Did the Lions make the best free agent moves?

Lovie Smith, Julius Peppers and GM Jerry Angelo of the Chicago Bears grabbed most of the headlines around the league yesterday with some of the biggest money moves of the day — moves I agreed with. But it’s hard not to ignore what the Lions did.

Because on the opening weekend of free agency, when there wasn’t as much buzz and action due to the uncapped 2010 season, Jim Schwartz and Detroit made some solid moves.

And that’s what free agency is about — improving your roster.

When we look at a team like the Lions, they have a roster that needs its share of upgrades through free agency and the draft so they can compete in the NFC North with Green Bay, Chicago and Minnesota.

But to do that, you need players.

Take Nate Burleson from Seattle. Plenty of opinion that the Lions overpaid for the wide receiver. First, this is the classic case of supply and demand in free agency. The talent pool at WR isn’t huge, and if you’re the Lions, you need to bring in a veteran WR who can play opposite Calvin Johnson next season. Burleson is an upgrade over the current group of wide receivers on the roster, and that’s why they paid him a contract that shows $11 million up front and $25 million in total value.

Burleson fits what they’re trying to do on offense, and he gives QB Matthew Stafford another option in the passing game — a veteran option.

I like the Kyle Vanden Bosch move for couple of reasons. You see the Bears getting Peppers, the pass rush the Packers can produce with OLB Clay Matthews in their 3-4 scheme, and the impact Jared Allen of the Vikings has coming off the edge. To win and compete in the NFC North, you have to produce and edge rush on Sundays. Vanden Bosch is a high-motor guy who has shown big production in the past.

The quarterbacks in the North are too good not to have a rush that can disrupt the flow of an offensive game plan.

Add in Corey Williams — via trade from Cleveland — and the possibility of drafting Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh or Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy, two high-profile rookie DTs, with the No.2 pick, and that defensive line in Detroit now looks very competitive when stacked up against the rest of the division.

The NFP’s Michael Lombardi talks about it all the time, as the best teams in the league are built from their offensive and defensive fronts.

Now, we can’t start throwing parades in downtown Detroit after one day of free agency, but if you’re keeping score and looking at teams that made some plays in the market, you have to acknowledge what Schwartz did with the Lions.

They improved their roster yesterday, and for a coach like Schwartz, the first step to winning is creating a winning depth chart — and upgrading in key spots.

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