ALLEN PARK - Now the fun begins.
Detroit has assembled a solid coaching staff and now must take the next step, implementing the vision of head coach Rod Marinelli and coordinators Mike Martz and Donnie Henderson on the field.
One of the first orders of business on the offensive side of the ball is deciding on a quarterback — starting or otherwise depending on the status of incumbent Joey Harrington—and getting him implemented in The Show. While it appeared early on that there would be only a few marginal candidates, it now appears Detroit will have their pick of some very accomplished players.
Drew Brees, San Diego: It appears that the Chargers have now thrown out the idea of putting either the franchise or transitition tags on Brees because both would be at 120% of his 2005 salary of $8.327 million.
That means San Diego would have to tender Brees an offer of $9.7 million and it might also have to be guaranteed. That's too rich for the Chargers who have a ton of money invested in Phillip Rivers and backup A.J. Feeley. If Brees hits the market, regardless of the torn labrum he suffered trying to recover a fumble, the Lions should be waiting at the door with bag of money.
Brees is the best value without spending draft choices and is worth busting the cap to acquire.
Brian Griese, Miami: While Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden has stated on many occasions - just like the Chargers - that he'd like to keep all three of his quarterbacks, Griese could be the odd man out.
Tampa is expected to tender former Texas quarterback Chris Simms an offer that would require first and third round draft picks as compensation should someone attempt to sign the restricted free agent. If Tampa decides that they can afford only one of the two, - Griese is due a $2.6 million bonus by the cap strapped Bucs in March - he could be the odd man out.
Chad Pennington, New York: After igniting the Jets in his first year as a starter by throwing for 3,120 yards and compiling a 104.2 passer rating, Pennington is amazingly on the outs in New York who have few options to replace him. He has proven to be very accurate (career completion percentage 65.3) and pretty good protecting the football (30 interceptions in six seasons).
The knock on Pennington is that he gets hurt pretty regularly. Still, he's one of the best options likely to be available on the market at a good price plus he won't cost the team any draft picks.
Aaron Brooks, New Orleans: You would think a quarterback who's thrown for over 3,000 yards four straight seasons and nearly 4,000 in two seasons would have teams clamoring for him on the open market. But Brooks simply turns the ball over too much. He has thrown 84 interceptions in his six seasons in New Orleans - that's 14 per season. His accuracy reflects that, he has a career completion percentage of 56.4.
Brooks will get a look by a few teams, but most, except the most desperate, will be thinking backup.
Josh McCown, Arizona: The 6-foot-4, fourth year veteran from Sam Houston State will be among the more sought after quarterbacks in free agency. Most of it is due to his potential.
McCown completed 60% of his passes while splitting time with Kurt Warner as the starter in Arizona, throwing for 1,836 yards and nine touchdowns against 11 interceptions. Detroit is expected to be interested in talking with the 26-year old signal caller, but there are better options, most notably Pennington and Brees.
Billy Volek, Tennessee: Volek got his chance in 2004 in relief of an injured Steve McNair and stamped himself as a potential NFL starter throwing for 2,486 yards and 18 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He did not look good down the stretch in relief of McNair this season but has shown enough that teams would give him a look if he is set free by the Titans. With Texas quarterback Vince Young very much in Tennessee's plans, Volek might get a shot to test the waters and is worth getting a look from Detroit.
Matt Schaub, Falcons: The Falcons floated Schaub's availability for a second round pick around the league during Super Bowl week. CBS analyst Boomer Esiason said he advised Schaub not to re-sign with Atlanta under any circumstances because he felt he was too good of a player to be stuck behind Michael Vick. He has looked good in limited game experience throwing four touchdowns against zero interceptions in compiling a 98.1 passer rating.
Unless Detroit's film study reveals that Schaub is another Steve Young, Detroit should avoid giving up more draft picks.
After hiring a bold and aggressive coaching staff, Detroit needs the players to execute it. The quarterback position is the most important on the field and worthy of spending big money and even draft picks to get the right player who can impact the franchise.
Two players who could be available have proven that they can get it done on the field, Brees and Pennington.
Lions tight end Marcus Pollard and linebacker Donte Curry have traveled to Europe to participate in the NFL Europe's internship program for players who eventually want to be in coaching. Curry has been assigned to the Frankfurt Galaxy while Pollard was assigned to the Rhein Fire.