Lions using all avenues for quick change

The Lions are using all sorts of personnel moves to revamp their roster in a big way. The latest was a trade made after their final minicamp. Will all the moves put their losing ways behind them and make them viable competition in the NFC North?

The Lions had just completed their offseason program with their final minicamp practice June 25. But the front office wasn't done.

Coming off the NFL's first 0-16 season, the Lions have tried just about everything to revamp the roster - trades, signings and several waiver clams, not to mention the draft - and they made another move the next day.

The Lions agreed to trade safety Gerald Alexander to Jacksonville for wide receiver Dennis Northcutt. They officially announced the trade July 2 after both players passed physicals.

The deal helped the Lions fill a need at wide receiver and in the return game, while alleviating a logjam at safety.

The Lions came into the offseason needing depth at receiver beyond Calvin Johnson. They signed free agents Bryant Johnson and Ronald Curry, and they drafted Derrick Williams.

They also came into the offseason with a different special-teams philosophy. Former coach Rod Marinelli was conservative in the return game, wanting to limit penalties. Coach Jim Schwartz is aggressive.

Northcutt, 31, is a 5-11, 172-pounder is expected to play in the slot and return punts. But he said he would learn every receiver position in case he is needed.

He caught 44 passes each of the past two seasons for the Jaguars, averaging 573 yards and three touchdowns, after seven seasons with Cleveland. He has returned punts throughout his career.

"I think that's one of the biggest reasons they brought me in was to get me in the slot," Northcutt said. "Obviously that's my biggest strength. That's been my biggest strength though my nine years of playing in the NFL is working the slot. That's where I've made my money basically.

"But I have been able to play outside. Whatever they ask me to do, that's what I'm going to do. Anything to help the team win, that's what I'm all about."

Alexander, 24, was one of three recent second-round picks at safety. The Lions drafted him in 2007, between Daniel Bullocks (‘06) and Louis Delmas (‘09).

After starting 16 games as a rookie, Alexander suffered a fractured vertebra five games into his sophomore season. He had surgery and went on injured reserve, but he returned for the offseason program. He told he was surprised by the trade.

The Lions still should have good competition at safety. In addition to Bullocks and Delmas, they also have veterans Marquand Manuel, Kalvin Pearson and Stuart Schweigert, plus Tra Battle and LaMarcus Hicks.

"Very competitive," Manuel said. "You've got to come in daily and make sure you're on top of your stuff," Manuel said. "It's going to come down to the wire."

Schweigert said the guys on the bubble need to make the most of every opportunity.

"Reps are going to be limited, which means the plays you make are going to be magnified, the plays you mess up or going to be magnified," Schweigert said.


  • Center Dominic Raiola signed a four-year extension worth $20 million with $9 million guaranteed, committing himself to the Lions through 2013. He said he never considered playing out the last year of his contract and testing free agency, even though the Lions are 31-97 since they drafted him in 2001. "There's so much I put into this," Raiola said. "I think it'd be like quitting. This place is worse now than when I came in. I definitely want to be a part of when this thing is turned around."

  • Raiola has had run-ins with Lions fans. He was fined last year for flipping them the bird during a game. But he said Detroit is home now, even though he is from Honolulu. "I've seen pretty much every other sports franchise win in this city, and there's nothing more that I want for the city than to see this team win," Raiola said. "This city's special to me. It's hard times right now, and I've been through a lot with the fans. I think that's just because I've been here for so long. I'm excited to try to change that view on the Lions."

  • The Lions signed tight end Dan Gronkowski, a seventh-round pick, to a three-year deal. They have signed quarterback Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick, too. "So we've got the bookends," president Tom Lewand said.

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