Projected Lineups: Detroit Lions
A new chapter begins for the Detroit Lions as Jim Caldwell takes the reins as head coach, but the cupboard is loaded with plenty of talent. It’s not often a new coach is blessed with a viable quarterback, one of the league’s top defensive lines, and potential elite talent sprinkled throughout the roster, but Caldwell inherits a team capable of competing right away.
The only drawbacks in Detroit center around the lack of salary cap space, so they’ll have to get creative this offseason, but with a solid draft, the Lions should be right in the middle of the NFC North race next season.
– Player markers are colored per class on a six-step ‘Poor’ to ‘High Quality’ scale based on their overall performance and the league’s elite are marked separately in blue.
– Colored outlines suggest a potential change in class.
– Underlined players will be 30+ years old for the 2014 season.
– Red player names suggest injury risks.
– Click on the image to enlarge.
– The seemingly yearly tradition of waiting for the Lions to address their No. 2 wide receiver will continue this offseason. While the offense has a number of pieces in place with the solid Matthew Stafford, two backfield playmakers in Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, and of course elite wide receiver Calvin Johnson, the Lions will once again be in the market for an outside receiving complement, most likely through the draft.
– Yet another Detroit rite of passage is the search for cornerback help. They’ve spent resources at the position both financially and through the draft, with youngsters Darius Slay and Dwight Bentley flanking Chris Houston in an underwhelming group. With limited cap space, this is yet another area that may need to be addressed come draft time.
– The clear strength of the team is the defensive line, certainly not a bad place to build. Ndamukong Suh is among the best defensive tackles in the league while Nick Fairley is capable of joining him there in any given year. The Lions spent last year’s first round pick on DE Ezekial Ansah who showed well as a rookie and may join his colleagues in the green very soon. On the other side, we didn’t really get a chance to see what Jason Jones could do in Detroit’s scheme last season, but he’s historically been a much better player on the inside rather than as a 4-3 defensive end. With Suh and Fairley on the roster, his opportunities will be limited on the interior so until he proves his worth on the outside, he gets the orange label with upside.
– With TE Brandon Pettigrew a free agent, the Lions are left with only Joseph Fauria at the position. Despite a nice rookie season that saw Fauria emerge as a red zone threat with seven touchdowns, they still have to address the position with a more traditional, every-down option.
– Re-signing center Dominic Raiola ensures that a potentially solid offensive line remains intact. Right tackle LaAdrian Waddle came out of nowhere to claim his starting spot after going undrafted a year ago while fellow rookie Larry Warford emerged as one of the league’s best guards. Detroit may look to get younger at left guard at some point as Rob Sims enters his ninth year in the league.
2014 Cap Situation
Not good. Before making cuts, the Lions are one of only five teams already over the cop according to overthecap.com, so some moves will have to be made. They have so much money tied up in contracts to Stafford, Johnson, and Suh, and with a potential extension for Fairley on the horizon, the Lions don’t look like they’ll be major players in free agency this offseason.
It appears inevitable that WR Nate Burleson will be cut given his $7 million+ cap number [update: shortly after posting this, Burelson was cut], but there are not a lot of other options for cap relief on the roster. Among the other possibilities, FS Louis Delmas would be a surprise cut, but he’d save the team around over $5 million on the cap while Sims is another possible option if a younger, cheaper left guard is drafted.
Opportunities from the Roster
We’re still waiting on a clean bill of health from WR Ryan Broyles, who has shown potential from the slot. The injuries are piling up as he heads into his third season, but if he can move forward, the Lions could have a valuable piece to their passing game. Rookie DE Devin Taylor made the most of his 308 snaps last season, putting himself in position to potentially steal some playing time from Jason Jones. He’ll continue to see time in the rotation at the very least and his run stopping ability should be a valuable asset on the already-loaded defensive front. After a decent start to his career, CB Jonte Green should have a chance to secure some playing time with CB Rashean Mathis moving on in free agency.
Projected lineups by team:
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