Re-Sign or Release: Cory Redding

Cory Redding, who was a one-man wrecking crew as a defensive tackle in 2006, has obvious aspirations to test the market. He collected eight sacks in just 11 games after moving from defensive end, the most by any player at the position in that brief of a time span.

Before the free-agency period begins on March 2, priority number one for the Detroit Lions is to re-sign versatile defensive lineman Cory Redding.

And if that fails, slap him with the franchise tag.

Redding, who was a one-man wrecking crew as a defensive tackle in 2006, has obvious aspirations to test the market. He collected eight sacks in just 11 games after moving from defensive end, the most by any player at the position in that brief of a time span.

The sack production also doubled what Redding had accumulated the previous three seasons at defensive end.

Because of his stellar performance, which not-so-surprisingly came during a contract year, Redding is considered one of the elite players in this year's free-agent class. With versatile players of his size a rarity in the league, he would be on the radar of most teams -- and many with more dollars to throw around than Detroit.

Unfortunately for him, and fortunately for head coach Rod Marinelli and crew, the Lions will be able to use the franchise tag designation on Redding if the two sides are unable to complete a deal. And, because negotiations stalled three weeks ago, that is the most likely scenario.

(Note: Contrary to a published report, the Lions would designate Redding as a "Defensive Tackle," per the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Although he would make more money if he were tagged at defensive end -- a difference of $2 million -- Redding nor his agent can "fight" the tag designation.)

Redding's impact on the Detroit defense in 2006 was only realized after the team lost both its starting tackles -- All Pro Shaun Rogers and second-year player Shaun Cody -- early in the season. Redding made the switch after competent replacements could not be had, and he even struggled briefly before finding his stride. Before the season had concluded, the former third-round pick amassed 70 tackles to compliment his eight sacks. He also forced two fumbles.

Underscoring Redding's success was that he managed most of his production while lined up next to players such as Anthony Bryant and Cleveland Pinkney, career back-ups that may or may not be on the roster next season.

But Redding's dominance has only whet the appetite of Marinelli and new defensive coordinator Joe Barry. Because Rogers is expected to start in 2007 at nose tackle, Redding will be beside him, returning at the three-technique position. The duo would give Detroit one of the more formidable and imposing tackle-combos in the league.

VERDICT: The franchise tag (which would pay Redding approximately $5.5 million in 2007) offers a nice safety valve for Detroit, and gives them the ability to do what they must -- re-sign their best defensive player. Right now, that is Redding. However, because a player cannot be tagged in consecutive years, it remains imperative to lock him into a long-term deal. Once Redding is tagged, expect the Lions to re-enter negotiations and hammer out a deal during training camp.

If they don't, they might witness the last season of 'contract year' results from Redding.


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