Rolle would be a much-needed boost for Lions

Free agency begins on Thursday night at 12:01 a.m. EST, and a thought crossed my mind as all the rumor and innuendo from the past few months will give way to mega contracts and uniform changes.

How great would it be to have Detroit Lions safety Louis Delmas — an emerging defensive playmaker and the future leader of the defense — and former Arizona Cardinals safety Antrel Rolle in the same defensive backfield in Motown?

As a lifelong Lions fan whose favorite player is former hard-hitting safety Bennie Blades (yes, even more so than No. 20), I would love the Lions to have a respectable secondary once again.

Granted, Detroit has never been home in the past to the most stout secondaries in the league. But the Lions have had some decent cover men during their playoff heyday — for the Lions, a handful of appearances in the 90’s — like Willie Clay, Ryan McNeil, Ray Crockett and William White. Sure, they weren’t Pro Bowl-caliber players year in and year out. But during the Wayne Fontes glory days, the secondary wasn’t an issue for the Lions. In fact, it was the strength of the defense — when Chris Spielman wasn’t wreaking havoc on the quarterback and running back alike.

In 2010, the pairing of Delmas and Rolle would instantly make the secondary more credible.

In his rookie campaign this past season, Delmas became the first rookie in league history to score on an interception return, a fumble return and a safety in a single season. Sure, he took chances on the big hit and was burned a few times. But as a rookie, Delmas was often the best player on the defense. That says a lot about him as a player.

That also says a lot about the Lions defense last season.

Rolle, meanwhile, tallied four interceptions and was named a Pro Bowl alternate this past season. He made the move to free safety in 2008 after playing cornerback for his first three seasons and started on the Cardinals' Super Bowl team. For his career, he has 12 interceptions and four touchdowns.

Rolle reportedly turned down an offer from the Cardinals worth a little more than $6 million annually. Whether it's a team issue or a money issue, his skills would be invaluable to the Detroit secondary. Hopefully general manager Martin Mayhew will zero in on the safety.

Of course, the Lions still need an immediate upgrade at the cornerback position — and need it badly. Picking up Antonio Cromartie from San Diego via trade was rumored to be a possibility, but he doesn’t play the run terribly well — something that cornerbacks are expected to do in the Lions’ scheme. Plus, the Lions may be smart to allocate that money to two positions rather than just one.

The one thing that remains certain is that the Lions need to continue to overhaul their roster, specifically on the defensive side of the ball.

Acquiring Rolle in the early stages of free agency would be a great start, not just for his ability to upgrade the defensive unit but also for the morale of Lions fans hoping that 2010 could be yet another step in the right direction for the franchise.

Follow me on Twitter at Miller_Dave

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