Inside the Detroit Lions

The 2005 season could be the arrival of the Detroit Lions. <br><br> Team president Matt Millen has been often criticized for his personnel decisions, but the Lions should reap the benefits of yet another strong offseason under the guidance of Millen and head coach Steve Mariucci .

Heading into free agency, the Lions came up with a short list of players who could impact the roster at a reasonable cost. Millen and Mariucci wanted to improve the team without placing future salary-cap constraints and, at least on paper, they have been successful.

Reserved to losing tight end Stephen Alexander in free agency, the Lions were proactive in their pursuit of Marcus Pollard after he was released by the Colts in a cap-related move. While Alexander was a positive player on the field and in the locker room, Pollard may be a more athletically gifted player and should provide a more consistent presence at the position.

The addition of safety Kenoy Kennedy is a significant transaction for the defense. The secondary lacked an aggressive, physical presence in the middle, and while Kennedy isn't the quickest safety in the game, he knows how to play the position and can be intimidating. Teams consistently challenged the Lions' defense over the middle the past few seasons. That should cease with Kennedy.

The Lions signed Rick DeMulling from Indianapolis to bolster the guard position, but they still need to upgrade the interior of the offensive line and add a tight end. A quality quarterback is also needed to compete with Joey Harrington , although veteran Jeff Garcia will push Harrington and could end up as the starter due to his knowledge of Mariucci's West Coast offense from their days in San Francisco.

Going into the draft, the Lions have built a solid foundation and don't have the numerous roster issues that have plagued them in the past. Questions remain at wide receiver and offensive right tackle, but with the 10th overall pick, Detroit should be able to select a player who can make an immediate impact at either position.

TEAM NEEDS

Wide receiver – The Lions need to add depth. Charles Rogers has been injury prone since arriving two seasons ago and Roy Williams was bothered with minor, nagging injuries despite having a solid rookie season in 2004. Az-Zahir Hakim has been a disappointment since coming over from the Rams and Tai Streets did not add anything of significance.

Offensive right tackle –
With the departure of Stockar McDougle to Miami in free agency, the Lions have two young players in Victor Rogers and Kelly Butler. Neither has the experience to step into the starting role. The Lions may look towards free agency and the draft to solidify the position.

Cornerback – The Lions lack depth. Fernando Bryant and Dre' Bly are the starters. Andre' Goodman and Chris Cash are the backups but have not shown the ability to step in and be counted on as dependable replacements.

Defensive end/Outside linebacker – Adding quality, depth and speed from the outside edge of the defense is a must. While the position is not an absolute necessity, the Lions would like to add the presence of a disruptive force from either defensive end or outside linebacker.

FREE AGENCY AND OFFSEASON

FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: CB Rod Babers , 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: DT Marcus Bell , CB Mike Echols , OG Tyrone Hopson , C Dominic Raiola , S Bracy Walker .

PLAYERS ACQUIRED: OG Rick DeMulling (Colts), QB Jeff Garcia (Browns), S Kenoy Kennedy (Broncos), TE Marcus Pollard (Colts), RB Jamel White (Ravens).

PLAYERS LOST: TE Stephen Alexander (Broncos), OT Stockar McDougle (Dolphins), QB Mike McMahon (Eagles), S Brian Walker (released).


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