A Far Too Early Look At Possible Lions Free Agents
By Scott McMahon
Let me be clear about one thing: I can be very good at spending other people’s money.
Today, it’s on free agents. It should be pretty clear what the Lions need for 2014—a solid defensive back, another wide receiver opposite Calvin Johnson, some depth for the offensive and defensive line, and possibly another linebacker to add to the existing corps.
Much of these needs can, and most likely will, be filled during the draft in May. Why pay for relatively expensive backups when you can groom a young player at minimal cost? However, that won’t stop writers like me from speculating entirely too early about where free agents will ultimately end up. With 28 days left until free agency opens March 11, the current list of free agents is subject to substantial change, but I think it’ll be okay to fast forward a few weeks.
The markets for wide receivers and cornerbacks are ripe, with some big names available (and surely for high prices). Some are coming off of breakout seasons, some are in their prime, and some have reached the twilight of their career. Whatever category these guys fall into, the Lions would make sure that each serves his respective purpose.
1) CB Aqib Talib
Let me once again stress that I’m good at spending the money of others. Talib is going to demand some big cash this year following his first Pro Bowl season. He is 27 years old, and has grown into one of the better coverage corners in the game. In 13 game during the 2013 season, Talib picked off four passes and defended 13 passes, a pace that would have put him in a tie for 14th in the league had he played a full 16-game season.
Personally, I always like a guy that comes from a winning environment, and there aren’t many better places in the NFL for that than New England, where Talib has spent his last two seasons. He has had some injury and drug-related problems in the past, but if he can stay clean and healthy, Talib would give the Lions their big-name corner that they desperately need.
2) CB Brent Grimes
Grimes is probably the hottest cornerback on the free agent market following his breakout season for the Dolphins in 2013. Grimes defended 16 passes this year, picked off four, and had one of the highest tackle totals among NFL cornerbacks. Grimes is undoubtedly one of the smartest corners on the free agent market, and comes with the added bonus of being able to play both left and right corner positions. How good was Grimes in 2013? Pro Football Focus ranked him at +16.4, which trailed only Darrelle Revis’s grade of 18.2 among NFL cornerbacks.
He may be 30 years old, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from going after Grimes. The problem is, Miami also feels that way. Resigning the Pro Bowl corner is one of the Dolphins’ top priorities this offseason, and officials have made it clear that they wouldn’t be afraid of using the franchise tag on Grimes to keep him in Miami at least one more season. Unfortunately, this makes the likelihood of another team—let alone the Lions—landing Grimes extremely low.
3) WR Anquan Boldin
If for whatever reason the Lions want to wait until the 2015 Draft to nab a young wideout (which they shouldn’t, under any circumstances), picking up a guy like Boldin to line up opposite of Calvin Johnson would give the Lions another physically big wideout. Boldin stands tall at 6’1”—a quality that Jim Caldwell likes in his receivers—and his 220 pound frame lets him control battles against smaller cornerbacks.
Although he will be 34 in October, Boldin has shown no signs of slowing down. He totaled 1,179 yards on 85 receptions in 2013, his highest totals in both categories since 2008. However, Boldin wouldn’t be cheap, and it would be hard to justify having another receiver over 30 on the team.
Overall, the Lions are in a good position. They can take a gamble at a free agent, or they can take their chances at some younger players in the draft. Whichever they choose, the pickings will be ripe, and they will certainly be able to fill the holes that they have heading into 2014.