For weeks, when discussing the upcoming NFL draft, Lions officials refrained from uttering a standard sentence: "We will take the best player available."
But then came the NFL meetings in Phoenix.
"We're looking for the best player," coach Rod Marinelli told reporters. "We really are. What we tried to do was fill as many holes as we could through free agency. Now we can go into this draft not just looking to fill needs, but trying to find the best players."
That could just be a smokescreen, setting up a trade down from No. 2.
The Lions have made it more difficult for people to figure out what they will do in the draft by filling holes at running back and on the offensive line. If they play it like they could take anyone, it adds to the uncertainty and increases their bargaining power.
You never know, though. Maybe a trade doesn't work out.
"You just have to prepare for both," Marinelli said. "If you keep thinking
you're going to do something, then you don't, all of a sudden, you have a guy
sitting right in front of you. You have to make a decision on who's the right
guy for us. I want to make sure we've done our homework on that No. 2 pick and
that guy helps us win."
The Raiders, meanwhile, have shown interest in Josh McCown. And the Lions are listening. It is believed they don't want to trade McCown, but if the Raiders make an offer they can't refuse, they won't refuse it. It is another example of how the Lions control the top of the draft. If they trade McCown to Oakland, the Raiders presumably can take wide receiver Calvin Johnson -- whom Detroit (spearheaded by offensive coordinator Mike Martz) likely has atop their draft board.
But if they don't trade McCown to Oakland, the Raiders presumably will take quarterback JaMarcus Russell, and the Lions draft position will remain the same. Whether or not the value of their pick would increase will be determined in mid-April, once most of the player evaluations by individual teams has been completed.
The dominoes will fall depending on what happens.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Matt has dreamed of this moment. He can finally make a trade to set up his team for years." -- One GM friendly with Lions president Matt Millen, to Sports Illustrated about the upcoming draft.
--DT Cory Redding: Tendered at $6.775M.
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.
--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.
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.
--RB Aveion Cason: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--WR Mike Furrey: Potential UFA; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--DE Claude Harriott: ERFA; 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.
--OG Stephen Peterman: ERFA; 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.
--RB Tatum Bell (trade Broncos).
--RB T.J. Duckett: FA Redskins; $1.5M/1 yr.
--CB Travis Fisher: UFA Rams; $2.25M/1 yr, $1.25M SB.
--OT George Foster (trade Broncos).
--WR Shaun McDonald: UFA Rams; $2.8M/2 yrs, $1.5M guaranteed.
--OG Edwin Mulitalo: FA Ravens; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--OG Zach Piller: FA Titans; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DE Dewayne White: UFA Buccaneers; $29M/5 yrs, $13M guaranteed.
--NT Marcus Bell (released).
--CB Dre' Bly (traded Broncos).
--OG Rick DeMulling: UFA Colts; terms unknown.
--DE James Hall (traded Rams).
--S Terrence Holt: UFA Cardinals; $15M/5 yrs, $3.5M RB/$500,000 RB '08.
--DE Tyoka Jackson (released).
--S Jon McGraw: UFA Chiefs; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--TE Marcus Pollard (released).
--FB Cory Schlesinger: UFA Dolphins; $2M/2 yrs, SB unknown.
--OG Ross Verba (released).