Lions Should Push Even Harder In Free-Agency

While the Detroit Lions have to be pretty proud of the moves they've made in free agency to date, they still need to push themselves to go even farther. Lions' insider Mike Fowler has the scoop on future visits, including the precarious situation surrounding Stockar McDougle. Much more inside.

ALLEN PARK - While the Detroit Lions have to be pretty proud of the moves they've made in free agency to date, they still need to push themselves to go even farther.

Over the Matt Millen era, there are certain positions that the team has been reluctant to address or have taken for granted.

The signing of strong safety Kenoy Kennedy at last addressed a situation that had been allowed to exist since Bennie Blades last season in 1996.

Even Millen himself invoked the name of Blades when talking about Kennedy, but while Kennedy is an upgrade, it remains to be seen if he can elevate his game to the level of a pro bowl player.

Veteran Marcus Pollard filled a secondary need, that of a pass catching tight end, but there are more pressing needs that Detroit needs to deal with.

The Lions haven't fielded a top notch left guard since the late Erik Andolsek manned the position. Detroit has mounted a series of stop gaps from Shawn Bowens, Dave Richards, Doug Widell, Mike Compton, Tony Semple and last year's starter Dave Loverne with only Compton distinguishing himself briefly after moving over from center.

The Lions will host fourth-year veteran Rick DeMulling of the Indianapolis Colts. DeMulling would be a solid upgrade to the position and give the Lions a player who is young enough to stay with the team for several years.

DeMulling is likely to get a solid offer from Detroit today as will former Buccaneers quarterback Brad Johnson. While Johnson would provide a calming presence and influence on third-year starter Joey Harrington, he isn't the fans first choice because of what he represents - a true backup to Harrington and not a competitor.

You can't blame fans if they've soured on three seasons of poor performances by Harrington (67.2 career passer rating) and are calling for three-time pro bowl quarterback Jeff Garcia to be the guy the Lions ink.

Garcia knows the west coast offense run by Mariucci better than anyone. At 35, he's looking for a place to finish his career and the presence of Mariucci, offensive coordinator Ted Tollner, former teammate and current Lions running backs coach Tom Rathman and wide receivers coach Fred Graves make the Lions the perfect fit.

But the Lions have been slow moving on Garcia and now both Denver and Seattle are ready to talk contract with him. It would appear that there is a difference of opinion between Mariucci and Millen over what Garcia brings to the table.

There has even been the suggestion that Millen doesn't want a competitor to Harrington, but rather, someone to help him reach the heights Millen felt he could reach when he drafted the former Oregon star third overall in 2002.

While there's no question that Harrington has been the face of this new pride of Lions, that face hasn't looked very good. Faces change, teams change and situations change. Millen ought to listen to his coach this time. Harrington should get and will get the first shot at directing the Lions offense in 2005, but if he can't get the job done, Mariucci should have the right to insert a player he feels can best get the job done, that's Garcia.

Meanwhile, it is possible that Houston Texans wide receiver Cory Bradford will visit Detroit today. The Lions are looking for a veteran receiver who can supplement what they have in third-year veteran Charles Rogers and second-year man Roy Williams.

Even moving in all these areas still leaves a hole where former first round pick Stockar McDougle manned the right side of the offensive line. McDougle hasn't had much interest in free agency to date and may need to re-think his contract demands. Detroit doesn't want to spend a ton of money on the position and has watched quietly from the sidelines as several quality tackles signed big money deals.

McDougle knows Detroit's system and teamed well with veteran guard Damien Woody. Detroit still has a need. It's not out of the realm of possibility that McDougle could return.

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