INDIANAPOLIS – General manager Martin Mayhew met with the media on Wednesday at the NFL combine. Here’s what we learned about the Detroit Lions.
1. Mayhew is optimistic on Ndamukong Suh. This has been a consistent message from Mayhew since last year’s NFL combine, when he said he felt the team would get something done with the defensive tackle prior to last season’s free agency period. He said he is still confident in the team retaining Suh and that he believes the franchise has all the essential elements Suh is looking for in a franchise. He reiterated the team has not made a decision on the franchise tag with Suh yet and that they will continue negotiating with Suh’s agent, Jimmy Sexton. This, obviously, is one of the biggest deals of Mayhew’s tenure with the Lions.
2. No decision on Nick Fairley: Any decision on Fairley – or other pending Lions free agents – will be tied to what happens with Suh negotiations. Mayhew said he is meeting with Fairley’s agent, Brian Overstreet, this week to discuss Fairley’s future with the club, but it would not be surprising to see no decision made until close to free agency. Mayhew did say he could envision a scenario where the team retained both Suh and Fairley, but that he also could see a scenario where Detroit could be without both of its first-round defensive tackles in 2015.
3. The Lions have interest in Matt Prater: After two seasons where the kicking game has been erratic, the Lions found a consistent kicker in Prater over the last two-thirds of the 2014 season. Mayhew said the franchise has been in talks with Prater’s agent about a contract and that those discussions will continue this week in Indianapolis. Detroit made 65.8 percent of its field goals last season, the worst percentage in the league, after going through three kickers: Nate Freese, Alex Henery and then Prater.
4. Reggie Bush’s status might be in question: The 29-year-old – he turns 30 next month – has been a popular candidate as a possible cap casualty for the Lions prior to 2015, especially if the team needs money to retain Suh. Mayhew was noncommittal about Bush’s future with Detroit, although he couched that by saying nobody’s future with the franchise is locked in. While that is true, that he mentioned the value a player can bring to the organization might be somewhat telling when it comes to Bush, who battled through injuries last season and gained only 334 yards on 84 carries.
5. Versatility will be key for the Lions' offensive line: Both in the draft and free agency, the Lions sound like they will prioritize versatility on the offensive line – especially after injuries suffered at the position last season. Mayhew specifically cited Travis Swanson’s ability to play guard and center – he started games at both spots last season – and Garrett Reynolds playing both tackle and guard in 2014. From the way Mayhew talked Wednesday, this is going to be a big draft priority and that the franchise is planning on building the line from there. That could impact whether Detroit really looks at free agents to help fill in on the line or the team will commit to drafting a lineman in the first or second round.