Lions could make bid for Garcia today

Cleveland can officially release Garcia today and when it happens, several teams including Detroit will be making a run at signing the top west coast offense oriented quarterback available. While Detroit won't break the bank, they probably won't have to do so. Garcia likes Detroit at least as much as they like him.

ALLEN PARK - With the opening of the free agent signing period a little over a week away, the Lions are busy working hard to sign a few of their own players to renewed contracts. Detroit has two priorities; center Dominic Raiola and return specialist Eddie Drummond.

Drummond, who was named to the Pro Bowl in his third season is the NFL's premier returner and a restricted free agent. The Lions are working hard to avoid a situation like the one that took place in New York when Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder overpaid for restricted free agent wide receiver Laveranues Coles and kicker John Hall.

While Detroit can match any offer to Drummond, opposing teams often construct "poison pill" type offers that put a serious dent in a team's salary cap if they elect to match. Detroit would just as soon re-sign Drummond on their own terms.

The team also wants to re-up with center Dominic Raiola, a 2nd round pick in 2001. While Raiola was slow to meet expectations, he began to improve his play late in the 2004 season to the point where Detroit feels he can be a viable pivotman in their offensive unit. They will not overpay for him. Detroit will also make an effort to re-sign defensive tackle Marcus Bell and tight end Stephen Alexander.

It appears that Lions GM Matt Millen will continue his practice of retaining players that he selected while purging players that he did not. Tackle Stockar McDougle, who played well against some of the games top pass rushers, appears to be on his way out of town. Detroit doesn't seem to be all that interested in trying to come to an agreement with McDougle unless he comes in at a cut-rate price. Detroit better think twice about how much their willing to pay for a quality right tackle and look closely at the seven-year, $36 million deal signed yesterday by Colts right tackle Ryan Diem.

The Lions have three key objectives in free agency: safety, quarterback and offensive guard. Detroit is still interested in Jacksonville safety Donovin Darius who they have talked about acquiring in each of the past two seasons, but Darius was slapped with the franchise tag and could be headed down that path again this season. Then again, if Jacksonville elects to allow him to go free, Detroit would be interested. This is likely the last chance for Darius, 29, to ever where the Honolulu Blue as Detroit usually looks to sign players in free agency to long term contracts.

That would leave Denver's Kenoy Kennedy, 28, and Indianapolis' Idrees Bashir, 27, as the top two options. A dark horse candidate is Tennessee Titans safety Lance Schulters, 30, who played for Lions coach Steve Mariucci in San Francisco. Schulters is rumored to be among the candidates that Tennessee is considering releasing.

Can their be a player more ready-made for a system than former Browns quarterback Jeff Garcia for the Lions west coast offense? Garcia starred in Lions coach Steve Mariucci's offense and now with Detroit needing a quarterback to push Joey Harrington, Garcia, 32, appears to be the best man for the job.

Cleveland can officially release Garcia today and when it happens, several teams including Detroit will be making a run at signing the top west coast offense oriented quarterback available. While Detroit won't break the bank, they probably won't have to do so. Garcia likes Detroit at least as much as they like him.

Detroit isn't going to get into a bidding war for Kurt Warner with Chicago and former Bills QB Drew Bledsoe appears headed to Dallas or Arizona. While Detroit has mentioned former Browns backup Kelly Holcomb, why bother?

Finally, Detroit wants to upgrade the right guard position and possibly move free agent acquisition Damien Woody to the left side of the offensive line so that they can become more of a "left-handed" running team.

The Lions realize that journeyman David Loverne is not the answer as a starter but is a solid depth player. The Lions may elect to make a play on Green Bay's Marco Rivera. Rivera is one the NFL's best guard and a combination of he and Woody would give Detroit one of the top tandems in the league. Tupe Peko (Michigan State) of the Colts, Jermane Mayberry of the Eagles and David Dixon of the Vikings are unrestricted free agents, while Dan Neil of the Broncos and Cosey Coleman of the Bucs could be released.

Detroit is expected to say goodbye to wide receiver Az Hakim, who has been a disappointment after coming over in free agency from St. Louis. Brian Walker, Detroit starting strong safety who spent the season on injured reserve is not expected to return along with backup quarterback Mike McMahon.

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