Out of a cap space of $120 million for the 2013 season, the Detroit Lions already have $50 million, 41.6% of what’s available, to three players: Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh, leaving a lot of questions of how to repair a roster that clearly needs a few additions.
The Lions finished 2012 the way they’ve been used to over the years: With a terrible 4-12 season, despite making the playoffs in 2011 on a 10-6 record. Matthew Stafford, still on his rookie contract, along with Ndamukong Suh, are remains of the previous rookie scale, that pretty much cripples a team looking to make numerous big signings in free agency.
The Lions have needs in interior offensive line, secondary, another defensive end. Suh, along with his on-field/off-field behavior problems looks like a perfect candidate for a trade; there are plenty of team who can use an All-Pro (second team in 2012) defensive tackle who can dominate against most offensive line. The problem is getting him to behave, and not kick people in their private areas like he did to Matt Schaub.
A big problem for the Lions is Calvin Johnson. While most would agree that he just might be the best wide receiver in the NFL, paying him $132 million over 8 years, including $60 million of guaranteed money. While Johnson was worthy of an extension, he did make $64 million through his first six years, something rookies can’t do today. It would have been foolish to give up on Megatron, but he seems to be overpaid.
But that just falls into what you think a building philosophy for an NFL team should be. When most would agree that wide receivers should never be paid that kind of money, it’s easy to see where the problem is for the Lions. The quarterback is probably the only position on the field that should be making $15-20 million a season. Overpaying offensive lineman and defensive players seems like a better idea than throwing a lot of money at a wide receiver, who will be good if he has a good quarterback.
From looking like a very promising team, the Lions look like they’re in trouble again. They’re not 4-12 bad, but in a very tough division (NFC North), breaking up this trio by keeping Stafford and sending away either Johnson and especially Suh seems like the only reasonable way creating a lot of cap space in order to get free agents capable of having an immediate impact in areas of need.
The Lions don’t want to enter a rebuilding era again, which seemed to last over a decade last time. Getting better at secondary looks like the first thing on the to-do list. It’s hard to see that happening without working out a new contract with Stafford or Suh.