Tom Lewand says Lions committed to building for long haul

The Detroit Lions borrowed from the salary cap of future seasons in 2011 to help fortify their first playoff team in 12 seasons.

Team president Tom Lewand revealed that on Tuesday in a conference call with season-ticket holders, and it’s one of the reasons why the Lions will probably not be very aggressive in free agency starting next month. The borrowed salary cap space will count against the team’s cap from some point between 2014 and 2017.

“I used the Visa card analogy, the credit card analogy earlier. It’s not dissimilar from that. Do you pay in cash or do you pay in credit?” Lewand said, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “You can get your goods now, but you have to pay for them at some point in time. And sometimes, there’s an interest charge that goes with it, and that interest charge shows up in the salary cap in different ways than it shows up in your bills and on your check book. But it shows up nonetheless. And that is if you borrow too much early, and you’re signing a bunch of guys, lo and behold, as you get to future years, you don’t have enough salary-cap room left to keep that group together.

“So you make some short-term decisions, some quick-fix kind of decisions, and you don’t always take the long view.”

General manager Martin Mayhew has already been public in saying that free agency will start from within. The club has key decisions to make with its own free agents like Cliff Avril and Stephen Tulloch and then there is the situation involving wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who needs a new contract to reduce a huge salary cap number that is close to $21 million. That is going to give Johnson the kind of leverage Larry Fitzgerald has had previously with the Arizona Cardinals.

“We don’t take the short view of 'Let’s go out and sign one or two or three guys and try and hit a home run this year,'” Lewand said. “Too many times, we’ve seen that fail. That strategy has failed over and over again. A team gets to 10-6, and they think they’re one player away from a Super Bowl championship, and lo and behold, they fall short, for whatever reason. They get beset by the injury bug, and they’ve fallen short of where they thought they could be, and they’ve been buying on credit, so they don’t have enough cash on hand to make the investment in the future of where they want to go.

“So the quick fix is not a strategy we want to look at. Everything we’ve talked about within the salary cap basically can be boiled down to 'Are you going for the quick fix or are you playing for the long haul?'”

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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