The first week of free agency is in the books and most of the major moves that teams will make have already happened. The Detroit Lions solved at least a few of their needs during this offseason. First and foremost, they fired Jim Schwartz and hired former Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Caldwell. In doing so, Caldwell flipped most of the coaching staff and the team believes they are playoff bound after an extremely disappointing end to the 2013 season. Here’s a look at their on field moves this offseason:
Golden Tate was the most prominent move the team made. Tate is fresh off a super bowl win with the Seattle Seahawks. He was rated as the NFL’s top punt returner and led the Seahawks in receiving last year. He should be the perfect compliment to Calvin Johnson and should help quarterback Matt Stafford be more consistent for years to come. At 25 years of age, Tate is coming off his best season and should only get better; this move seems to be one that should pan out for the Lions very well.
Joique Bell was destined to come back to Lions, not only because of his status as a restricted free agent, but it was also part of his life long dream as a Michigan native. Rather than just keep him on a one year tender, the Lions stepped up to the plate and signed him for three years at $9 million. Bell is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and plays with a ton of heart. Along with Reggie Bush, the Lions have a dynamic duo in the backfield that should help to ease the burden on Stafford.
Brandon Pettigrew was not as sure a bet to return to the Lions. Often drawing the ire of Detroit fans with fumbles, drops and apparent disappearing acts, Pettigrew has been a controversial player for the Lions since he was taken with the 20th pick overall five years ago. Pettigrew has never lived up to his potential but general manager Martin Mayhew pegged him as a key part of the Lions offense moving forward. Caldwell seemed less committal about Pettigrew, and while this may seem as a lateral move, Pettigrew’s numbers and production have decreased over the last few years. He came relatively cheaply, but now the Lions are basically stuck with the less than stellar player as he approaches 30 years old for the next four seasons.
Darryl Tapp is the Lions new defensive end. He’s alright. There’s nothing exciting about him, but he doesn’t seem to be a negative player either. Tapp is pegged as the replacement for the now departed Willie Young, but he’s more likely to be a backup to Ziggy Ansah and Jason Jones. He did come in for the veteran minimum and so there’s no way to see this as anything other than a positive move for the Lions going forward.
There are still gaping holes for the Lions. They desperately need a safety and a backup quarterback. Until they find a way to restructure their deal with Ndamukong Suh and lower his $22 million salary cap number, Mayhew is a bit stifled. The market of available players at both positions is very thin and the Lions also need upgrades at cornerback and linebacker as well. In general, it seems that Mayhew addressed the problems with the team, if only by resigning the key pieces he had. Tate should be an upgrade over the receiving corps that was supposed to compliment Johnson last year, and the Lions should find more consistency on offense. Until the safety position is settled, it’s hard to give Mayhew positive reviews this offseason, but his biggest chore of all is rectifying the Suh contract, for better or worse.