With the start of the new league year rapidly approaching on March 11, NFL teams are starting to think about what free agents they want to sign, re-sign, or let go.
The Detroit Lions are a team that is constantly looking for the right players it takes to build a championship-winning team.
The 2013 season started off like the Lions had finally figured out what it takes to get to the playoffs, and do some damage. They even went to the point of sending out playoff tickets to season ticket holders to only finish the season with a 7-9 record, and firing their head coach.
Now with Jim Caldwell in place as the new head coach, the Lions are once again ready to make the moves it takes to make a run for a NFC North Championship. Considering that Caldwell already has two trips to the Super Bowl on his resume, he could be exactly what the Lions need to run their team on the field.
Last season one of the Lions' key signings was running back Reggie Bush, but still only managed to have the 17th ranked rushing attack. Bush led the Lions in rushing with 223 carries for 1,006 yards, and 4 touchdowns in 14 games. The downside to Bush was that he was often taken out of games due to his fumbling issues.
Joique Bell was the backup to Bush, but at times was the more dependable back with 166 carries for 650 yards, and 8 touchdowns. Bell is entering free agency when the season starts in a few weeks so the Lions will have to either re-sign or replace him.
With a draft full of running backs it would be best to save the money, and take that route if Bell is not re-signed. If the general manager does decide he would rather have a veteran back, Ben Tate would be a great addition.
Over the past three seasons with the Houston Texans, Tate has played in 40 games where he had 421 carries for 1,992 yards, and 10 touchdowns while backing up Arian Foster. Tate has also shown that he has what it takes to be a feature back with all the times he has had to start for Foster, but has dealt with his share of injuries as well.
The wide receiver position is another position that the Lions need to focus on this offseason. Calvin Johnson can not carry the load on his own. Teams need at least two if not three playmakers to keep defenses honest, and not gang up on one player the way secondaries do Johnson.
Nate Burleson looked like he was going to be that second big-play guy for Matthew Stafford to throw the ball to when Johnson was covered up. That was short lived after Burleson broke his arm in a car wreck trying to make a pizza saving catch that caused him to miss seven games in the heart of the season.
Now with Burleson on the free agency market after becoming a cap casualty, the Lions should consider either Riley Cooper, or Jeremy Maclin to replace him. Miles Austin would even be a suitable replacement if the Dallas Cowboys ever decide on what they are going to do with him.
Out of the three, Cooper was the most successful in 2013 despite being the most unpopular receiver in the league. During 16 games last season Cooper made 47 catches for 835 yards, and 8 touchdowns when Nick Foles took over as the Eagles' starting quarterback. Until then he dropped almost every pass michael Vick threw at him.
Other than getting drunk, and making some rude comments, Cooper has been a solid receiver over his four seasons with the Eagles. He has played in 56 regular season games where he has made 93 catches for 1,514 yards, and 13 touchdowns.
Maclin would also be a nice addition to any team he goes to. He is a player that is capable of making huge plays on both offense, and special teams if he can overcome the injury that cost him the entire 2013 season.
Until last season Maclin had only missed three regular season games over his first four seasons with the Eagles where he played in 59 games. During those games he made 258 catches for 3,453 yards, and 26 touchdowns while only fumbling the ball three times.
While at this point it’s still unclear what Jerry Jones wants to do with Austin, the veteran receiver really needs a new home to revive his injury plagued career. When he is healthy Austin has what it takes to be a top receiver in the league.
The Lions also need to work on improving their secondary after ranking 23rd last season. They already cut Louis Delmas a couple of weeks ago to make cap space.
According to rumors going around, Delmas could possibly end up replacing Ryan Clark in the Pittsburgh Steelers' defensive backfield. If that happens then why not replace Delmas with Clark in the Lions' secondary?
Clark has made it clear that he is not ready to retire, and considering that he has only missed four regular season games since 2007 his body seems to be perfectly able to continue going on.
Over twelve seasons in the league, Clark has played in 161 regular season games where he has made 827 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 6 fumble recoveries, 15 interceptions, and 51 defended passes.
The Lions could also use more depth at linebacker. Jonathan Vilma was cut by the Saints earlier in the month, and would be a perfect fit playing on a defense with Ndamukong Suh if he can overcome the issues that have plagued his career over the past couple of seasons.
Last season Vilma spent all but one game on injured reserve, and has only played in 23 games over the past three seasons due to injuries. He was also suspended for the first part of the 2011 season due to the ‘Bounty-Gate” situation the Saints were accused of.
Until that mess in 2011, Vilma was having a solid career. He has now played in 126 games where he has made 872 total tackles, 10.5 sacks, 11 forced fumbles, 10 fumble recoveries, 12 interceptions, 40 defended passes, and 2 touchdowns.
All most free agents need is a fresh start in a new city to revive their careers. A move could be just what Vilma needs to end his career on a high note.