Columnist Court Weston will be breaking down the team needs for all 32 NFL teams this off-season. Next up, the Lions…
1. Left Tackle – Jeff Backus is a solid left tackle, but he is 34. With Detroit on an upswing, and making it to the postseason for the first time in 12 years in 2011, the team cannot afford a drop off at the most important position on the offensive line. The Lions are a good team, but losing Backus to injury or retirement within the next few years will greatly set the team back. Insuring themselves at left tackle with their first round pick is definitely an option for Detroit. Ohio State’s Mike Adams is worth a look when the Lions are on the board at No. 23.
2. Outside Linebacker – Detroit’s defense proved to be one of the top units in the NFL in 2011, but one area in which the team could use an upgrade is at the outside linebacker position. Justin Durant has been a great addition for the Lions, but DeAndre Levy could easily be replaced and moved to a more suitable backup spot. Perhaps fellow NFC North division player Erin Henderson can be lured to Detroit from Minnesota. If the Lions are unable to find a starting OLB through free agency, expect them to take one within the first four rounds of the draft.
3. Running Back – Jahvid Best is electric, but injury prone. Kevin Smith excelled in replacing Best late in the season, but he is injury prone as well. Mikel Leshoure was expected to be the bang-em-out back to complement Best’s finesse style, but Leshoure ended up right next to Best on IR. It is time for Detroit to add a durable back to its roster. Smith is a free agent and could re-sign, but the Lions need to add reliable depth by signing a free agent or taking a stud in the middle rounds of the draft.
4. Cornerback – Eric Wright is a decent corner who will only be better with one year in Detroit under his belt, but he is a free agent. And although Chris Houston looks like he could develop into a complete player, the team needs to add depth at the cornerback position. Re-signing Wright will go a long way in solidifying the Lions’ secondary.
5. Defensive End – Simply put, Detroit owned one of the top defensive lines in the league in 2011, so why change things up? Re-signing Cliff Avril should be an easy task, but the four-year vet will get a lot of attention (and offers) during free agency. If Avril leaves the Motor City, the Lions will need to fill a gaping hole on the on the right side.
Previously: The Atlanta Falcons
Next: The Pittsburgh Steelers