Lions Notebook: Draft decisions

The names are so seductive. Calvin Johnson. Adrian Peterson. Brady Quinn. Maybe JaMarcus Russell if the Raiders pass him up. But more than likely, the Lions will take safe over sexy in this year's NFL draft. Complete off-season notebook, including Detroit's personnel changes, inside.

The names are so seductive. Calvin Johnson. Adrian Peterson. Brady Quinn. Maybe JaMarcus Russell if the Raiders pass him up.

But more than likely, the Lions will take safe over sexy in this year's NFL draft. If they stay at No. 2, they probably will take offensive tackle Joe Thomas. If they trade down, they probably will take Thomas or someone like defensive end Gaines Adams. If they trade down far enough -- or move up far enough later -- they could take linebacker Patrick Willis.

Nothing really changed when the Lions acquired offensive tackle George Foster from Denver and signed free agent defensive end Dewayne White from Tampa Bay. The Lions still have the same needs. They still have the same philosophy.

The Lions have been seduced by offensive skill under president Matt Millen, and they have been burned by it. Quarterback Joey Harrington, the third overall pick in 2002, is bouncing around the league. Wide receiver Charles Rogers, second overall in 2003, is out of football. Wide receiver Mike Williams, 10th overall in 2005, is on thin ice.

But something changed after Millen hired coach Rod Marinelli. Last year, the Lions took linebacker Ernie Sims ninth overall, even though quarterbacks Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler were on the board -- and offensive coordinator Mike Martz loved Cutler.

Sims filled a need for the Lions, and he fit Marinelli's philosophy. Marinelli is an old defensive line coach. He loves line play and defense -- the Tampa 2 defense, specifically -- and looks for fast, relentless, workaholic players all over the field.

Johnson? The Lions are already 1-for-3 with top-10 wide receivers. Peterson? The Lions already had a No. 2 pick with collarbone problems (Rogers). Quinn? If the Lions didn't take Cutler, why would they take him?

Expect Marinelli to go to the trenches.

TEAM NEEDS:

1. Middle linebacker: The Lions would have loved to have landed London Fletcher in free agency, but they couldn't outbid the Redskins. They didn't consider any other free agent a clear upgrade over what they already had in Teddy Lehman and Paris Lenon, but that doesn't mean they are satisfied. They like Mississippi's Patrick Willis, but their draft position might make it tough to get him.

2. Cornerback: When the Lions traded Dre' Bly, they traded a corner who didn't fit the Tampa 2 defense well. But they also traded a top-notch playmaker. With backup Jamar Fletcher exploring free agency, the Lions are thin from the top of the depth chart to the bottom. Their starters as of now are oft-injured Fernando Bryant and inexperienced Stanley Wilson.

3. Offensive line: After the Lions acquired George Foster from Denver, president Matt Millen stopped short of calling him the starting right tackle. The Lions need all the help they can get with a unit that allowed 63 sacks and was part of the worst rushing offense in the league last season. Joe Thomas is still a strong possibility at No. 2.

DRAFT SCOUT SKINNY
If there is one thing Lions president Matt Millen has done well, it has been maneuvering in the draft. He made a couple of trades and nabbed wide receiver Roy Williams and running back Kevin Jones in the first round in 2004.

The Lions are in position to do something like that again. They created uncertainty when they acquired running back Tatum Bell and offensive lineman George Foster from Denver, and they have four fifth-round picks to barter.

If the Lions stay at No. 2, they still might take offensive tackle Joe Thomas, as expected all along. But they would like to trade down. If successful, they could take Thomas or defensive end Gaines Adams. They like linebacker Patrick Willis a little farther down.

If quarterback Drew Stanton is still on the board late in the first round, the Lions could try to come up and get him.

PLAYER PERSONNEL

FRANCHISE PLAYER
--DT Cory Redding: Tendered at $6.775M.

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--WR Corey Bradford came back to the Lions last year after being cut earlier in the season. He probably won't come back again.
--OG Rick DeMulling lost his starting job not long after signing as a free agent in 2005 and never got it back. He won't return.
--CB Jamar Fletcher added depth last season. His future is uncertain.
--RB Arlen Harris came and went last season as a depth player. He knows Mike Martz's offense from St. Louis.
--OG Tyrone Hopson missed the entire season because of injury.
--S Jon McGraw struggled at times last season.
--FB Cory Schlesinger fits the attitude the coaches want, but doesn't fit Mike Martz's offense. He probably won't be back.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--CB Keith Smith (tendered at $850,000 with 3rd-round pick as compensation) has been solid on special teams, but hasn't developed on defense as hoped.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: Not available.
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED
--RB Aveion Cason: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--WR Mike Furrey: Potential UFA; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Alex Lewis: Potential RFA; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--RB Will Matthews: ERFA; terms unknown.
--NT Langston Moore: ERFA; terms unknown.
--LS Don Muhlbach: RFA; 5 yrs, terms unknown.
--DT Cleveland Pinkney: Not tendered as ERFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--OL Blaine Saipaia: Potential RFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--DE Corey Smith: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED
--RB Tatum Bell (trade Broncos).
--OT George Foster (trade Broncos).
--DE Dewayne White: UFA Buccaneers; $29M/5 yrs, $13M guaranteed.
PLAYERS LOST
--NT Marcus Bell (released).
--CB Dre' Bly (traded Broncos).
--DE James Hall (traded Rams).
--S Terrence Holt: UFA Cardinals; $15M/5 yrs, $4M RB combined 2007-08.
--DE Tyoka Jackson (released).
--TE Marcus Pollard (released).
--OG Ross Verba (released).


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