RB Reggie Bush, G Leroy Harris, G Jake Scott, DE Israel Idonije, DE/DT Jason Jones, DT C.J. Mosley, S Glover Quin, K David Akers, K Havard Rugland, KR Michael Spurlock.
Early Draft Picks:
DE Ezekiel Ansah, CB Darius Slay, G Larry Warford, DE Devin Taylor, P Sam Martin. Lions Rookie Forecast Offseason Losses:
RB Kevin Smith, WR Titus Young, WR Kassim Osgood, TE Will Heller, OT Jeff Backus, OT Gosder Cherilus, G Stephen Peterman, DE Cliff Avril, DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, DE Lawrence Jackson, DT Corey Williams, DT Sammie Lee Hill, DT Andre Fluellen, OLB Justin Durant, CB Jacob Lacey, CB Drayton Florence, K Jason Hanson.
2013 Detroit Lions Offense:
So much talent, so little production. The Lions' offense may have been the single-most disappointing group in the NFL this past season. Matthew Stafford threw for 4,967 yards, and Calvin Johnson broke Jerry Rice's single-season yardage mark, yet Detroit's scoring attack produced just 37 touchdowns. A team like the Saints, for example, posted 58. Drew Brees was responsible for 43 himself.
Detroit had a ton of bad luck. Many of Stafford's bombs to Megatron landed at the 1-yard line. Give-aways were also an issue; the Lions maintained a horrific turnover ratio of minus-16. And then there were the drops. Brandon Pettigrew tied for third among all tight ends with nine balls that fell through his hands. Megatron was also sloppy, finishing only behind Wes Welker in drops (14).
The Lions have the play-makers to turn things around. Stafford, when he's not careless with the football, is one of the league's most-talented passers. He has a cannon for an arm and is great at lobbing deep shots to Megatron, who is unquestionably the most gifted receiver in the NFL right now. And then there's the aforementioned Pettigrew, who was a first-round pick in 2009. He has issues with holding on to the football, but if he would just concentrate, he could be one of the better tight ends in the league.
Stafford lacked two things last year: a No. 2 receiver and a running game. The former is still a questionable area. Nate Burleson will be back after missing 10 games in 2012 with a broken leg, but his best days are behind him. Ryan Broyles has shown a ton of promise, with his best performance (6 catches, 126 yards) coming against the Texans on Thanksgiving, but he tore his ACL in December. Broyles was already deemed injury-prone before that, so even if he makes it back in time, there's no guarantee that he'll be able to stay healthy.
As for the second lacking area, Detroit does have something to work with on the ground for a change. The front office signed Reggie Bush away from the Dolphins in mid-March. Bush has an extensive injury history of his own, but he missed just one contest in two years with the Dolphins. He rushed for 1,086 yards and 986 yards in his two campaigns in Miami. More importantly, he'll serve as a potent, pass-catching weapon coming out of the backfield. Stafford will love dumping the ball off to him rather than forcing the issue downfield.
The one thing that could easily derail the Lions' offensive is the front line. Left tackle Jeff Backus announced his retirement this offseason, while right tackle Gosder Cherilus signed with the Colts. That leaves the dinosaur-armed Riley Reiff and seldom-used Corey Hilliard. Reiff looked decent when playing right tackle this past season, but his one start as Stafford's blind-side protector (vs. Houston) proved to be disastrous. Hilliard, meanwhile, didn't even play in 2012. He has started a few games over the years, but has never performed well doing so.
Outside pass-rushers are going to destroy Stafford, so Detroit needs to be solid in the interior. A third-round pick was spent on Kentucky product Larry Warford, a massive guard who dominated the Senior Bowl. The other guard, Rob Sims, was exceptional in 2012; he didn't allow a single sack. Sims and Warford flank center Dominic Raiola, who performed surprisingly well last season after a few underwhelming years. It's possible that Raiola could regress again though, given that he'll turn 35 on Dec. 30.
2013 Detroit Lions Defense:
Detroit's defense has been improving recently. Its ranking in terms of yards allowed per play over the past five years has been 32nd, 32nd, 22nd, 20th and 18th. Unfortunately, the Lions are highly unlikely to creep into the top half in 2013, thanks to all of the players they lost this offseason.
Starting defensive ends Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch are both history. The latter struggled immensely last year, but Avril still got the job done, logging a team-high 9.5 sacks. The Lions had to respond by signing someone in free agency, but all they came up with was former Seahawk Jason Jones, who played for Jim Schwartz in Tennessee. Jones, however, was a defensive tackle with the Titans, so he's out of place as the team's left end. Detroit then went on to spend the No. 5 overall selection on Ziggy Ansah, a highly athletic but raw prospect out of BYU. There have been Jason Pierre-Paul comparisons made for Ansah, stemming from their foreign backgrounds and lack of experience playing football, but it'll take time for this rookie to develop. He likely won't be feared by defenses until 2014. Fourth-round rookie Devin Taylor might be able to be more productive right away, but he definitely doesn't possess Ansah's upside.
The two interior linemen will have to make up for Jones' poor fit and Ansah and Taylor's inexperience. Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley have the talent to be absolutely dominant. The two combined for 13.5 sacks in 2012, which is a high figure for players at their position. They need to crack down on another high number, however. They were penalized on 15 occasions in total last year. That needs to be cut in half at the very least. Senseless infractions like the ones Suh and Fairley routinely commit absolutely kill their team because it allows the opposition to continue drives and eventually score.
Suh and Fairley must stay healthy because there's very little depth at defensive tackle with Corey Williams and Sammie Lee Hill both gone. If they can remain on the field, they'll accumulate a bunch of sacks, which will help an improving secondary. The Lions signed Glover Quin, a safety from Houston, on the second day of free agency. Quin was solid in terms of run support and coverage, so he'll be a solid starter next to Louis Delmas - assuming Delmas can actually stay injury-free. Just as Bob Sanders used to be for the Colts, Delmas is great when healthy, but he's seldom not nursing some sort of malady.
Quin wasn't the only big acquisition the Lions made this offseason to help their secondary. They also spent a second-round pick on Mississippi State's Darius Slay. The rookie will compete with last year's second-day selection, Dwight Bentley, to be the starting corner across from Chris Houston. A recipient of a new 5-year deal this spring, Houston was torched on national television against the Falcons, but was very solid otherwise in 2012. He surrendered just one touchdown excluding the Atlanta game.
The Lions don't have a strong linebacking corps. Stephen Tulloch isn't bad, but he's been a bit disappointing as the team's man in the middle. He did not do well in run support last year. DeAndre Levy also struggled in that regard. The third member of the group this past season was Justin Durant, but he's no longer on the roster. Someone named Ashlee Palmer will take over as the two-down strongside linebacker. Palmer barely played in 2012, but he looked pretty pedestrian when he was on the field.
2013 Detroit Lions Schedule and Intangibles:
The Lions, historically, have one of the worst home-field advantages in the NFL, owning a horrendous 60-76 record since 1996. But that's nothing compared to their 29-108 road mark during that span. They were 2-6 both home and away in 2012.
Detroit surrendered a ridiculous four special-teams scores in 2012. Stefan Logan was outgained on both kickoff and punt returns, but Reggie Bush might be able to fix that.
Jason Hanson finally announced his retirement, so the Lions brought in David Akers and Havard Rugland to compete for the job. Akers struggled last year, but only because he was injured.
Detroit has a rookie punter; the team spent a fifth-round pick on Sam Martin.
So much for having a last-place schedule. The Lions have seven games against teams that made the playoffs last year: Packers (twice), Vikings (twice), Ravens, Bengals and Redskins. They also have to deal with the Bears (twice), Giants and Steelers.
2013 Detroit Lions Rookies:
Go here for the Lions Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.
2013 Detroit Lions Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
2013 Detroit Lions Analysis: The Lions have plenty of talent on their roster, but that was the case last year when they went 4-12. They're a team that has tons of potential, but the lack of discipline and a losing mentality constantly derails their chances. Detroit has been expected to grow up for years. It's never happened, and there's no reason to think this season will be any different, especially with the amount of questions they have on their offensive line.
Please note that the overall grade is not an average of all the individual grades. Other things are taken into account like team needs and goals.
Goals Entering the 2013 NFL Draft: The Lions are the only team in the top 10 that has its quarterback position shored up. Thus, they have to build around their franchise signal-caller. Matthew Stafford must be protected, and linemen are needed more than ever in the wake of Jeff Backus' retirement. Another wideout has to be found. On the other side of the ball, a pass-rusher must be obtained to help beat Aaron Rodgers.
2013 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Lions had to address both sides of the line of scrimmage. They may have fixed one. Ezekiel Ansah has monstrous pass-rushing talent. He showcased it at the Senior Bowl, where he was coached by Jim Schwartz and the rest of Detroit's staff. Devin Taylor (No. 132) was a needed second defensive end. The Lions lost Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch, but they now have two promising prospects as replacements.
The offensive line is still in shambles, however. Detroit had to find two upgrades: one left tackle and another blocker, either a right tackle or a guard depending on where the team wanted to use Riley Reiff. It appears as though Reiff will remain at tackle because Larry Warford was taken in the third round in what I thought was a tremendous pick. 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.
The Lions made some decent picks elsewhere, though they did burn a mid-rounder on a punter when one could have just been obtained after the draft. The team is definitely better now, but its No. 1 glaring issue still remains.
2013 NFL Draft Individual Grades:
5. Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU: B+ Grade
Finally, a good pick! I'm tired of bashing these teams. Well, OK, maybe not. But this selection makes so much sense. The Lions had a close look at Ezekiel Ansah at the Senior Bowl where he dominated the competition during the actual game. He's a great fit in Detroit's wide-nine formation, and will replace the departed Cliff Avril. He'll be instrumental in Detroit's pursuit of Green Bay in the NFC North.
36. Darius Slay, CB, Mississippi State: B- Grade
Darius Slay was projected to go in the first half of the second round, so the range of this pick makes sense. 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.
65. Larry Warford, G, Kentucky: A Grade
This is an awesome pick. Larry Warford should have been chosen near the top of the second round. He is monstrous mauler who figures to be a huge upgrade on the interior of Detroit's offensive line.
132. Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina: B Grade
The Lions had to find two defensive ends in this draft because they lost both Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch. Devin Taylor is a good fit in the wide-nine formation, and this is the right range for him.
165. Sam Martin, P, Appalachian State: C- Grade
Unlike the Vikings, Detroit actually needed a punter. But this is still a bad pick. Again, it's like selecting a kicker in the 10th or 11th round of a fantasy league. It's lazy. Solid punters can be found as undrafted free agents.
171. Corey Fuller, WR, Virginia Tech: B- Grade
I'm surprised the Lions waited this long for a receiver. I feel like there were better options than Corey Fuller, but this is still a fine pick. It's just disappointing that Detroit couldn't secure a solid No. 2 option across from Calvin Johnson.
199. Theo Riddick, RB, Notre Dame: B Grade
Reggie Bush isn't exactly the most reliable player in the league, so it's good that the Lions added some depth at running back. At the very worst, Riddick will add some punch in the return game.
211. Michael Williams, TE, Alabama: A- Grade
This is a solid pick. I thought Michael Williams would go earlier than this. Detroit got a good look at him at the Senior Bowl. The team needed some tight end depth.
245. Brandon Perburn, ILB, Florida A&M: B Grade
The Lions needed linebacker help, so this makes sense in terms of both need and draft range.
Detroit fans had to feel like they were reliving Groundhog Day over and over. It was the same thing each week. The team looked very good at times, but did several things to sabotage a potential victory. Jim Schwartz hasn't shown an ability to correct this issue, so he should have been fired. The Lions, however, will continue on with him for another season.
Lions sign DE Israel Idonije
Lions sign G Jake Scott
Lions sign KR Michael Spurlock
49ers sign WR Kassim Osgood
Lions sign G Leroy Harris
Lions sign K Havard Rugland
Bears sign DT Andre Fluellen
Lions cut WR Brian Robiskie
Lions sign K David Akers
Lions announce retirement of K Jason Hanson
Lions sign DT C.J. Mosley
Cowboys sign OLB Justin Durant
Lions re-sign S Louis Delmas
Lions re-sign C Dylan Gandy
Lions announce retirement of OT Jeff Backus
Lions sign S Glover Quin
Lions sign RB Reggie Bush
Seahawks sign DE Cliff Avril
Lions sign DT Jason Jones
Lions re-sign CB Chris Houston
Titans sign DT Sammie Lee Hill
Panthers sign CB Drayton Florence
Lions re-sign S Amari Spievey
Colts sign OT Gosder Cherilus
Lions tender DE Willie Young
Lions tender OT Jason Fox
Lions re-sign OLB DeAndre Levy
Lions sign P Blake Clingan
Lions re-sign OT Corey Hilliard
Lions cut G Stephen Peterman
Lions cut DE Kyle Vanden Bosch
Lions waive WR Titus Young
Offensive Tackle: Jeff Backus has retired, so a new left tackle is needed. A right tackle will also have to be found if Detroit moves Riley Reiff to guard. Re-signed Corey Hilliard
Two Defensive Ends: Only one defensive end will be needed if the Lions can retain Cliff Avril. They'll have to upgrade Kyle Vanden Bosch, who struggled in every aspect of the game this past season. He's done. Drafted Ezekiel Ansah and Devin Taylor; signed Israel Idonije and Jason Jones
Two Safeties: Louis Delmas is an impending free agent, but he barely played because he was always injured. Detroit had nothing outside of Delmas at the safety position, so the front office will need to find two upgrades there if the Western Michigan product isn't brought back. Signed Glover Quin; re-signed Louis Delmas and Amari Spievey
Cornerback: It wouldn't be an offseason if the Lions didn't need a cornerback. Chris Houston is a free agent, while Dwight "Bullet Bill" Bentley did not look good in three starts - even for a third-round rookie. Re-signed Chris Houston; drafted Darius Slay; signed D.J. Johnson
Two Outside Linebackers: Justin Durant and DeAndre Levy are a couple of other free agents that Detroit will have to re-sign. Perhaps Travis Lewis will get a chance if one of them leaves, but he was just a seventh-round rookie in 2012 who barely saw the field. Re-signed DeAndre Levy
Wide Receiver: It's Calvin Johnson, and that's it. Ryan Broyles, who looked promising, tore yet another ACL. Titus Young, meanwhile, actually tried to sabotage a potential Detroit victory by intentionally lining up in the wrong spots. Matthew Stafford won't win many games throwing to Mike Thomas, Kris Durham and Brian Robiskie.
Right Guard: Stephen Peterman might have been Detroit's worst offensive lineman when it came to pass protection this year, which is saying a lot. He'll have to be upgraded. Eric Fisher could be picked at No. 5, which would push Riley Reiff inside. Signed Leroy Harris; drafted Larry Warford
Running Back: It's a shame, but Jahvid Best may never play again. If that's the case, the Lions are stuck with Big Ten plodder Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell, whom they don't completely trust to carry the ball because of fumbling issues. Signed Reggie Bush
Kicker: Jason Hanson has retired. The Lions need a new kicker for the first time in ages. Signed David Akers and Havard Rugland
Center: A successor for Dominic Raiola should be acquired.
Punter: Nick Harris had the seventh-worst net average among starting punters. Drafted Sam Martin; signed Blake Clingan
2013 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Glover Quin, S, Texans. Age: 27. Signed with Lions
A converted cornerback, Glover Quin has starred in his new safety role over the past couple of years. He was particularly sound in 2012, so he deserves a nice contract.
Reggie Bush, RB, Dolphins. Age: 28. Signed with Lions
Reggie Bush has managed to stay mostly healthy the past two years, which is obviously a good sign. He wasn't utilized enough this past season until the Dolphins finally realized that they should use him as a receiver on occasion. The result was Bush gaining 100-plus yards from scrimmage in three of his final four games.
David Akers, K, 49ers. Age: 38. Signed with Lions
David Akers was notorious for blowing tons of field goals in 2012. He went just 29-of-42. On the bright side, he was 4-of-5 in the playoffs. Akers is not ranked low because he dealt with a sports hernia last year. He could easily bounce back.
Jason Jones, DT, Seahawks. Age: 27. Signed with Lions
Jason Jones is a quality interior pass-rusher who was lost late in the year to a knee injury.
Israel Idonije, DE, Bears. Age: 32. Signed with Lions (1 year)
Israel Idonije is coming off a fantastic season in terms of getting to the quarterback (7.5 sacks) and stopping the run. He'll be 33 in November, however.
C.J. Mosley, DT, Jaguars. Age: 30. Signed with Lions
C.J. Mosley was released by the Jaguars because he was owed about $2.5 million and didn't fit Gus Bradley's system. Mosley is a stout run-defender, but doesn't offer any pass-rushing ability.
Michael Spurlock, WR/KR, Chargers. Age: 30. Signed with Lions
Michael Spurlock scored two special-teams touchdowns in 2012. He also recorded seven catches for 64 yards in one game as a slot receiver.
Leroy Harris, G, Titans. Age: 29. -- Signed with Lions
Jake Scott, G, Eagles. Age: 32. -- Signed with Lions
Detroit Lions Free Agents:
Salary Cap: TBA.
Louis Delmas, S, Lions. Age: 26. Re-signed with Lions (2 years)
Louis Delmas is one of the most talented safeties in the NFL, but he just can't stay healthy. He's missed 13 games in the past two seasons.
Cliff Avril, DE, Lions. Age: 27. Signed with Seahawks
Cliff Avril is a relatively young, dynamic pass-rusher, but he tends to struggle in run support. He rejected a 3-year, $30 million deal last offseason.
Jason Hanson, K, Lions. Age: 43. Announced retirement
Jason Hanson is somehow still getting it done. He hit nearly 90 percent of his field goals this year with a couple of conversions from 50-plus.
Chris Houston, CB, Lions. Age: 28. Re-signed with Lions
Chris Houston was torched on national television against the Falcons, but he was very solid otherwise in 2012. He surrendered just one touchdown excluding the Atlanta game.
Justin Durant, OLB, Lions. Age: 27. Signed with Cowboys
Justin Durant has been very solid in run support for the Lions over the past couple of years. He should be limited to two downs though because he's not that good in coverage.
Sammie Lee Hill, DT, Lions. Age: 26. Signed with Titans (3 years, $11.4 million)
Sammie Lee Hill could start for some teams, as he does a decent job of pressuring the quarterback. He just hasn't had much of a chance in Detroit because he's been behind Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Corey Williams on the depth chart.
Titus Young (Waivers), WR, Lions. Age: 24. Claimed by Rams
There's no questioning Titus Young's talent, but he's a major head case. He started off last season by punching teammate Louis Delmas. He then sabotaged a game against the Packers by intentionally lining up in the wrong spots. And to top it off, he continued to mouth off on Twitter during the offseason, indicating that he hadn't learned his lesson. I wouldn't touch him, but there might be a coach out there who can turn him around.
DeAndre Levy, OLB, Lions. Age: 26. Re-signed with Lions
DeAndre Levy is a big liability in run support, but he's much better on passing downs.
Gosder Cherilus, OT, Lions. Age: 29. Signed with Colts
One of Matt Millen's busts, Gosder Cherilus is actually coming off one of his better seasons, though that still involved approaching double-digit penalties. Cherilus was OK as a blocker.
Jacob Lacey, CB, Lions. Age: 26.
Jacob Lacey started slow this season, but excelled ever since he was moved into the nickel role.
Corey Williams, DT, Lions. Age: 33.
Corey Williams should still be able to be a solid rotational lineman, but his best days are behind him. He played in only seven games in 2012.
Kevin Smith, RB, Lions. Age: 26.
Kevin Smith looked pretty good spelling Jahvid Best last year, so I'm not sure why he barely played this season. He's very injury-prone, but that shouldn't prevent him from seeing the field when healthy.
Stephen Peterman, G, Lions. Age: 31.
Stephen Peterman played well a couple of years ago, but struggled last season in terms of pass protection. Maybe he'll be able to rebound in a city.