Lions likely to stay put, but still undecided about selection

GM Martin Mayhew said on Thursday that it’s likely the Lions will stay put at No. 2 instead of trading down, but also insisted that the team is undecided about which player they’ll draft.

Detroit could go in a couple directions in round one, although the most likely scenario has them selecting either Ndamukong Suh or Russell Okung. The Lions have needs on both sides of the line, although they might be more inclined to take Okung seeing as how they want to protect their biggest investment in quarterback Matthew Stafford.

That said, I’m of the mindset that the Lions would be crazy to pass on Suh. That’s not to take anything away from Okung, who is a terrific prospect with a high upside. But in my opinion, Suh is the best prospect in this month’s draft and could be a potential difference-maker from day 1.

Teams selecting in the top 5 are always worried about matching the contract with the appropriate position. In other words, they’re more inclined to take a quarterback at No. 3 instead of a defensive tackle because they can justify handing a signal caller a huge contract as opposed to an interior defensive lineman.

But that line of thinking has always been befuddling to me. Teams shouldn’t draft players based on a contract, they should draft players based on fit and need. Lions head coach Jim Schwartz built one of the better defenses in the NFL while in Tennessee, one that was centered around defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. Assuming the Rams take Sam Bradford at No. 1, Schwartz now has a similar opportunity in Detroit if the Lions take Suh. While paying a left tackle No. 2 money may be more justifiable, the Lions need to select the best player and forget about the dynamics of a contract.

And the best player is Suh.

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2009 NFL Preview: #32 Detroit Lions

Check out all of our 2009 NFL team previews.

Offseason Additions: Julian Peterson (LB); Larry Foote (LB); Phillip Buchanon (CB); Grady Jackson (DT); Bryant Johnson (WR).

Offseason Losses: Leigh Bodden (CB); Shaun McDonald (WR); Mike Fuerry (WR); Shaun Cody (DT); Paris Lenon (LB); George Foster (OT); Dan Orlovsky (QB).

Player to Watch: Louis Delmas, S.
Delmas, the Lions’ second round pick this year, immediately started turning heads in OTAs and continued to impress coaches with his aggressiveness and tenacity throughout training camp (although he did miss time due to a swollen knee). The former Western Michigan product is already drawing comparisons to the Colts’ Bob Sanders, which is quite a compliment considering how accomplished Sanders is. Delmas isn’t afraid of contact and flies to the football. While he needs to develop his pass coverage skills, he might lead the Lions in tackles this season.

Team Strength: There isn’t one positional unit on this team that can be deemed a strength, although wide receiver Calvin Johnson is so good that he can probably carry the moniker on his own. Johnson is a phenomenal athlete and gives the Lions’ offense a dynamic playmaker at receiver. Opposing teams try to blanket him in coverage and he still finds ways to get open and come away with the ball. As long as he stays healthy (he missed two weeks of training camp with a sprained thumb), CJ is in store for another monster season, no matter whom the Lions wind up starting at quarterback.

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Will the Lions start Stafford in Week 1?

Even though training camp is still over a month away, the talk in Detroit right now is whether or not the Lions should start rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford in Week 1 of the regular season.

Before we debate this topic, let’s get something out of the way first because I know there’s a commenter out there who just can’t wait to throw out this boring, overused statement: It’s way too early to know whether or not Stafford should start Week 1 considering it’s only June and we haven’t seen him take one snap against live action (either in practice or preseason).

But I’m going to throw the topic out there anyway because it takes the sting out of knowing that the NFL season is still light years away. So save all of your, “It’s way too early to tell,” comments and tuck them under your pillow to be used at another time.

There will be two names that some Lions fans will throw out there when making the argument that Stafford should start as a rookie: Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. If Ryan and Flacco could respectively lead the Falcons and Ravens to the playoffs, why couldn’t Stafford do the same with the Lie-Downs?

The difference is that Ryan and Flacco had help. The Falcons hit a home run with free agent running back Michael Turner, who carried the ball 376 times and helped take the burden off Ryan by opening up lanes in the passing game. Ryan also benefited from having a solid receiver corps (led by Roddy White), as well as an offensive line that overachieved and stayed healthy. Don’t forget that Ryan was also considered one of the most NFL-ready quarterbacks to come out of college in the past couple years.

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Lions sign linebacker Larry Foote

According to, the Lions have reached an agreement with former Steelers’ linebacker Larry Foote, who will play middle linebacker for them next season.

Foote, who turns 29 next month, is hoping to eventually sign a more lucrative contract after this season turned down the two-year offer.

Foote, a seven-year veteran, was a full-time starter for the Steelers for the last five seasons and didn’t miss a game during that span. Foote’s tackling numbers have declined in each of the last four years, from a high of 102 in 2005 to 63 last season.

Now we know why Lions’ GM Martin Mayhew passed on a middle linebacker with the No. 20 and No. 33 picks in last month’s draft when USC’s Rey Maualuga and Ohio State’s James Laurinaitis were still on the board. Mayhew knew that the Steelers would eventually release Foote and that he wanted to come to Detroit, which is where he grew up and attended high school.

Mayhew has done a nice job in his first offseason with the Lions. He added talent via the draft in quarterback Matthew Stafford, tight end Brandon Pettigrew and safety Louis Delmas and he has signed quality role players in free agents Grady Jackson, Philip Buchanon and now Foote. Whether or not all of his moves will pan out is still up in the air, but Lion fans have to at least be pleased that Mayhew has a plan and is executing it.

Browns to cut Shaun Rogers?

I’m going to preface this post by apologizing for not having a link, but Terry Foster from WXYT Sports Radio in Detroit just reported on his talk show that the Browns could release defensive tackle Shaun Rogers and if they did, he wants to play for the Lions again.

This is a massive rumor and I suggest everyone takes it with a huge grain of salt, but considering Rogers and new Cleveland head coach Eric Mangini didn’t get off on the right foot when they first met, it’s not far-fetched that the Browns would part ways with the defensive tackle. Plus, by dealing Kellen Winslow to the Buccaneers earlier this offseason and nearly trading wideout Braylon Edwards before the draft, it’s clear that Mangini wants his own players and isn’t afraid to part with anyone from the old regime.

But the reality of the situation is that the Browns would take a cap hit of around $9 million in they released Rogers and he’s coming off a Pro Bowl season. The Browns also didn’t address the defensive line position in last week’s draft (second round pick David Veikune played defensive end at Hawaii, but Cleveland views him as an outside linebacker) and they don’t have a viable replacement for Rogers if they did part ways with him. Plus, Rogers reported to the Browns’ offseason workouts in late March, so any ill-will towards Mangini apparently has been settled.

It also doesn’t make much sense that the Lions would want him back after trading him last offeason. While it’s true Matt Millen is the one who dealt him to Cleveland, current GM Martin Mayhew worked under Millen last year and no doubt had a hand in trading Rogers. So outside of adding a talented player to their defensive line, why would the Lions want him back? It’s not like he endeared himself to many people in Detroit with his lazy work ethic and ho-hum demeanor.

I would file this away in the rumor file for now, but I thought it was an interesting rumor so I figured I would post something on it.

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