Free agency rules could force Lions to pay for multiple corners

The guidelines established for free agency could make the challenge of rebuilding the Detroit Lions defensive backfield even more difficult.

With players expected to need four years or service to become unrestricted free agents, the parameters ESPN reported Tuesday, it means cornerback Chris Houston will be able to test the open market. While this is far from a surprise, it brings the reality closer to home for the Lions, who did not address the position in the draft.

Houston, who the Lions picked up from the Atlanta Falcons a year ago for a sixth-round draft pick, was Detroit’s best cornerback last season. Sure, that doesn’t mean a whole lot, but he’s young and worth keeping around. And as Tim Twentyman of the Detroit News reported, Houston made it clear at the end of the 2010 season he wanted to at least explore the open market.

He's a guy we definitely want back,” general manager Martin Mayhew said early in the offseason. “Chris was a good pickup. We are prepared to tender him or deal with him and make him an offer.”

It projects to be a solid class of cornerbacks and the Lions figure to be in the market to pay for two, including Houston. The defensive line has been buttressed but the secondary still needs significant upgrades to make this a team that can contend for an NFC playoff spot if quarterback Matthew Stafford can remain healthy for an entire season.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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