Lions Notebook: Team Not Done Spending

According to Lions' head coach Rod Marinelli, the team could still be a player in free-agency to help upgrade the team's offensive line. Guard Damien Woody (pictured above) could be moved. An update on the Lions o-line situation, plus, a complete overview of the team's free-agent activity, including players signed, lost and more.

ALLEN PARK -- What the Lions might be lacking in quality, they apparently will try to make up in quantity as coach Rod Marinelli adds pieces to a subpar offensive line.

After putting the $6.9 million franchise tag on left tackle Jeff Backus, the Lions did not target other high-priced linemen. Instead, they have pursued a number of journeymen who have played under new offensive line coach Larry Beightol or fit into the mold of what he is looking for in those positions.

The veterans signed by the Lions include:

--Rex Tucker, a seven-year veteran who has played both guard positions as well as right tackle, and played in eight games last year for offensive coordinator Mike Martz at St. Louis.

--Barry Stokes, an eight-year veteran who has played for six NFL teams and had one start for the Atlanta Falcons during the 2005 season. Stokes played under Beightol in Green Bay in 2000 and 2001.

--Courtney VanBuren, a three-year veteran who was a third-round draft pick of the San Diego Chargers in 2003. He sat out the 2005 season with a knee injury.

The offensive line is one of the areas of concern for the Lions if they hope to implement a stronger running game under Marinelli and Martz, allowing the potential of running back Kevin Jones to become unleashed. In particular, there is a need for improvement at left guard and right tackle.

Last year's left guard - Kyle Kosier - was signed by the Dallas Cowboys and there has been speculation the Lions might move their right guard - former Pro Bowler Damien Woody - to the left side, but Marinelli indicated he will not make an immediate decision on the proposed move.

Kelly Butler, a 2004 sixth-round draft pick, started all 16 games at right tackle in 2005. The Lions were not entirely displeased with his performance but feel a need to improve, whether it is with him or another player.

There was speculation they might try to put together a package that might interest former Dallas guard Larry Allen, but he agreed to terms with the 49ers.

"We're still looking at guys out there, searching and dusting things off," Marinelli said. "We'll just keep looking."

Marinelli said he has made no final decision on whether he will move Damien Woody from right guard to left guard.

"I like to get guys on the field," Marinelli said. "It's like a batting stance, you've got to feel comfortable. We'll let the field do the talking for us."

TEAM NEEDS

1. Free safety: The Lions haven't soured entirely on incumbent Terrence Holt, but they have to improve in the secondary and FS looks like a good starting point. With the No. 9 pick in the draft, they might be looking to get the needed help there.

2. Left guard: The Lions have signed three journeymen offensive linemen who will compete with Rick DeMulling at LG and Kelly Butler at RT, but it's still up in the air whether they will be better at those positions. The three are Rex Tucker, Barry Stokes and Courtney VanBuren.

3. Linebacker. The Lions have taken fast, athletic linebackers in the past three drafts but they might need more to run defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson's style of attacking defense. In addition, MLB Earl Holmes is 33 and they don't have a sure-fire replacement, whether it's this year or next.

FRANCHISE PLAYER: OT Jeff Backus (tendered at $6.983M).
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

  • WR Troy Edwards was signed in late October to fill injury-related holes in receiving corps, was active for just three games with two receptions for 15 years. Does not figure in plans for 2006.
  • S Vernon Fox is primarily a special teams contributor, is probably expendable.
  • C Brock Gutierrez was strictly a backup to starting C Dominic Raiola and played some on special teams. He is not a high priority.
  • LB Earl Holmes will be 33 in April but he was the Lions' best run-stopper until he was beset with injuries in the second half of the season. He's a valuable player if the Lions can re-sign him at the right price.
  • WR Kevin Johnson was the veteran influence the Lions wanted for their young receiving corps until he suffered a torn Achilles' tendon. If he's healthy, the Lions probably will want to keep him.
  • S Scott McGarrahan was signed off waivers from San Diego on Dec. 21 and was not active in final two games of the season. Not expected back for 2006.
  • LB Wali Rainer didn't get a lot of playing time until injuries buried the Lions LB corps in second half of the season. A good special teams contributor, however.
  • FB Paul Smith was a favorite of the Steve Maruicci regime because he played so hard. He couldn't stay healthy, however, and will probably be replaced.
  • S Bracy Walker isn't a starting-caliber player at 35 but has been a consistent contributor on special teams, which gives him a chance at another contract.
  • LB Nate Wayne was signed when the Lions were hit by LB injuries late in the season. He didn't distinguish himself and is not likely to be re-signed.
     

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)

  • LB Matt Grootegoed (not tendered as ERFA)

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

  • LB James Davis (tendered at $721,600 with 5th-round pick as compensation) was the only starter to survive the full 16-game season and is likely to compete for the WLB job again in 2006.
  • TE Casey FitzSimmons has found a nice niche as an excellent special teams player and backup TE to Marcus Pollard.
  • FS Terrence Holt didn't step up as the Lions had hoped in his first full season as a starter but will probably be back.
  • DE Cory Redding continued to make progress as the starting LDE. He isn't a high-impact pass rusher, but he's a solid player who will definitely be back.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS

  • WR Glenn Martinez spent most of the 2005 season on the practice squad but was active for five games, made one catch for 11 yards. Likely to be re-signed.
  • TE Sean McHugh played three games late in the season after TE Casey FitzSimmons suffered a concussion. No catches.
  • RB Artose Pinner finally got playing time and responded as a hard-nosed, unspectacular RB, who could fill a backup role. Likely to be re-signed.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

  • WR Corey Bradford: UFA Texans; $7.4M/4 yrs, $2M SB.
  • TE Dan Campbell: UFA Cowboys; 5 yrs, terms unknown.
  • RB Arlen Harris: Not tendered as RFA by Rams; $500,000/1 yr.
  • QB Shaun King: FA; terms unknown.
  • QB Jon Kitna: UFA Bengals; $11.5M/4 yrs, $3.5M SB.
  • LB Paris Lenon: UFA Packers; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
  • QB Josh McCown: UFA Cardinals; $6M/2 yrs, $2M SB.
  • OT Barry Stokes: UFA Falcons; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
  • OL Rex Tucker: UFA Rams; $2.55M/3 yrs, SB unknown.
  • OL Courtney VanBuren (not tendered as RFA by Chargers; terms unknown).

PLAYERS LOST

  • QB Jeff Garcia: UFA Eagles; 1 yr, terms unknown.
  • CB Andre Goodman: UFA Dolphins; $5M/3 yrs, terms unknown.
  • OG Kyle Kosier: UFA Cowboys; $15M/5 yrs, $5M SB.
  • OG David Loverne (released).
  • CB R.W. McQuarters: UFA Giants; $6M/3 yrs, $2M SB.

MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.
 


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