to miss time in 2012.

2012 Detroit Lions Defense:
The Lions built their defense by focusing on the defensive line, and that unit did not disappoint in 2011. The team finished 10th in sacks, racking up 44 of them. Leading the charge was Cliff Avril, who notched 11 sacks. Kyle Vanden Bosch, meanwhile, collected eight sacks of his own. Of course, the two defensive ends were aided by Ndamkukong Suh's presence. The Pro Bowl defensive tackle was a force in the interior. He accumulated only four sacks, but pressured the quarterback very often, which allowed the ends to collapse the pocket.

Avril, Vanden Bosch and Suh all had issues containing the run, however. That, along with Detroit's wide-nine formation, contributed to the team's 26th ranking versus ground attacks (4.89 YPC). Avril and Suh also had issues with penalties; the two combined for 20 of them. Of course, Suh's most egregious infraction was kicking a Packer lineman on the ground on Thanksgiving, which resulted in a suspension. However, penalties were a season-long problem for the Lions, who would often self-destruct. The team needs to be much more disciplined if it wants to advance deep into the playoffs.

The rest of the defensive front is stout. Detroit has a deep defensive line rotation. Defensive tackles Corey Williams and Sammie Lee Hill are both strong run-stuffers, while second-year Nick Fairley has all the potential in the world. He just needs to get his head on straight and stop being arrested twice per offseason. Meanwhile, reserve ends Lawrence Jackson and Willie Young rushed the passer very effectively.

Given how much pressure Detroit generates, one would assume that the team contains aerial attacks pretty well. That assumption is incorrect, however, as the Lions surrendered a mind-boggling 1,612 passing yards in their final four games of the season, including the playoff loss to the Saints in which Drew Brees threw for 466 yards. The secondary absolutely had to improve this offseason. It'll be a bit better than it was this past January.

The Lions lost the oft-torched Eric Wright to the Buccaneers and replaced him with the duo of third-round rookie Dwight Bentley and free agent Jacob Lacey. It's unclear how the former will play, while the latter isn't bad, but isn't anything to write home about either. The two will provide depth at the very least, and one of them could challenge Aaron Berry for the right to start across from Chris Houston, who surrendered a solid 52.9 completion percentage in 2011.

So, why will Detroit's secondary be better than it was in January? Because stud free safety Louis Delmas will actually be healthy, assuming Titus Young doesn't punch him several more times. Delmas was knocked out with a knee injury on Thanksgiving and didn't play again until the aforementioned battle against the Saints. It was very clear that Delmas wasn't healthy, as Brees quickly discovered this and exposed the hobbled safety. A 100-percent Delmas is huge because strong safety Amari Spievey stinks.

The linebacking corps, meanwhile, received a huge boost when the team re-signed Stephen Tulloch. The Lions weren't in the best cap position, so retaining both Avril and Tulloch didn't seem possible entering the offseason. However, there wasn't much of a market for inside linebackers, even for players as talented as Tulloch, so Detroit was able to keep him at a very cheap price (5 years, $25.5 million).

There is some concern with Tulloch, however, because he's developed knee tendinitis. He insisits it's nothing major, but he may not be able to practice until training camp. If he's OK, the linebacking corps will look pretty good. Justin Durant, manning the strong side, is a good two-down run-defender. Weakside linebacker DeAndre Levy struggled last year, but perhaps he'll be able to rebound; he was solid the prior season.

2012 Detroit Lions Schedule and Intangibles:
The Lions, historically, have one of the worst home-field advantages in the NFL, owning a horrendous 58-70 record since 1996. But that's nothing compared to their 27-102 road mark during that span. Things have turned around, however, as Detroit was 5-3 as a host and 5-4 as a visitor in 2011. The team needs to play better at Ford Field.

In the five years prior to 2010, the Lions didn't have a single real special-teams touchdown (the only one was a fluke score by Casey Fitzsimmons off an onsides kick). Even worse, they had given up NINE returns. Well, the latter figure is now up to 13 (two in 2011). Stefan Logan was decent on kick returns, but was outgained on 4.5 yards on punts.

Jason Hanson just turned 42 in June. Despite this, he drilled 24-of-29 attempts last year, including 5-of-7 from 50-plus. It's amazing how he's been able to kick this well for so long.

Ryan Donahue was one of the league's worst punters last year, averaging 42.7 yards per boot with 13-of-49 attempts pinned inside the 20.

The Lions have so many easy games on their slate. This includes: Rams (home), Titans (road), Vikings (twice), Seahawks (home), Jaguars (road), Colts (home) and Cardinals (road). This makes up for having to deal with the Packers and Bears twice.

2012 Detroit Lions Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):

Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2012 Detroit Lions Analysis: The Lions have one of the most talented rosters in the league. They now have to play up to that talent level. They must avoid stupid penalties and mistakes that resulted in losses last year. They also have to stop getting into legal trouble. If they can do all that, and if Calvin Johnson can elude the dreaded Madden Curse, there's no telling how far this team can go.

Projection: 11-5 (Tied 2nd in NFC North)

2012 Fantasy Football Rankings

More 2012 NFL Season Previews


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Reggie 07-07-2013 07:30 am (total posts: 2)
19     89

Lions this season should be exciting.
At QB we have a very talented QB entering his prime. At RB we now have some speed to complement the solid Bell/Leshoure power duo. At WR/TE we have the best in Calvin, a TE in Pettigrew who is in his contract season, and potential in Broyles....I am a little concerned at the depth at this position. The OL is unknown. No one can say how it will turn out which is scary. LG Rob Sims is very solid. Raiola should be a decent center and line leader for one more season. I think Reiff will be fine after a few games and I think the same for Warford at RG. RT Fox and Hilliard should suffice...I wouldn't mind Winston. Our DL will be scary good this season vs both the run and pass. LB are mediocre at best and the secondary and special teams will be drastically improved. I think 9-10 wins should be expected for this team.
Tyler 07-07-2013 03:29 am (total posts: 1)
3     89

Blegh...... detroit will be in the hunt for the playoffs. The secondary is solid.... the d-line will be Domiant-solid.... linebackers meh...-iffy Offensivley the lions will be decent. Reggie bush is a HUGE upgrade in the RB spot. He really should help stafford out so he'll have a safety valve for once Reiff has longer arms than joe thomas and jake long so why call him dinosaur arms? The interior is solid.... The tackles..... Stafford really needs to stay in the pocket.... receiver wise it's a decent group. TE wise they can run a lot of 2 TE sets. and bush should really help stafford out.... there is enough talent here to win a playoff game. Stafford MUST throw 30+ TDs to make the playoffs. Megatron will help run the ball given he's triple covered a lot. the lions really should try and trade for a RT (oher for a 2nd round pick?,Saffold for a 3rd rounder?,Albert for a 3rd rounder?,sign winston?) The lions have a lot of options at RT.... and yet they don't do any of them.... i'd trade for saffold he can be a LT or RT (he's in his contract year but still a 3rd rounder or 2nd rounder plus a few picks is worth it to keep stafford healthy.) Detroit fans you better hope there's a trade.../signing...
Joe 07-06-2013 11:58 pm (total posts: 6)
3     28

Stafford won't make it out of preseason and Shaun Hill will join him on IR by week four with this shoddy OL. That leaves Kellen Moore to take the Lions to the promised land of another first overall pick and a 2-14 season!

And they'll be lucky to win those two games...
WyattBurp 07-05-2013 05:59 pm (total posts: 14)
17     167

@Kevin. Last in the NFC North is a spot reserved for the Bears. I think the Vikes will be 8-8, but it's a toss-up between the Lions and Green Bay for the division. Only time will tell.
Kevin 07-04-2013 04:40 am (total posts: 2)
4     4

I hear what you are saying about the O-line but there really is a lot to be hopeful for. Raola is still a solid Center but even if his skills prove to be declined this season Gandy can play Center and actually Gandy could play anywhere along the line and Hilliard is very versatile too. Warford was a great pick in the draft Reiff has a year of experience under his belt at the NFL level now so I think he'll be solid as well. Waddle, Nagy and Scott can provide adequate depth should someone go down and the offensive coordinator can help this O-line out by playing out of the shotgun more too. So they have enough talent. Ideally I would like to see them add one more quality veteran maybe Brandon Moore or Eric Winston to the line but all in all I have a sneaky feeling that they will be OK. Of course the big question is how well will they play as a unit. We will see but with the improvements everywhere else on the roster from the running game to the defense to an improved special teams unit adding Mosley, Akers, Greenwood, Mulbach and Owens. Sure people are talking about the punter being an unknown at this time but I'm not too worried about that because adequate punters always seem to be available in free agency and hey aren't signed that quickly and who knows maybe the guy they drafted Martin may just turn out to be decent. One thing for sure that is a real positive is the fact that Detroit signed all of their draft choices quickly and there have been no off the field distractions this year. I'm feeling real good about this season for the Detroit Lions.
Kevin 07-04-2013 03:49 am (total posts: 2)
10     5

I know you graded the Lions with a B which is solid but take a closer look. While Bush has gotten all of the press and I'm sure has factored into the grade more than most, the Lions have quietly built a very good defensive secondary and strengthened an already strong D-line, The addition of Quin who is one of the best Safeties in the NFL and with resigning Delmas (who when healthy is a very good Safety too and I know he gets hurt but stay with me here) and Houston they also added quality veteran depth in Bartel and Hope (although older is a savey veteran and has been a pro-bowler and knows how to play the position) and Spivey who will be a quality backup and has started in the past but admittedly has had problems with concussions but also the reports on their rookie Darius Slay are glowing, they say this guy is real impressivean and Greenwood, Bentley and Green give them depth. At DE we know Ansah is a freakish athlete which sometimes translates to the NFL level but not always so I was real happy to see them pick up Israel Idonije who is a quality three down veteran DE and Jason Jones who is versatile (listed as a DE but can be used at other positions) and although not viewed as a three down player in the right situations he has proven to be very effective. We know that Young is a solid DE who has come into his own and Fairly and Suh are tough up the middle (two of the best) and the LB core is looking solid up the middle and on one side. The only question mark on this defense is one OLB position and the Lions have three young guys competing for that spot who all show promise so one of the Palmer, Lewis or Whitehead I believe will step up or perhaps they rotate them in or even drop Jason Jones in there, so they have options. Very quietly the Lions have made huge improvements on the defensive side of the ball and Lions fans can feel very very good about this team. I know that most people are picking them to be last in their division again this year but mark my words they are going to give Green Bay a run for their money this season you just watch.
bud lion 06-29-2013 05:34 pm (total posts: 1)
4     4

Tyler you are an idiot I don't even know why you're here if all you're gonna do is bash the team go some where else with all that negativity
oh and one more thing

Go lions
Lionsfan88 06-23-2013 07:56 pm (total posts: 1)
15     6

@Tyler. Go back to 1st grade and learn how to spell
WyattBurp 06-17-2013 03:26 pm (total posts: 14)
23     111

@Tyler. If you're a Lions fan, you wouldn't say these things. Menelick Austin got taken in the 2nd round. Would you give up Darius Slay for him? I wouldn't.

Stafford got hurt? So did Cutler, Manning, and so on. It's the NFL. Everyone gets hurt. Noone does it on purpose.

If Broyles catches for over 1,000 yards this season, would you still say it's a bad pick? I wouldn't.

Schwartz and Mayhew have done a great job. Lions will get to the playoff, this year. Don't worry, Tyler. Not unless your a fan of some other team. Then, I'd worry. I'd be very worried!
Ian 06-17-2013 02:15 pm (total posts: 1)
10     7

Tyler, you're an idiot. I'm all for differing opinions, but everything you said had me thinking "Is that fellow in need of medical attention?"
Tyler 06-17-2013 03:18 am (total posts: 1)
5     140

I wish we took the tackle teh raiders took... (menelik austin?)He's raw but if stafford goes down.... Poof goes the season Stafford is definitley an underachiever ast the 1ts overall pick.... (he did get us to the playoffs and help johnson set the receciving record, 5,000 yards passing blah blah) those are nice but he still got injured during his 1st two seasons.... Which had us picking 2nd (we shouldve taken okung..... ) 11th in 2011.... (wtf nick fairley? WHERE THE F*** IS A TACKLE?!?!?!?!?) 2012 (reiff YAY A TACKLE!!! 2nd round we shouldve taken cordy glenn,johnathan martin..... but no we got ryan broles.... Bleh)Martin mayhew and Jim schwartz need to go we need a new GM he's done a decent job but he's still f***ed it up. (2009 Nfl draft.... actually glad we passed on oher.... but alex mack? percy harvin.... the list goes on and on... oh and we took louis delmas who is a good but injury prone safety when we couldve had jairius byrd....) Alex mack,percy ahrvin,jairius byrd.... 3 pro bowlers instead we got a bust TE... (who was 24......and an iffy saftey) FIRE MAYHEW!!!!!!! And schwartz
Vikes Fan 06-10-2013 01:23 am (total posts: 1)
7     7

I really really like the lions draft. If Ansah and Warford are both as good as they are supposed to be then the lions should be a really strong team this year. Especially if they have bush line up outside or in the slot a lot. That would be a strong combo for them.
WyattBurp 05-29-2013 08:02 pm (total posts: 14)
34     63

@Clueless. First, kudoes on your parents naming you. They had foresight.

Second, Reiff plays left tackle. That clears up your mystery, right?

Third, the O-line will be fine. I'm not worried about them one bit. Why? Because Pepper and Allen are OLD, and if you stop Matthews, Green Bay has no pass rush.

Fourth, the corners are fine. I expect that to be a position of strength for the Lions. Only reason they might not be inexperience. Corners are always tricky, because their performance depends on what the defense is doing. I expect the defense to put Rodgers, Cutler, and Ponder on their butts most games.

See, Clueless, was that so difficult?

Lions will make the playoffs. Bears will finish last. That's my prediction, and I'm sticking to it!
LessCluelessthenWalter 05-28-2013 10:13 am (total posts: 1)
252     305

"However, as it stands now, Reiff, Corey Hilliard and Jason Fox are the only tackles on the roster. With Clay Matthews, Jared Allen and Julius Peppers in the division, there's a good chance Matthew Stafford doesn't make it through the 2013 season.

Cornerback was also a need, though not as great of a need as people think. Having said that, what Detroit plans on doing at left tackle is beyond me. Matthew Stafford probably won't make it through the 2013 season."

They have been grooming Reiff, Fox and Hilliard for years to take the reins when Sackus and Cheerless leaves. You have no basis to state they can't do the job.

But yet...

The CBs that you state aren't in need of an upgrade showed they CAN'T do the job last year. They were often burnt; gave up chunks of yards, 1st downs and TDs. Or they were so out of position they could do nothing but Interfere.

It's a safe place to hide within the mass media and spouse the same unknowing drivel, but don't expect people to pick your site for insight when you haven't truly did your research.

Here's a bet: The OLine will be dramatically better and MS will have his best year. Along with the rushing game being dramatically better.

VS. - what you said.

I love the Lions flying under the radar.

Brandon Perburn, ILB, Florida A&M
Tyler` 05-17-2013 03:40 am (total posts: 1)
7     11

Stafford will be fine.... -ish I wish wed drafted menelik austin in the 2nd round so hed be our RT warford our RG and reiff our LT.... our line would be inexpierenced.... but hey it look like a decent line....

2012 NFL Draft Grade: A

Goals Entering the 2012 NFL Draft: The Lions believe in drafting the best player available. If they were to focus on certain positions, however, they would undoubtedly fix their atrocious secondary. If you watched New Orleans score at will against Detroit in the playoffs, you know why this area needs to be addressed. Meanwhile, a franchise left tackle is something that has eluded the Lions for years.

2012 NFL Draft Accomplishments: I've been saying for years that the Lions had to find a blind-side protector for Matthew Stafford. Well, they finally were able to do just that while sticking with their "best player available" strategy. Riley Reiff, once considered a top-10 prospect, was a major steal at No. 23. He shouldn't have gotten past the teens.

The Lions, as usual, did a great job of adding talent to their roster. The secondary was addressed with Dwight Bentley and Chris Greenwood, both of whom were good values where they were chosen. Two linebackers, Ronnell Lewis and Travis Lewis, were steals. Ryan Broyles, meanwhile, didn't fill a need, but he should be a dynamic weapon for Ser Stafford.

Detroit once again walked away from Draft Weekend as one of the big winners. Martin Mayhew has done a phenomenal job of completely turning this franchise around.

2012 NFL Draft Individual Grades:

23. Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa: A+ Grade
History repeats itself. Two years ago, Iowa tackle Bryan Bulaga was a top-10 prospect who dropped to the 20s. That pick worked out really well, and I'll be shocked if the Lions don't have similar success with Riley Reiff. Detroit really needed a tackle to protect Matthew Stafford, and Reiff was the best player on the board. Great move.

54. Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma: B Grade
Hmm... maybe the Vikings should have drafted Morris Claiborne after all. This is crazy. If Ryan Broyles pans out, how are teams going to stop their offense? Broyles, if healthy, should be a good player for Matthew Stafford, who will need someone to throw to once Calvin Johnson suffers from the Madden Curse. I have to wonder though, why not improve the defense? I feel like there were better prospects available, but I don't have a problem with this selection.

85. Dwight Bentley, CB, Louisiana-Lafayette: A Grade
The Lions do what they do most of the time - they select the best player available. Dwight Bentley could have possibly been selected at the very end of Round 2, so Detroit is getting really good value with him. He obviously fills a need as well; it's been well-documented how anemic the Lions' secondary is.

125. Ronnell Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma: A+ Grade
I'm not sure how the hell Ronnell Lewis fell into Round 4 (let alone Round 3). The Lions are getting a major steal. They don't need a linebacker in terms of a starter, but Lewis is way too good to pass up at this juncture.

138. Tahir Whitehead, DE/OLB, Temple: D Grade
I thought the Lions took the best player available? Tahir Whitehead was a seventh-round prospect. I also don't see how he fits into Detroit's defense. He should have been drafted by a team to be a 3-4 rush linebacker.

148. Chris Greenwood, CB, Albion: B Grade
No surprise that the Lions selected a second cornerback. They really needed help at the position. Chris Greenwood has good upside and fits the range in the middle of Round 5.

196. Jonte Green, CB, New Mexico State: C Grade
Detroit really wants to fix the cornerback position. I don't think many people had Jonte Green as a draftable prospect, however.

223. Travis Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma: A+ Grade
Another Oklahoma linebacker. Another steal. Another A+. This new Lions regime knows how to draft. The only question is, why didn't they fire Matt Millen sooner?

Season Summary:
Finally. Lion fans endured a decade of horrible players, Matt Millen madness and zero postseason appearances, but at long last, their team finally reached the playoffs. Just getting there won't be enough next year, however. Detroit will be expected to contend for the Super Bowl.

Offseason Moves:
  • Lions sign SS Sean Jones
  • Lions re-sign DT Sammie Lee Hill
  • Lions re-sign OT Corey Hilliard
  • Patriots sign OLB Bobby Carpenter
  • Lions re-sign RB Kevin Smith
  • Lions sign DE Everette Brown
  • Lions re-sign TE Will Heller
  • Lions re-sign ILB Stephen Tulloch
  • Lions re-sign OLB Ashlee Palmer
  • Lions re-sign DT Andre Fluellen
  • Lions sign CB Jacob Lacey
  • Lions re-sign OT Jeff Backus
  • Lions re-sign QB Shaun Hill
  • Lions re-sign S Erik Coleman
  • Buccaneers sign CB Eric Wright
  • Lions cut TE Will Heller
  • Lions franchise DE Cliff Avril

    Offseason Needs:
    1. Left Tackle: The Lions have avoided upgrading the left tackle position for years, but they'll finally be forced into it because Jeff Backus is a free agent. Detroit doesn't draft for need whatsoever, so don't expect the front office to pull the trigger on Zebrie Sanders this April unless they really love him. Drafted Riley Reiff; re-signed Jeff Backus

    2. Cornerback: Chris Houston is a solid starting corner, but the oft-torched Eric Wright is a free agent. The Lions needed an upgrade anyway, and I'm sure they wouldn't hesitate to grab Alfonzo Dennard if he drops down to them this April. Drafted Dwight Bentley; signed Jacob Lacey

    3. Strong Safety: Amari Spievey was brutal all year, and he saved his worst performance for the postseason loss at New Orleans. Detroit will have to find a solution via free agency because this draft class is weak at the safety position. Signed Sean Jones

    4. Defensive End: Cliff Avril is going to command a ton of money this offseason. If the Lions let him walk, they'll have to find another potent pass-rusher somewhere. Someone like Vinny Curry would make sense in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Franchised Cliff Avril; signed Everette Brown

    5. Center: The center position is one of three areas that needs to be upgraded up front. Dominic Raiola isn't any good, and he just turned 33 in December.

    6. Linebacker: If Detroit doesn't retain free agent Stephen Tulloch, it'll need to acquire a capable replacement at either inside or weakside linebacker, depending on where it wants to use DeAndre Levy. Re-signed Stephen Tulloch; drafted Ronnell Lewis

    7. Right Tackle: Gosder Cherilus isn't terrible, but he can definitely be upgraded. The Lions have too many areas to fix, however, so they may give him another year at the right tackle slot.

    8. Running Back Depth: It's almost a certainty that Jahvid Best and Kevin Smith will get hurt next year. Mikel Leshoure is coming off a torn Achilles. The Lions will have to add insurance in the middle rounds. Re-signed Kevin Smith

    9. Backup Quarterback: The Lions will need a reliable backup quarterback if Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton depart. Re-signed Shaun Hill

    10. Punter: Ryan Donahue did a poor job as a rookie this past season.

    2012 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Sean Jones, SS, Buccaneers. Age: 30. -- Signed with Lions
    2. Jacob Lacey (RFA), CB, Colts. Age: 25. -- Signed with Lions (1 year)

    Detroit Lions Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Stephen Tulloch, ILB, Lions. Age: 27.
      Re-signed with Lions (5 years)

      The Lions committed Grand Theft Linebacker when they signed Stephen Tulloch to a 1-year, $3.25 million deal this past offseason. They won't be able to get him so cheap this time. Tulloch is one of the top players at his position.

    2. Cliff Avril, DE, Lions. Age: 26.
      Franchised by Lions

      Though Cliff Avril is a liability in run support, he happens to be a dynamic pass-rusher in a pass-happy league, so he's due for a huge contract. He had 11 sacks and six forced fumbles in 2011.

    3. Sammie Lee Hill (RFA), NT, Lions. Age: 25.
      Re-signed with Lions (1 year, $1.26 million)

      Sammie Hill is a young, skilled run-stuffer who offers decent pass-rushing ability for someone his size (6-4, 330).

    4. DeAndre Levy (RFA), ILB, Lions. Age: 25.
      I guess we know that DeAndre Levy's true position is at inside linebacker because he struggled at the weakside spot this past season.

    5. Kevin Smith, RB, Lions. Age: 25.
      Signed with Lions (1 year)

      There's no denying that Kevin Smith is really talented, but he's way too injury-prone and unreliable. He's lucky to make it through each week.

    6. Jeff Backus, OT, Lions. Age: 34.
      Re-signed with Lions (2 years)

      Jeff Backus is a good at run blocking, but he was guilty of 11 penalties and seven sacks this past season. He turns 35 in September, so he obviously doesn't have much left in the tank.

    7. Shaun Hill, QB, Lions. Age: 32.
      Re-signed with Lions (2 years)

      Shaun Hill has proven himself as one of the top backup quarterbacks in the NFL.

    8. Bobby Carpenter, OLB, Lions. Age: 29. -- Signed with Patriots
    9. Chris Harris, S, Lions. Age: 30.
    10. Drew Stanton, QB, Lions. Age: 28. -- Signed with Jets (1 year)
    11. Eric Wright, CB, Lions. Age: 27. -- Signed with Buccaneers (5 years, $37.5 million) WTF!?
    12. Ashlee Palmer (RFA), OLB, Lions. Age: 26. -- Re-signed with Lions (1 year)
    13. Maurice Morris, RB, Lions. Age: 32.
    14. Andre Fluellen, DT, Lions. Age: 27. -- Re-signed with Lions (1 year)
    15. Corey Hilliard (RFA), OT, Lions. Age: 27. -- Re-signed with Lions (1 year, $1.26 million)
    16. Brandon McDonald, CB, Lions. Age: 27.
    17. Isaiah Ekejiuba, OLB, Lions. Age: 30.
    18. Erik Coleman, S, Lions. Age: 30. -- Re-signed with Lions (1 year)
    19. Leonard Davis, G, Lions. Age: 33.
    20. Maurice Stovall, WR, Lions. Age: 27. -- Re-signed with Lions
    21. Rashied Davis, WR, Lions. Age: 33.
    22. Will Heller, TE, Lions. Age: 31. -- Re-signed with Lions
    23. Jerome Harrison, RB, Lions. Age: 29.

    2012 NFL Free Agent Rankings Coming Soon

    Divisional Rival History:
    Chicago Bears: The teams split in 2011. Chicago had won 10 of 12 before that.
    Green Bay Packers: The Packers have won 20 of the last 23 meetings. Detroit beat Green Bay at home in 2010, but Aaron Rodgers missed half the game.
    Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings had somehow won 21 of the past 24 meetings prior to 2011. Detroit swept Minnesota this year.

    Features to be Posted This Offseason:
    1. 2012 NFL Draft Grades (Pick-by-Pick NFL Draft Grades as well - Live on Draft Day!)
    2. Detailed season preview
    3. Fantasy football projections
    4. Positional rankings
    5. Daily updates on free-agent signings

    More 2011 NFL Offseason Pages:

    DAL / NYG / PHI / WAS /
    CHI / DET / GB / MIN /
    ATL / CAR / NO / TB /
    ARZ / SEA / SF / STL /
    BUF / MIA / NE / NYJ /
    BAL / CIN / CLE / PIT /
    HOU / IND / JAX / TEN /
    DEN / KC / OAK / SD /

    2012 NFL Offseason Pages

    Fantasy Football Rankings - July 28

    2016 NFL Mock Draft - July 24

    2015 NFL Mock Draft - July 23

    2015 NBA Mock Draft - July 1

    NFL Free Agents

    NFL Picks - Feb. 2

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