Analysis: Lions have to perform due diligence

I don't have any sources or any letters or even any negative evaluations in regards to Joey Harrington's situation with the Detroit Lions, but I do know this; the Lions, like every other club in the NFL, are expected to examine their roster of players and decide who has a future with the team and who doesn't. That's called performing "due diligence."

ALLEN PARK - I don't have any sources or any letters or even any negative evaluations, but I do know this; the Detroit Lions, like every other club in the NFL, are expected to examine their roster of players and decide who has a future with the team and who doesn't. That's called performing "due diligence."

I don't know who's telling the truth in this battle of the titans between the Booth Newspapers with its featured columnist Tom Kowalski and the Detroit Lions brass led by President/GM Matt Millen and head coach Steve Mariucci. I'm sure the truth lies somewhere in the middle of both camps.

I do know this, a team that has only won sixteen games in four years, ought to be looking very closely at the contract of a quarterback who's been under center for almost every game during that stretch.

Don't be surprised by this. Joey Harrington has collected over $12 million dollars in base salary and bonuses from the Detroit Lions organization and while he is improving, no one is going to mistake him for Peyton Manning.

It is important for the Lions to look ahead at every scenario involving Harrington's contract and consider them all - even releasing him - if that's what it takes to create a winning team that can contend for the Super Bowl.

And it shouldn't stop with Harrington, in today's NFL, with the restrictions of the salary cap, big bonuses being paid out to attract top notch free agents and high priced draft picks, anyone with a base salary of over $2 million is fair game for the team's bean counters to go after - if they're not producing.

Detroit is expected to undergo a serious roster turnover this season with somewhere near twenty players signed to expiring contracts. A great opportunity exists to further upgrade the roster with young speedy talent and release aging or non-productive players.

So examining every player's contract, no matter who it is, shouldn't be a surprise, it should be expected.

The proverbial hand writing is on the wall for Harrington. When he offered to renegotiate his deal, the Lions, at least to this point, politely declined. That would seem to indicate the team has elected to take their poison - a salary cap hit of nearly $8 million ($3 million roster bonus and $4.9 million in base salary) - this season, instead of pushing it to future years.

That means that Detroit will ride the waves with Harrington one last time in 2005, but if he doesn't improve dramatically, the chances of him being around after June 1, 2006, diminish greatly.

So what's the big deal if Detroit looks at Harrington's contract and considers releasing him? If he doesn't produce in 2005, the next headline will likely be, not that the team considered releasing him, but that they actually did so.

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