Detroit Lions: Looking Ahead

<b> LOOKING AHEAD:</b> <br><br> Like him or not, President/CEO Matt Millen has put together his second straight solid off-season. Millen, a former NFL linebacker, understands the key to improving a team is addressing needs and he has done that again.

Offensively, they needed to upgrade the interior of the line and have done that by inking former Indianapolis Colt guard Rick Demulling. He'll turn out to be a nice upgrade over his predecessor, David Loverne.

They addressed the need for an experienced quarterback to push starter Joey Harrington and got that with Jeff Garcia. He really is Taylor-made for the West Coast offense and was a bad fit with Cleveland last season.

By signing former Colt tight end Marcus Pollard, they'll get an experienced and productive player who should have a few years left. He also is clearly an upgrade over Stephen Alexander in almost every area.

Defensively, the one big missing ingredient from past seasons was a "thumper" or big hitter in the secondary and they got one with former Denver Bronco safety Kenoy Kennedy. Teams just haven't feared going over the middle against the Lion secondary. With Kennedy in the fold, that might change.

With less needs than in previous seasons at this time, the Lions won't have to fill as many holes through the rest of free agency and in next month's NFL draft.

TEAM NEEDS:

WIDE RECEIVER: It may not look like it on paper but the Lions need some help at receiver. With Charles Rogers playing in only six games in two seasons as a professional, Roy Williams dealing with various injuries from his rookie season, and veteran receiver Az-Zahir Hakim having trouble dealing with injuries over the last few seasons, the club needs to find some healthy players at the position. They should look to add a veteran or two who are capable of playing in a pinch.

TIGHT END: Veteran tight end Marcus Pollard may be an upgrade at the position but he's not getting any younger (turned 33 recently) and they'll need to groom an eventual successor at the position.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE: With veteran right tackle Stockar McDougle leaving for free agency, there is a clear vacancy at the position. Backups Kelly Butler and Victor Rogers aren't really considered strong candidates to replace him.

CORNERBACK: After starters Fernando Bryant and Dre' Bly, there isn't much remaining in quality depth at the position. Backups Andre' Goodman and Chris Cash have yet to prove that they're good enough to handle significant roles.

FREE AGENCY / OFF-SEASON:

KEY ACQUISITIONS: QB Jeff Garcia: UFA Browns; TE Marcus Pollard: UFA Colts; OG Rick Demulling: UFA Colts; S Kenoy Kennedy: UFA Broncos.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: C Dominic Raiola: UFA; DT Marcus Bell: UFA; S Bracy Walker: UFA.

KEY DEPARTURES: QB Mike McMahon: UFA Eagles; TE Stephen Alexander: UFA Broncos; OT Stockar McDougle: UFA Dolphins; S Brian Walker (released).

FRANCHISE PLAYER: None

TRANSITION PLAYER: None

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: QB Rick Mirer; FB/TE Stephen Trejo; WR Tai Streets; WR/KR/PR Reggie Swinton; DT Kelvin Pritchett; MLB Wali Rainer; CB Dainon Sidney; CB Mike Echols; CB Rod Babers

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: KR/PR Eddie Drummond; G Tyrone Hopson; OT Victor Rogers; CB Chris Cash; CB Andre Goodman; S Vernon Fox.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHT FREE AGENTS: TE Casey FitzSimmons; WR David Kircus; WR Scottie Vines; OT Sean Bubin


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