The Lions would prefer to retain Stephen Tulloch, but options exist should last year's starter depart via free agency.
Hope to Detroit is an obvious connection because of the history between Hope and Schwartz. Hope was a starting safety for the Titans when Schwartz was defensive coordinator and actually made the Pro Bowl during Schwartz’s last season (2008) with the team.
Hope could be a fit for the Lions if the price is right, but not as a starter. At the age of 31, Hope isn’t the same player that he was during Schwartz’s last season with the Titans. With that said, Hope has a wealth of experience and is known to be a solid locker room presence.
The Lions may be interested in bringing in Hope partially for depth but more importantly as a veteran leader who understands the defense.
It’s unlikely the Lions are going to be able to replace starter Amari Spievey
at safety and – if that holds true – look for them to scan the free agency market for depth players who can be strong special teams contributors. Demps fits the description and shouldn’t carry a large price tag, only making him more attractive to the Lions.
Demps, who spent the last two years with the Houston Texans
after spending the first two years of his career with the Philadelphia Eagles
, has yet to start a game in the NFL but does have three career interceptions.
The 26-year-old is a diverse player who is capable of contributing in several facets of the game and may be a fit for the Lions in free agency.
There is no chance that Sanders would come in and take the starting position away from Spievey but he would provide experience and depth at the position. Sanders spent the first six seasons of his career with the New England Patriots
before joining the Atlanta Falcons
in 2011. Playing a reserve role, Sanders filled in as an injury replacement while starting six games for the Falcons, proving his value as a reliable backup.
Sanders should be an inexpensive option if the Lions decide to go the route of a veteran backup at safety.
What to expect
The Lions are not willing -- nor do they have the necessary resources available -- to break the bank at safety.
There is still some confidence in Spievey within the organization and the Lions would be prepared to enter 2012 with Spievey and Delmas returning as starters.
The need at the position will be depth players who can also contribute on special teams. The Lions may opt to bring back Eric Coleman or simply attempt to add young players from the draft while allowing youngster Ricardo Silva to continue his development.
The Lions will have no interest in Goff if they are able to return Stephen Tulloch
. Even if Tulloch leaves, Goff would represent a risk.
The New York Giants
placed Goff on Injured Reserve after he suffered a knee injury early in September, forcing the linebacker to sit out the entirety of his fourth professional campaign.
When healthy, Goff is a capable middle linebacker and could help fill a need for the Lions if they are hit by free-agent losses at the position.
The Lions aren’t known gamblers with their free agent signings, so this might be an unlikely proposition. However, the price, talent and opportunity may align to make this move possible.
The Seattle Seahawks
do have interest in returning Hawthorne, who has spent the first four years of his career in Seattle. However, the two sides have failed to reach a deal thus far and it is becoming more likely that the 26 year old will test the open market.
The Lions potential interest will be dependent on their own impending free agent linebackers and the team’s ability to resign them.
Hawthorne is a diverse player capable of playing all linebacker positions, which would give the Lions the option of playing either Levy (assuming they retain him) or Hawthorne inside.
Hawthorne isn’t expected to come cheap and the Lions would prefer to hand the money to Tulloch than any potential free agents.
Hayes has started 42 games over the last three years for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
and has been a somewhat underrated performer on their defense. Hayes is likely to leave Tampa Bay after the team’s offseason coaching-staff changes and could be a solid addition for another team.
At the agent of 24, Hayes has a unique combination of youth, talent and experience that could entice the Lions.
If Tulloch leaves and Levy is moved to the middle - or if the Lions aren’t able to return Levy - Hayes could be an intriguing option.
Ruud spent the 2011 season with the Titans but was not in Tennessee during any of Schwartz’s tenure as defensive coordinator. He spent the first six seasons of his career with the Buccaneers before signing with the Titans prior to last season.
The Titans are not expected to return Ruud after an injury-plagued campaign and he may represent an inexpensive option at inside linebacker. Only playing in nine games for the Titans, the 28-year-old’s durability has come into question despite only missing one game in the six seasons prior.
Ruud could present the Lions with the value and experience they are looking for at the position should they need to fill a void left by Tulloch.
What to Expect
The Lions priority is to return their own players rather than pursing external free agents.
Levy is a restricted free agent so the Lions shouldn’t have little difficulty retaining him for at least one more season but Tulloch may present a challenge. Tulloch signed a one-year deal with the Lions in 2011 expecting to get more money and term in 2012. He appears content to search for those on the open market, increasing the possibility of his departure after one season in Detroit.
The loss of Tulloch could significantly alter Detroit's approach to free agency and the draft as it would open a significant void at linebacker. The Lions are most likely to add depth through the draft and low-key free agent signings at the position.