As the Detroit Lions prepare for the 2014 season an obvious and glaring hole for this season is someone with the ability to compliment standout Calvin Johnson. Taking a quick glance over the current potential free agents leaves an impression of a fairly full cupboard of choices.
Honestly, if a skill position player becomes available as a free agent, it’s usually as a result of diminishing skills. That’s not always true though, as high salary cap numbers do become a factor, as well as the occasional “bad fit” for an offensive scheme.
There are some players available that provide hope for the Lions. Anquan Boldin is a proven winner, tough player and is reliable as an underneath, over the middle receiver. He is also a trash talker, aging, and probably will not come at an affordable rate. Jeremy Maclin is coming off an ACL injury that caused him to miss all of 2013. This is no way means he’ll come at any discount, and with the Philadelphia Eagles certain to sign either him or fellow free agent Riley Cooper. The Eagles may end up driving up the price on both for the rest of the market. My money is on the Eagles keeping Cooper and being forced to watch Maclin leave for other, not necessarily greener pastures. It’d be amazing to see the Lions end up with Maclin, he’d be the exact type player they are looking for , but don’t think for a second this comes without risk. See for example Ryan Broyles. ACL injuries are not easy to recover from, despite what you see in Adrian Peterson.
Eric Decker, Kenny Britt, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin are all interesting players and worth taking a look at. Ideally, crossing aging veterans from the list such as Plaxico Burress, Santana Moss, Deion Branch and Jerricho Cotchery would be preferred. I’d rather have seen them retain the services of Nate Burleson(at a discount)who has history here, and a relationship with Stafford than any of the other older retreads. For that matter, stay away from Julian Edelman please, the injury bug is contagious for Detroit Lions wide receivers and they don’t need another Burleson/Broyles type player on the roster.
Making a big push for Maclin or Boldin makes sense, as either player could make Calvin Johnson even better, if that is even possible. Decker is my favorite option from the current second tier, though not sure how good he will be without Peyton Manning.
When Johnson was dealing with injuries last season, Stafford had nothing to work with and it showed in his play. Stafford isn’t Tom Brady, he can’t do it with an empty cupboard, he has shown that beyond a doubt. That being said, who else can say they are Tom Brady? Very few compare, so that is not so much a criticism of Stafford as it is a reality. He needs something more to work with. A rookie high draft pick isn’t likely to get the job done, not even Calvin Johnson or Jerry Rice were able to carry the load their rookie seasons(48 and 49 catches each)and those type players don’t come around very often(ever.) Adding either Maclin or Boldin and then maybe a second or third round pick to go along with Broyles, Kris Durham and Reggie Bush out of the backfield seems a move in the right direction.
Some more options may show up as teams draft and work on their salary caps, but choosing a wide receiver with the first round draft choice seems a poor option for a team that believes it’s playoff ready now. Calvin Johnson isn’t going to the best player in the game forever, no one ever is. To not capitalize on his abilities will feel akin to letting Barry Sanders career go to waste with only one playoff win. Johnson needs help, so does Stafford and a veteran wide receiver is going to be necessary this year in free agency for the Detroit Lions to achieve their playoff ambitions.