ALLEN PARK - The Detroit Lions have made a critical mistake that could severely hamper their efforts to move out of the NFL graveyard. Instead of targeting young productive players who could be game changers in the early hours of free agency, the Lions decided to sit on their hands and wait until the smoke cleared with most of the top free agent players signing elsewhere.
Detroit particularly needed help at the defensive end and linebacker positions, but weren't a player for Green Bay's Aaron Kampman (five-year $25 million, $11 million signing bonus), who re-signed with his old club and Carolina linebacker Will Witherspoon (six-year $33 million, $15 million signing bonus), who instead signed with the Rams.
Detroit lost cornerback Andre Goodman, who signed a three-year contract with the Miami Dolphins and starting guard Kyle Kosier signed a five-year deal with the Cowboys and could lose their best pass rusher, Kalimba Edwards who is in talks with the Cleveland Browns. Veteran defensive back returner R.W. McQuarters is in talks with the New York Giants.
Kitna left Detroit without an offer and is headed to New York to visit with the Jets, McCown also left town and is headed to parts unknown. Detroit inexplicably is taking a hands off approach to former Chargers pro bowl quarterback Drew Brees.
Detroit appears to be overestimating the difference their coaching staff can make and the players already on their roster.
Last year Detroit took a similar approach to free agency after being big spenders, with mixed results in previous years. Detroit moved late to sign Kosier and former Colts starter Rick DeMulling and allowed previous starter Stockar McDougle to sign with the Dolphins. The moves backfired as DeMulling quickly played himself out of the lineup and Kosier was inserted as a stopgap move.
Kosier stablized the unit, but Detroit offense was stymied by their inability to protect or open holes.
Detroit is pocketing about $10 of the cap as a pool for their 2006 draft class which still leaves them close to $10 million in room to sign free agents. That may not seem like much, but when you understand that the signing bonuses most free agents get are pro-rated over six year deals,
Detroit has room to do some serious negotiations.