With the addition of strong safety Kenoy Kennedy to the Lions defensive secondary, the focus has quietly shifted to the free safety position.
Brock Marion, signed a year ago as an unrestricted free agent, played there last year but he will be 35 on June 11 with 12 NFL seasons behind him and he is not the player he was during his peak seasons at Dallas and Miami.
Because of his experience and savvy, Marion filled a need as the quarterback of the defensive secondary last year but it appears likely the team will make a change at his position in the upcoming season.
At the very least, Marion will have to compete for the job, probably with two-year veteran Terrence Holt, the younger brother of St. Louis wide receiver Torry Holt and a Lions' fifth-round pick in the 2003 draft.
There are some - even within the Lions organization - who wonder why Holt didn't get more playing time last season but it seems certain he will get his opportunity when the team goes to training camp in July.
Although Holt does not have exceptional speed, he seems to have a habit of getting to where he's supposed to be on the field and getting to the ball in coverage. He probably would have gotten more playing time at strong safety last year but he is not considered the "thumper" the Lions want in the strong safety role.
Regardless of how the Lions end up solving the free safety situation, they will go into the 2005 season with their best defensive secondary in several seasons, assuming everybody stays healthy.
Cornerback Dre' Bly, a two-year Pro Bowl starter, is the centerpiece of the secondary, with Fernando Bryant, signed as an unrestricted free agent a year ago, at the other corner. Bryant had a disappointing 2004 season, mostly because of injuries.
With Kennedy already penciled in at the strong safety position, the Lions are now two-dimensional - with two good cover corners and a big-hitter in the secondary.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think I bring a presence as far as receivers always knowing where I am. They always look for me . . . they get shorter arms sometimes. Instead of thinking about catching the ball, they're thinking about where I am." - Safety Kenoy Kennedy on what he expects to bring to the Lions defensive secondary.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
1. Backup quarterback. The Lions chose not to re-sign Mike McMahon or Rick Mirer, leaving them with only one quarterback on the roster - starter Joey Harrington - until they landed veteran Jeff Garcia during the weekend. It is possible they will draft a No. 3 quarterback to develop.
2. Offensive lineman. With RT Stockar McDougle becoming a UFA, the Lions are now lacking starters at two positions - RT and LG. Rick DeMulling, a three-year starting LG at Indianapolis, has become the leading candidate for the guard job. The only thing preventing a deal with DeMulling is money. DeMulling is asking for $3 million per season, which the Lions consider too high.
3. Wide receiver. The Lions do not intend to re-sign WR Tai Streets and there is a chance they will release Az-Zahir Hakim for salary cap reasons and his limited production. Corey Bradford has been the only visiting WR.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: TE Stephen Alexander; CB Rod Babers (not tendered as ERFA); DT Marcus Bell; RT Stockar McDougle; QB Rick Mirer; DT Kelvin Pritchett; LB Wali Rainer; CB Dainon Sidney; WR Tai Streets; WR Reggie Swinton; FB Stephen Trejo.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: CB Chris Cash; WR Eddie Drummond; S Vernon Fox; CB Andre Goodman; OT Victor Rogers.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: OT Sean Bubin; TE Casey FitzSimmons; WR David Kircus; LS Jody Littleton; LS Don Muhlbach; WR Scottie Vines.
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: CB Mike Echols; OG Tyrone Hopson; C Dominic Raiola; S Bracy Walker.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: QB Jeff Garcia; S Kenoy Kennedy; TE Marcus Pollard.
PLAYERS LOST: QB Mike McMahon; S Brian Walker.