Good for the Lions

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
The Detroit Lions made a good football decision and avoided a silly marketing ploy Tuesday when they shipped receiver Roy Williams to Dallas for three draft choices. Sounds simple, but nothing is a sure thing when you're discussing an organization that has exactly one playoff victory in the past 50 years.

Even as Williams' name spun through the rumor mill, there was a league-wide belief he would remain in Detroit for the remainder of the season. Trading Williams would make it more difficult to sell tickets to Ford Field, which the Lions have sold out only through corporate intervention, and would signal to fans that the team had given up on the season.

But amid the chaos of 2008 -- the firing of president/general manger Matt Millen, the mysterious back injury of quarterback Jon Kitna -- smart Lions fans know the competitive portion of this season is over. The Lions are 0-5 and, with any luck, will have the No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft.

Now, they can pair that pick with three additional selections -- including the Cowboys' first-round choice -- and jump-start a long-needed replenishing of their roster. The loot, which also includes third- and sixth-round picks, could also make the franchise more appealing for candidates to replace Millen.

But interim general manager Martin Mayhew made a good initial impression with this deal. He got a decent return for a player who said only last week that he didn't think he would fetch a first-round pick. Mayhew surely recognized that Williams' value could have decreased by the end of the year if he were injured or, more likely, finished with sub-par statistics in the Lions' woeful offense.

And let's be honest: Williams already was in near-meltdown mode over the team's performance and immediate prospects. Although he said repeatedly that he wanted to help the Lions rebuild, his actions -- most notably, showing up quarterback Dan Orlovsky on the field Oct. 5 against Chicago -- suggested otherwise.

Long-term, there is really only one downside to this trade for the Lions: They don't have a big-time receiver to pair with budding star Calvin Johnson. Defenses now will fall over themselves to double- and triple-team Johnson.

But with Williams' contract set to expire this winter, chances are he would have looked to move on regardless. This way, the Lions orchestrated his exit on their terms. It's their biggest (and only) victory of the season.