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Adrian Donofrio - LionsFans.com
The offseason is certainly an interesting time in the NFL and for its fans.
Everyone seems to find everything they possibly can to pick apart and analyze... anything to kill time until the draft. Then they have a new batch of players to talk about, pick apart and scrutinize. Then, after what seems like an eternity, the regular season begins once again. The Lions are no stranger to off-season mysteries, and many questions have risen about what might happen to several players and positions in the Lions organization. Here are some of them:
Herman Moore: Possibly the best reciever the franchise has seen, he has been injured most of the past few years. Most of his receptions weren't from him being open, but from him being much taller than most DB's in the league. He'd just steal them right out of the air. However, Charlie Batch would rarely throw to him because he was hadly open. Word out of last year's camp had him playing at a very high level, but a hip injury sidelined him mid way through the season. He'd be a terrific goal line reciever, but he'd have to take another paycut, possibly reducing his salary to half of what it is now. Will Matt have enough sentiment to negotiate? Will Herman even listen? Retirement is also a possibility, but most of the signs Moore has been giving point to him playing longer.
Germane Crowell: He had an electrifying season a few years ago, in his second season with the Lions, with 1,338 yards, as he took the place of an injured Herman Moore. He is now an unrestricted free agent, and could bite at the first offer he sees. Although injuries have plagued him the past two years, he is not "injury prone." The first injury he had was a broken fifth metatarsal in his foot, but it came on a non-contact drill. He has said he will play for the league minimum if that's what he has to do to prove himself, and that's basically what Millen would give him, if he signed, but it would be loaded with incentives. Green Bay is just one team that is interested in his services, but Millen is high on Crowell, because he knows that not only is a big reciever with speed had to find, but Crowell is the Lions' only deep threat.
Bryant Westbrook: A ruptured achillies really took a step away from him, although he looked to be progressing towards the end of the season. He is also an unrestricted free agent, and several teams around the league has shown interest in the corner, including the Oakland Raiders. If he signed with anyone, especially the Lions, it would be another incentive-based contract.
The linebacking corp: Chris Claiborne played well in his natural position, at MLB. He even recorded a career high in sacks. But former Pro Bowl MLB Stephen Boyd will return from a back injury this season, so where does that leave Claiborne? A possible trade could be in order for Boyd, although he is a solid Zach Thomas-type player. Barrett Green took some signifigant strides into fulfilling his potential last year, and showed that he has speed, something the Lions defense needs. He is staying on the outside, but can probably play either side, if the Lions want to blitz with him, thereby using his blistering hit ability he showed in college.
The Quarterback situation: It's been established that Charlie Batch is going to be released. He may be a good quarterback, but not with this team. With an average at best offensive line, you NEED a mobile QB in, and Batch was broken off that habit by former quarterback coach Jim Zorn. That leaves sophomore player Mike McMahon with the burden of the hardest job in Detroit, (formerly tied with Chris Osgood.) He's shown he has what it takes to be a good quarterback, buut his accuracy numbers were below 50 percent. If the team that surrounded him was healthy, especially the starting recievers, it would certainly help his case, but it looks as though Marty Mornhinweg and Matt Millen think otherwise, giving the "I like you" eyes to Joey Harrington with the 3rd pick. Could it be draft posturing? It seems so, as many teams around the league have reported that the Lions are shopping the pick around, but you can't help but wonder with a regime that still has that "new car smell."
Where to use the picks: Marty has been saying all along that the offense needs playmakers. Crowell used to be one, but he's always injured. Besides that, the only TRUE playmaker is Johnnie Morton, but he can't do it himself, as he proved last year, consistently seeing double coverages. The defense needs speed, speed, and more speed. The Rams have shown what you can do with speed on defense, but which direction will the Lions go in the first few rounds, where most playmakers are found?
James Stewart: Will he take a paycut? If not, will he be released? If so, will he have to split time with a rookie draft pick? Stewart recieved the same scrutinization that Charlie Batch came into this past season. In minicamps James proved that he could catch the ball, but there was still the feeling that he was a round peg in the square hole of the west coast offense, based on his inability to break the big one, something the WCO needs considering its relatively low runs per-game average. James has been open to the possibility to taking a paycut considering his insanely high salary in the upwards of $5 million a year.
These are the main question marks heading into next season, and the Lions will be slowly feeding the public little bits of information about how they will be handled anytime now. Everything has to taken into consideration, because this year could be the year that shapes the team for years to come. Letting Crowell go to produce elsewhere is something the Lions obviously don't want to do, but he has his baggage as well as everyone else on the team. How will the team handle these situations? Welcome to the "Days of the Lions' Lives." An ongoing struggle between fanfare and winning. Unfortunately, the only thing fans can do is wait, like usual. But when a solutions come you can be sure that they will talk about them for years to come, because this could be the most important off-season the Lions have seen in quite some time.