Here are the moves the Detroit Lions should consider when free agency opens at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
Priority No. 1 -- Make a run at Malik Jackson: The Lions need to bolster the defensive line and adding the Denver defensive end would be a good way to start. He should be available considering the other needs the Broncos have to fill and the Lions could make him an attractive offer. He’d be able to play opposite Ezekiel Ansah and the pair of 26-year-olds could become one of the top defensive end tandems in the game. Jackson’s been durable and consistent. He’d be a good fit for the Lions and an upgrade over Jason Jones, who is a free agent. Jackson's price tag might be high, but the Lions have to at least take a look at him.
Priority No. 2 -- Upgrade the offensive line: This is key for the Lions. Riley Reiff will be a Lion in 2016, but where he plays is still up in the air. If Detroit were to sign a player like Russell Okung, Detroit could consider moving Reiff to the right side. If the Lions want to stick with Reiff at left tackle for now, a right tackle like Cleveland’s Mitchell Schwartz could be intriguing for his age (26) and durability. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum, from Pittsburgh, could be a high-level priority as well. Like Okung, he would cost a bunch of money. At center, Stefen Wisniewski and New England’s Ryan Wendell could be options if the Lions want to bring in a vet to push Travis Swanson.
Priority No. 3 -- Try to sign Akiem Hicks: The 26-year-old is entering the prime of his career and has the size to be a space-eater in the middle of the defensive line. He’s also someone general manager Bob Quinn is familiar with after he helped snag him for the Patriots from New Orleans last season. If the Lions re-sign Haloti Ngata or Tyrunn Walker and add Hicks, the middle of the defensive line will suddenly look a lot stronger than it does now. Hicks has 141 tackles and 9.5 sacks in 61 career games.
Priority No. 4 -- Find a starting strong safety: Both Isa Abdul-Quddus and James Ihedigbo are heading toward free agency. There are some strong safety options that could be available depending on the level Detroit wants to go with. Cincinnati’s George Iloka will be one of the most coveted free agents and could be a long-term pairing with Glover Quin. David Bruton Jr. could be a gamble -- he’s coming off a broken leg -- with high upside. Eric Weddle, a friend of Quin’s, could be a short-term two-year option while the team develops someone behind him. Tashaun Gipson from Cleveland could be another possibility although he is more of a free safety, the position Quin plays. Of course, the Lions could bring back Abdul-Quddus as well and sign a lower-level player to be a third safety.
Priority No. 5 -- Bring in a veteran cornerback: Rashean Mathis was a good training camp signing two years ago for the Lions and he ended up providing consistent play and locker room value over the final three seasons of his career. Now that Mathis has retired, the Lions need a new veteran cornerback. If he can be an early starter opposite Darius Slay, that would help as well. The Lions feel good about Slay, and Quandre Diggs should be able to handle the slot. It would be surprising to see Detroit make a big splash for a free-agent corner, but there will be players to look at. Jerraud Powers could be a name to watch here. He has familiarity with Jim Caldwell after being drafted by the Colts in 2009.