Sunday, March 1, 2009

Lions Struggle in Free Agency, But Its Not Mayhew's Fault

Despite having almost $40 million to spend in cap room, and more starting positions to fill than almost any team in football, the Detroit Lions have had a quiet start to free agency. Sure, they've signed a backup running back (Maurice Morris, a solid pickup, sure), a second or third option at wide receiver (the talented, but always seemingly disappointing Bryant Johnson), and picked up a couple of cornerbacks (aging veteran Anthony Henry from Dallas in a trade for Jon Kitna, and former Tennessee Titan backup Eric King) but certainly, for a team that went 0-16, these signings aren't going to instantly make the Lions a contender for much of anything.

Yet, I'm not upset, nor do I even remotely blame new Lions general manger Martin Mayhew. In fact, I give Mayhew high marks for how he's handled this off-season so far. Why? Because had things gone according to plan, the Lions would be in a much different position right now, and for once, the plan was not foiled by the Lions ineptitude, but by that of other teams.

First, the Lions had finally filled the left guard spot vacated when Matt Millen, in his first season as general manager, balked at paying Pro Bowl guard Jeff Hartings a few hundred thousand dollars more to stay in the Detroit. Instead, Hartings continued to visit Pro Bowls as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Millen regime was off and running in the wrong direction (little did we know at the time just how much the Hartings decision was a foreshadowing of things to come). This time, though, the Lions had lined up a trade with Buffalo for guard Derrick Dockery. Dockery is in the prime of his career and would have been the first real replacement for Hartings in almost a decade. He would have solidified the offensive line and would have instantly improved the Lions team. So what happened? The Bills screwed up the paperwork and failed to get it to the league office in time before Dockery was due a roster bonus. They chose to cut him instead, and the Lions were left with nothing. And despite offering Dockery more money than he later received from the Washington Redskins, Dockery chose D.C., his previous home before he went to Buffalo two seasons ago. Mayhew tried, but forces beyond his control kept the Lions without a starting offensive lineman.

An even larger disappointment perhaps was when Denver backed out of a potential trade for Jay Cutler. The Lions were trying to use their second round pick to trade for New England QB Matt Cassel, who the Lions would have then shipped to Denver in exchange for Cutler, who would instantly become the best quarterback the Lions have had in at least four decades. Denver, though, ultimately decided against moving Cutler, and the Patriots sent Cassel to Kansas City.

So, had Mayhew had his way, the Lions, along with the signings of Johnson, Morris, and King, would have added a top LG and one of the league's best quarterbacks to the Lions. And both were very close to happening, and both failed due to no fault of the Lions. And yet, Mayhew didn't get discouraged, and instead, went back to work. He somehow was able to get something for Jon Kitna, the quarterback the Lions would have cut in the next 48-hours before a roster bonus came due, sending him to Dallas for Henry, who, while aging, was a starter on one of the league's best defenses last season.

Would I have liked to see the Lions acquire more talent so far in free agency? Absolutely. But, it hasn't been for a lack of effort. And I like how Mayhew's mind seems to be working, as he is trying everything possible, and considering every option, to improve the Lions. Let's just hope in the next few days, if the Lions have another blockbuster move lined up, he's actually able to pull it off.

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7 comments:

Anonymous said...

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Stewart Sternberg said...

Nice Blog.

You know, the draft is coming up this weekend and the newspaper articles just keep screaming gloom and doom, mostly it's about the lack of intelligent picks available and mostly it's the Lions' pathetic track record.

I predict that they will not pick the QB...how could they? But if they don't, then who? We'll wait and see.

Again, fun blog. Keep it up.

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