ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- With offseason workouts and minicamps in the rearview mirror and training camps just a few weeks away, we assess the Detroit Lions’ offseason moves and assign a letter grade in the video above.
Best move: This is actually the move Detroit didn’t make this offseason, namely not re-signing Ndamukong Suh. Of course, the Lions would have been much smarter to lock up the star defensive tackle before he could even sniff free agency. But once he was about to hit the open market and Miami was going to throw quarterback-level money at him, the Lions had to let him move on. With Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson on the payroll and potential big contracts needed for DeAndre Levy, Darius Slay, Ezekiel Ansah and Larry Warford in the next few seasons, the Lions couldn’t have their salary cap so tied up in the massive Suh numbers. They also couldn’t match the structure of the Miami deal. If Detroit had matched the Dolphins, it would have gutted the roster.
Riskiest move: This fits in with Suh above. Detroit had the NFL’s best run defense last season largely due to Suh, Nick Fairley, C.J. Mosley and Andre Fluellen. The Lions let all of them go – for various reasons – and are counting on defensive tackles with a lot of question marks to replace them. Haloti Ngata is on the wrong side of 30-years-old and coming off a four-game PED suspension. Tyrunn Walker signed in free agency but has never played the defensive tackle snaps allocated to a starter. Gabe Wright is a fourth-round pick. Caraun Reid has been the biggest surprise, but he would have to take a pretty big leap from his rookie year to create the type of production Detroit needs. So there’s potential here but a lot of questions for a position group that was strong and deep in 2014.
Still a lot of sneaky needs: As you’ll see in the video, I gave the Lions a B for their offseason. Good, but not great. Still think they had a good draft – sixth-round pick Quandre Diggs is already surprising – but a lot of the holes they had entering free agency still exist. Defensive tackle was covered above. The Lions drafted Ameer Abdullah in the second round, but Joique Bell sat out all offseason recovering from injury. The Lions signed Lance Moore, but still have big receiver questions beyond Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. Cornerback depth, particularly on the outside, is still a question mark despite drafting Alex Carter. So Detroit did improve in some areas, but there are still some holes.
Training camp outlook: More than anything else, the Lions just need to see all their players healthy when they show up in August. Bell hasn’t done anything since January. Linebackers Stephen Tulloch and Levy did no team drills throughout the spring. Defensive end Jason Jones missed minicamp with injury. Those are four key starters, and even if they don’t work them fully during camp they need to know they are going to be in shape when the season starts in September. Otherwise, the biggest things to watch in camp are how the defensive tackle and wide receiver rotations sort out, what happens at left guard between Laken Tomlinson and Manny Ramirez, and the progression of the offense with Stafford.