Lions Turn Free-Agent Focus Towards Defense

A few days after acquiring cornerback Anthony Henry via trade (and the team's only meaningful signing being Morris), the Lions finally addressed a defense that could very well have been the worst in modern day history. And they did so at two very important positions.

Considering new head coach Jim Schwartz's defensive pedigree, the start to the Detroit Lions 2009 free-agency splash was a bit puzzling.

A running back (Maurice Morris), a back-up defensive back (Eric King), and a wide receiver (Bryant Johnson)?

But a few days after acquiring cornerback Anthony Henry via trade (and the team's only signing being Morris), the Lions finally addressed a defense that could very well have been the worst in modern day history. And they did so at two very important positions.

On Wednesday, the team announced the signing of veteran defensive tackle Grady Jackson to a three-year, $ million deal, a move that could immediately restore potential to the team's interior.

They also brought aboard cornerback Phillip Buchanon.

Last year, the Lions struggled mightily against the run, as former defensive tackle's Shaun Rogers' absence was not only evident, but abused on a weekly basis.

Jackson, a 6-2, 345 pound mammoth of a lineman, will start beside Cory Redding, who was unable to establish himself in 2008 without a competent counterpart.

Jackson, 36, registered two sacks in 14 starts for the Atlanta Falcons in 2008, who had no plans of re-signing Jackson during free-agency. Scout.com had Jackson ranked as its ninth top defensive tackle in free-agency, behind Detroit's unrestricted free-agent DT Shaun Cody.

Cody has received lukewarm interest across the league.

Buchanon, meanwhile, started all 16 games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2008. He nabbed two interceptions, returning one for a touchdown.

Lions cornerbacks intercepted just one pass all year.

Buchanon, 28, is expected to start opposite Henry, adding considerable substance to the team's defensive backfield.

"Detroit can go nowhere but up from here," Buchanon said in an interview with the Tampa Tribune. "The big issue for me was playing time, and I'm going to get a lot of playing time in Detroit."

Buchanon was ranked No. 6 among the league's top free-agent cornerbacks, behind former Lion Dre' Bly among others, but ahead of former Lion Leigh Bodden, Ronald Bartell Jr., Bryant McFadden, and Domonique Foxworth.

His deal with Detroit will span two years and is worth $8.5 million.

The Lions have planned visits with defensive end Vonnie Holliday (Miami Dolphins), cornerback Chris Carr (Tennessee Titans), and tight end L.J. Smith.

They are still interested in Titans offensive lineman Daniel Loper, but refuse to pay Loper "starter money" according to one source.

Loper also wants to be guaranteed a starting tackle position. The Lions still have left tackle Jeff Backus under contract, and last year's top pick Gosder Cherilus is expected to start at right tackle.


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