While the Detroit Lions are focusing on their coaching search, there are a number of Detroit players who don’t know if they will be returning to the Lions later this year.
Some of them are under contract, but many others are free agents. And while a new coaching staff will almost certainly dictate some, if not all, of these personnel decisions, here’s a quick look at Detroit’s free agents.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll go more in-depth on some of these potential decisions.
QB Shaun Hill (UFA): Hill said he would be open to a return, but with the Lions' cap space an issue -- as of now Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh are eating up $8 million or more each -- having an experienced backup like Hill might not be an option. Depending on who the new coach is, he could look to bring in a player familiar with his system. For example, if it is Ken Whisenhunt, Charlie Whitehurst is a free agent after the season.
RB Joique Bell (RFA): Bell broke out this season and has indicated he would like to return to Detroit, a place he considers home. It would be very surprising to see Bell anywhere but with the Lions next season.
WR Kris Durham (RFA): Durham doesn’t cost a lot of money and is a comfortable option for Stafford. Since Stafford will be enduring the first coaching change of his career, it makes sense to at least keep Durham, who had a more defined role this season, around.
WR Kevin Ogletree (UFA): Ogletree was signed in the middle of the season after Tampa Bay released him and played a nominal role for Detroit. In his most extensive playing time, he had five catches for 75 yards. He could be a question mark to return.
WR Micheal Spurlock (UFA): Spurlock was released once the Lions found Jeremy Ross as a capable returner and brought him back to handle special teams issues the last week of the season. It’d be very surprising to see him in Detroit next year.
TE Brandon Pettigrew (UFA): One of the more interesting cases for Detroit -- and something I’ll get into more later this week -- but he is a good multi-purpose tight end and his blocking is often overshadowed by his sometimes questionable hands in open spaces. He was a critical piece to Detroit’s rushing success this season and will be an interesting call for the Lions.
C Dominic Raiola (UFA): The veteran has spent his whole career in Detroit, had the best year of his career this past season and has indicated a strong desire to return. The Lions do not have an obvious option at center to replace Raiola, either.
OT Jason Fox (UFA): The emergence of LaAdrian Waddle as the right tackle of the future as well as having Corey Hilliard under contract likely makes Fox expendable, but his is a situation worth watching.
DE Willie Young (UFA): Already wrote a little bit about Young’s free agent situation, and there’s a chance he might not have a home in Detroit with the Lions committed contractually to Ziggy Ansah, Devin Taylor and Jason Jones at end already. Young will definitely test the free agent market to see what is out there.
DE Israel Idonije (UFA): Idonije provided a good veteran presence this season and had a low cap number for a veteran last season, but whomever the new coaching staff is will have to make a decision to pursue Idonije. He is coming off one of the least productive seasons of his career.
DT Andre Fluellen (UFA): He has had what feels like multiple stints with Detroit already and could be brought back for depth purposes. It might depend what Detroit’s new staff thinks of Jimmy Saddler-McQueen, who was on the practice squad all season. Suh, Nick Fairley and C.J. Mosley are already signed for next season here.
LB Rocky McIntosh (UFA): Another veteran who was brought in now is potentially in a logjam as the only Lions linebacker not under contract for next season. Considering there’s a thought Detroit might draft a linebacker or two in May, his time might be over with the Lions.
CB Rashean Mathis (UFA): He came in as a late signing in the middle of the preseason but emerged as a starter when healthy for Detroit this season and doubled as a mentor to Darius Slay. Mathis indicated to ESPN.com he would like to play one or two more seasons in the NFL. His status might depend on what the Lions do in the NFL draft and how confident the new staff feels in Chris Houston and Slay as corners next season.
S John Wendling (UFA): Primarily a special teams player, he made 14 special teams tackles and played one defensive snap this season.
S Don Carey (UFA): He could be an interesting decision, depending what he is asking for. He played in 14 games and had 19 defensive tackles this season along with 11 special teams tackles. He is more valued as a special teamer than as a safety or nickel back.
K David Akers (UFA): Akers made 19 of 24 field goals this season at 79.2 percent, 28th in the league. Considering the Lions signed John Potter and Giorgio Tavecchio to futures deals, it would seem highly unlikely Akers returned to the Lions.
LS Don Muhlbach (UFA): Muhlbach is a good locker room guy and most teams need a long snapper, so there would be little reason to not have him return unless someone else on the Lions roster has shown that ability well. Muhlbach seemed to have a good comfort level with punter/holder Sam Martin.