5 Underrated Free Agents The Detroit Lions Should Target This Offseason
5 Underrated Free Agents The Detroit Lions Should Target
The Detroit Lions must address several needs through both the draft and free agency in order to ensure a playoff berth for the first time since 2011.
The Detroit Lions have more holes to fill on both sides of the ball than most want to believe, especially on offense. Back-to-back losing seasons warrant much-needed changes. The glaring needs concern the offensive line and the receiving corps. A complementary receiver to Calvin Johnson should be brought in and some youth on the interior offensive line is a must. If Mike Evans or Marqise Lee is available with the No. 10 pick, the Lions would think long and hard before passing on them. While there are no interior linemen worthy of a top-10 pick, plenty of players will still be available to address these aging positions.
On defense, the Lions, while solid in most areas, still need a player or two to turn this defense into one of the elite units in the NFL. Another defensive lineman who could provide depth inside and some pass rush ability on the outside should be looked for as well as secondary help for a unit that has constantly struggled giving up the big play.
Another one of these needs might be addressed at No. 10 as both Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard and Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert have been going there in several mock drafts. Defensive line would also be considered a stretch at No. 10 due to Detroit spending three out of their previous four first-rounders on the defensive line.
While the NFL Draft is still months away, NFL free agency is around the corner in March. Often it's not about the big names at the top of the free agency lists but the underrated players who are off the radar yet can still produce at a high level.
Here is my attempt to find the five most underrated free agents that the Detroit Lions should target this offseason. Some may be obvious while some might make you re-think what the true needs are for the team.
5. Joe Hawley, Interior Offensive Lineman, Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta Falcons offensive lineman Joe Hawley is not discussed among the best in the game, but he is versatile enough to fill in at each of the interior line positions.
Both left guard Rob Sims and center Dominic Raiola are approaching their mid-30s and are starting to lose a step or two. Hawley has filled in at both center and guard for the Falcons, making him an added bonus to a roster that can use an offensive lineman at multiple positions.
4. Malcolm Jenkins, Safety, New Orleans Saints
New offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi worked against safety Malcolm Jenkins every day in practice knowing what kind of player he is.
Jenkins is not likely to re-sign with the New Orleans Saints as the they drafted Kenny Vacarro in the first-round last season, sending a message to both Jenkins and Roman Harper. Given Louis Delmas' injury history over the past few seasons, he is likely to be a cap casualty this offseason. Jenkins could be a good short-term answer who could be paired effectively with Glover Quin.
3. Arthur Jones, Defensive Lineman, Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman Arthur Jones had a great season in 2013 and is expected to get a big-time offer in free agency. The destination that makes the most sense is in Detroit.
Jones would have continuity being with former offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell and former secondary coach Teryl Austin who is now the defensive coordinator. Jones has the versatility to play inside in certain situations and can be a disruptive force on the edge that Jason Jones failed to provide last year.
2. Robert Meachem, Wide Receiver, New Orleans Saints
Most free agent signings are players who played with a former coach going to a new destination where an old coach now works. This scenario is exactly like that with New Orleans wide receiver Robert Meachem.
Meachem worked with offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi while the two were with the Saints, and Meachem became a good player for the Saints in a very good offense. In Detroit, Meachem will have already known most of the offense that Lombardi will implement, and although he is not a No. 2 receiver, Meachem is an upgrade over Kris Durham and Nate Burleson.
1. Charles Tillman, Cornerback, Chicago Bears
Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman has said that he would be interested in joining the Lions depending on his situation with the Bears. Tillman would give the Lions a true lockdown corner for the first time since the days of Lem Barney and would further weaken their division rival Bears.