Team Needs: Lions Still Need To Upgrade

Detroit's four-game win streak notwithstanding, the team's depth chart isn't beyond significant work.

Detroit's four-game win streak notwithstanding, the team's depth chart isn't beyond significant work.

Without question, the first priority this offseason will be on the defensive side of the ball. They took care of the defensive line last offseason with the acquisitions of DE Kyle Vanden Bosch (free agent) and DTs Corey Williams (trade) and Ndamukong Suh (draft). This year, they look after the back seven.

"We have talked before about having to address the starting 22 before you can address your depth," coach Jim Schwartz said. "What has happened this year is, because of the injuries and other things, we have been able to address a lot of the depth issues. Now we have to start adding pieces to the starting 22."

The Lions will need to replace both outside linebackers, possibly both cornerbacks (Chris Houston is a free agent) and another safety to play alongside Louis Delmas.


Outside linebackers: Starter Julian Peterson and his $8 million contract will not be back. On the other side, Week 1 starter Zach Follett might not be back after a serious neck injury. Landon Johnson started most of the season, but he's an unrestricted free agent with a history of concussion problems. Ashlee Palmer and Bobby Carpenter, who also spot-started, will be back but as backups. The draft doesn't look to be too rich in linebackers, so the Lions will be scouring for free agents.

Defensive backs: The Lions will make every effort to re-sign Houston. He showed he could be a shutdown cornerback on the left side and drafting at No. 13, they aren't likely to get the impact player they had hoped for.

The right side corner spot is wide open. Alphonso Smith will probably get the first shot to win it. Tye Hill, Aaron Berry, Brandon McDonald, Prince Miller, Jack Williams and Eric King could also be in the mix.

The Lions will certainly be looking for cornerback help in the draft and through free agency.

Same at safety where Delmas is the only sure bet. The Lions liked the development of rookie Amari Spievey, and veteran John Wendling is a valuable special teams player, but they need to upgrade both the starting spot and the depth.

Wide receiver: The cupboard gets bare in a hurry after Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson. Bryant Johnson, who has one year and $3 million left on his contract, was frustratingly unproductive this season. His three receptions in the finale probably weren't enough to change the Lions' thinking on this. Former third-round pick Derrick Williams was also a bust.

Running back: After rookie Jahvid Best, the Lions have a bunch of question marks. Kevin Smith was slow coming back from major knee surgery and then went on IR with a thumb injury. Maurice Morris was dependable and for three games the team's best back. But he will be entering his 10th season. The Lions have apparently given up on speedster Aaron Brown, was spent most of the season inactive. MEDICAL WATCH: The following players will have offseason surgery: DT Ndamukong Suh (shoulder), MLB DeAndre Levy (groin), FS Louis Delmas (groin), CB Chris Houston (shoulder), RT Gosder Cherilus (knee) and possibly RT Corey Hilliard.

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