The Detroit Lions were expected to be one of the top teams in the NFL going into the 2012 season, and boy did they exceed expectations — in a bad way.
The Lions were atrocious in 2012, finishing with just four wins a year after challenging the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs. The Lions simply couldn’t find a way to win ball games in the fourth quarter. That goes back to the team’s mental toughness and coaching, and their ability to make plays in the clutch. I think Jim Schwartz has one more season to prove he can get his team on track, so there is a lot of pressure on Detroit this offseason.
Here are the team’s top needs this offseason, in no particular order.
1. Defensive End
Cliff Avril, Lawrence Jackson, and Willie Young are all free agents, while Kyle Vanden Bosch has been shown the door. The Lions will look to retain at least one or two of those guys, but they need to start generating more pressure off the edge with as good as their defensive tackle rotation is. Avril led the team with 9.5 sacks, and he is likely to command a pretty big contract elsewhere. The Lions expect to be active in free agency, so maybe they’ll keep Avril around as he is an important piece to the defense. I think they could look to the DE position with their first round pick as well.
2. Defensive Backs
The Lions’ defensive backfield is pretty bad. Chris Houston, Amari Spievey, Louis Delmas, Jacob Lacey, Ron Bartell, and Drayton Florence are ALL free agents in this defensive backfield. The only guaranteed returning starter to this roster is 2012 third round pick Bill Bentley, who only played in four games last year, starting three. This is really a mess of a situation here in Detroit. Their defensive backfield has been a hodge podge for quite some time, and now everyone they have had is leaving or potentially leaving. We’ll have to monitor this situation in free agency, but this could become a problem fast. The Lions need to re-tool here.
3. Special Teams
Every key Lions special teamer is a free agent. Jason Hanson, Nic Harris, Stefan Logan, even long snapper Don Muhlbach are all free agents. Again, we’ll have to monitor what positions the Lions choose to keep and re-tool via re-signing their own players in free agency.
DeAndre Levy and Justin Durant are free agents, and the Lions are going to have to see what they can do if they are only able to bring one guy back. Durant and Levy were second and third one the team in tackles respectively, and if the Lions aren’t able to keep them both, this position becomes a major need this offseason.
5. Wide Receiver Depth
The Lions obviously drafted Titus Young to be a high impact player for this offense, and while it looks like Ryan Broyles will be able to step into the #2 receiver role, there isn’t much on the depth chart outside of Nate Burleson, who is coming off of injury. The Lions could look to the middle rounds of the draft for another big play receiver to replace Young.