Looking Ahead: Are Lions Set at Quarterback?

Over the next few weeks, we will take a position-by-position look at the Lions and their offseason plans. This week we evaluate the quarterback position, where the team can finally lay claim to one of the best arms in the league. But what about the reserves?

The 2011 season flashed images of progression, promise and potential for the Detroit Lions before culminating in a playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Now, the Lions brain trust is fully entrenched in the offseason, where they will take appraisal of their roster and determine the best means of improvement while operating within the league’s salary cap restraints (a number that is expected to be in the neighborhood of $120 million).
 
Over the next few weeks, we will take a position-by-position look at the Detroit Lions and hypothesize on what their future plans may be.
 
Quarterback
The most important position in the game, starting quarterback, has always been a recurring concern when discussing the Lions. That is not the case. Matthew Stafford – who will turn 24 next month – is the unquestioned, no doubt and slam-dunk starter.  He should take a step forward in solidifying himself as an elite quarterback in the NFL after throwing for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns in 2011.
 
The Lions struggled to run the ball this season and hinged the success of the offense on Stafford’s right arm. The result was the fourth-best scoring offense in the league and a playoff berth. Detroit should have the starting quarterback position solidified, with a stud, for at least the next decade.
 
Primary Reserves
Of course – as Lions fans can attest to – injuries happen. This is where the problem exists for the Lions. The offense’s success is predicated on the pass game and, despite their desire to improve the rushing attack, it is doubtful that the team will be dominant rushing the ball next season – especially if the passing game falters.
 
This makes it important for the Lions to have an insurance policy incase Stafford is lost for multiple games. 
 
Both of the Lions reserve quarterbacks have expiring contracts. 
 
Shaun Hill, the primary backup, just turned 32 years old.  He has appeared content in his role as Stafford’s backup since arriving in Detroit but may have an opportunity to sign a more lucrative contact elsewhere – and potentially have a chance to compete for a starting job. 
 
Hill appeared in 11 games during 2010 as Stafford dealt with various injuries.  Hill proved to be a serviceable replacement, completing 61.8 percent of his passes for 2,686 yards and 16 touchdowns.  His starting experience and proven ability will help him garner some attention on the open market.  The Lions will surely be interested in keeping him, the decision will be Hill’s to make.
 
The Lions third quarterback is Drew Stanton. Stanton will be turning 28 in May and is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
 
A local product, Stanton has immersed himself in the community and is well liked in the locker room. He always seems to enjoy himself, and can often be seen running routes and catching passes after practice with a smile on his face – simply enjoying the game of football.  However, Stanton must decide what is best for his professional future.  
 
In 2010, Stanton found himself on the field more than expected and proved to be a serviceable player when called upon – leading the Lions to two wins in his three starts that year. He doesn’t possess the same abilities throwing the ball as Hill but he is a great athlete and is capable of helping an offense move the chains.
 
If Hill leaves, Stanton is more likely to remain and compete for the Lions primary backup role.
 
However, it is possible Stanton will test the market in search of better opportunities. 
 
Summary
The Lions have undoubtedly found their franchise quarterback with Stafford.  The only question is surrounding the quarterbacks that are going to back him up.
The team  would love to retain the services of both Hill and Stanton but their ability to do so remains to be seen. Backup quarterback is a more valuable position than it is given credit for and the Lions may have some decisions to make regarding the position this offseason. 
 
 

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