With the first big player move of their offseason, the Detroit Lions have decided to release 32-year-old veteran wideout Nate Burleson to clear $5.5 million in cap space. Perhaps Burleson slowed down a little and struggled with injuries, but don’t kid yourself; this move was all about the Benjamins.
Burleson averaged 51.2 yards per game in 2013 which would make him a solid second or third receiver, but not for his salary and not for a team looking to air it out on their way to a solid playoff run and a renewed winning attitude. The Lions want younger legs, dynamic play-makers and cap space to stack the defense.
Depending on how the draft goes, the Lions will either be grooming a star rookie defensive back or a star wide receiver. If they do well in the draft, they might be able to do both if they can get lucky with a good receiver slipping into the second-round.
As for Burleson, he’s still a good player and a good dude, so he’ll likely find a place somewhere as a third receiver. The Lions will miss his leadership skills, which quite honestly were just beginning to blossom. With Calvin Johnson leading by example and not by words and Matthew Stafford not exactly providing in your face leadership, perhaps Reggie Bush will step up to the plate on the offensive end. However, it should be Stafford, and hopefully the new coaching staff will make that clear.
By the numbers this is a good move for the Lions, but they still have to execute in the draft and free agency. I’m not fully convinced Burleson’s loss is a good thing until I know who his replacement(s) will be at receiver.