When free agency arrives – and no one can say when that will happen with the labor cloud currently hovering over the NFL – don’t look for the Detroit Lions to go gangbusters.
Lions coach Jim Schwartz made the point that his team isn’t one move from being over the top and becoming a Super Bowl contender, and he’s right about that. The Lions looked like a young team making improvement, especially during the second half of last season when they played without quarterback Matthew Stafford. But to think they’re on the cusp of something great would be a giant stretch, and in our mind Stafford needs to prove he can make it through a full season before anyone gets too excited about the rise from the 0-16 ashes that is going on in Motown.
“What we need to do is we need to take the same kind of attitude that we've taken to get from 0-16 to this year and not change that all of a sudden and think all we need to do is make one more move and that will get us over the top,” Schwartz said, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “I think too many times that is a recipe for failure in the NFL, teams that think they're really close and they think that one person is going to be the difference-maker.”
The Lions have major needs on defense and they start at cornerback. They also need to add some quality at linebacker and offensive line lingers as a need area. As Birkett points out, the Lions have resisted placing a franchise tag on cornerback Chris Houston at a cost of about $14 million. They’d like to re-sign him, and if they don’t they’ll need even more help at cornerback via the draft and free agency than they already have.
The Lions are being prudent and that is smart. If they can find some help on defense and if and when Stafford can prove he’s not Mr. Brittle, they could be ready to compete in the NFC for the first time in an awful long time.
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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune