2012 was a year of despair for the Detroit Lions, who finished the season with a 4-12 record and obvious concerns with the team’s secondary and special teams. This year, the Lions set off to make moves in the 2013 offseason.
The Lions’ front office set the tone this offseason by firing special teams coach David Crossman on Jan. 13, a move which surprised no one after the Lions became the first team in at least 50 years that gave up a kickoff and punt return for touchdowns in consecutive games last season.
Let’s not forget the lack of discipline showcased by Stephan Logan’s kneeldown at the 4-yard line against the Falcons last season. Crossman is one of many coaches who will not be returning next season. The Lions did not resign receiver coach Shawn Jefferson, running back coach Sam Gash or offensive line coach George Yarno when their contract expired after the season, according to NFL.com.
Shaking up the coaching staff is one thing, but every fan awaits the beginning of free agency to see who their team will sign.
The Lions were not shy in the market this year with the high profile signing of running back Reggie Bush. Bush signed a four year, $16 million contract with the Lions, according to Pro FootballTalk. Bush’s talent suits the Lions’ game plan in multiple ways. Bush is one of the best route runners and pass catching backs in the league. The deep threat of Calvin Johnson should create open field space for the speedy back to make plays. Bush’s versatility allows the Lions to play him as a slot receiver as well as a return man.
He will be reunited with special teams coach John Bonamego, which may allow for the Lions to release their current return man, Logan.
In an interview with 97.1 The Ticket, Bush mentioned why Detroit was such a good fit for him.
“When I got a chance to sit down with Coach Schwartz and Coach Linehan, our language was the same, our mentality and thought process was the same … it was perfect fit for a back like myself,” he said. Bush adds talent to the offensive side of the ball, but the news also lies with the signing on the defensive side.
Glover Quinn, former Houston Texan safety, signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Lions. Quinn, who is not a spectacular player, shows stability and durability in his career. With only five interceptions in his four-year career — three of them in one game against the Tennessee Titans— Quinn is a sure tackler and has played 63 games in his career. If his highlight tape doesn’t impress, his knack for not ending up hurt should. Although Quinn is not a superstar safety, pairing him off with the resigned safety Louis Delmas and cornerback Chris Houston improves a secondary that ranked among the NFL’s worst last season, according to SBNation.com.
An under-the-radar move is the signing of Jason Jones, a defensive end from Seattle.
Jones will fill the void of the departed Cliff Avril. In fact, Jones is a local boy, who went to Southfield Lathrup High School and Eastern Michigan University. Coach Schwartz told the Detroit Free Press that Jones is a much better fit for the Lions.
“I think (Jones’) talents sort of stand alone,” Schwartz said. “And it’s more about just putting the players that we have in position to be able to make plays. We couldn’t do that with Cliff. That didn’t fit his skill set.”
Wayne State student Jad Ajami likes what the Lions have done this offseason: “With the addition of Quinn and the return of a healthy Delmas, this should lead to positive production from our defensive unit,” he said.
Ajami also commented on the loss of running back Javid Best — whose season and possibly even career are over due to multiple concussions, and the addition of Bush.
“It’s extremely difficult to replace an athlete like Best. We now have an individual who is known for his explosiveness out of the backfield … we hope to see Reggie Bush play a factor in forcing defenses to attend to his skills,” Ajami said.
The ability to sign and re-sign these key players were due to the help of star players Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh, who reconstructed their contracts to give the Lions more cap space this season to sign more players. This sounds great when reported, but will hurt the Lions down the road.
With the reconstructed contraction, Johnson’s cap hit for the 2013 season went from $12.201 million to $8.773 million, savings of $3.438 million — more than enough to cover the signing of Bush, according to the Bleacher Report.
The issue to any reconstructed contract is that it will increase a player’s cap charge in future years. By 2015, Johnson’s cap hit will be $20.558 million. To put into perspective, the salary cap for an entire team is $123 million. In 2015, Johnson will take up 16 percent of their total cap space, which is meant for 53 players.
With all this money going to the Lions’ big time players, there is still a void in the front line to fill.
After 12 seasons with the Lions and missing only one start, left tackle Jeff Backus decided to retire this year. Along with Backus, right tackle Gosder Cherilus left to sign with the Indianapolis Colts and right guard Stephen Peterman was released. First-round draft pick Riley Reiff is likely to take the starting role for retired Backus, according to NFL.com.
There is still time to address the needs of the offensive line, another cornerback to accompany Houston and an outside linebacker
in free agency. Anything not already filled should be added in this year’s 2013 NFL draft, which begins April 25.