The Lions' owner, William Clay Ford Sr., died Sunday at age 88. Then there was free agency, where the Lions kept Joique Bell, Brandon Pettigrew and Kevin Ogletree, along with bringing in wide receiver Golden Tate and a pair of rotational defensive ends.
So the team has been a bit busy with some more moves, and then the draft should be just as lively.
Let's get right to your questions. Remember, the Mailbag is only as good as the questions you ask. Either tweet #LionsMailbag with any questions you have or email email@example.com.
Kris asks over email: Jason Jones was signed by Jim Schwartz as a DE, but do you see Jim Caldwell moving him to back to DT with Mosley as the Relief for Suh and Fairley?
Kris, that's an interesting proposition, and if the Lions had been able to re-sign Willie Young, that might have happened. But without Young and Ziggy Ansah and Devin Taylor -- the best two defensive ends on the roster at present -- moving Jones inside would make little sense with Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and C.J. Mosley able to be a three-man rotation now. The Lions also brought in Corvey Irvin from Detroit and have two practice squad guys from last season -- Xavier Proctor and Jimmy Saddler-McQueen -- that could end up as the fourth option.
Going back to defensive end in a 4-3 and the coach he would play for, Jim Washburn.
“Our relationship actually started at the Senior Bowl,” Tapp said during a teleconference Friday. “Coach Washburn was with the Titans and his staff was the North, and he got his hands on me and that was my first introduction to the NFL, the way he coached me up and the way he brought me with the speed and the way they do things in the NFL.
“Then, in Philadelphia, he had me again and I’ve been trying to get with that guy for the last five years at that time, and it just worked out well in Philadelphia.”
Tapp played two seasons for Washburn, 2011 and 2012 with the Eagles, before the two were separated again. But being a free agent for the second time in his career -- the first time was last season, when he took a chance on making a position switch -- Tapp knew he wanted to play for the guy he felt could really help him.
That was Washburn, so Detroit became a viable option.
Whether he is the same player or not, though, is debatable. His production has dipped every year since 2008, when he had 54 tackles and 5.5 sacks. After a 2009 season with 49 tackles for Seattle, he was traded to Philadelphia.
He hasn’t played 16 games in a season or made more than 30 tackles in a season since. Tapp, though, doesn’t believe he has diminished as a player. According to Pro Football Focus, he graded out positively in every season he played except for last season at outside linebacker and, coincidentally, the 2008 season, which was his best statistical year.
“Stat line don’t always tell the story,” Tapp said. “Let’s get that first and foremost. I’m the same player that I was coming out of the draft, just a few years older and a few years wiser.”
Whether he’s able to contribute will be determined.
If you’re looking for more on Tapp, here’s what our Washington reporter, John Keim, told me about him.
It is a four-year contract worth a reported $16 million, but as @RavensInsider reports, his per-year base salaries will be $1.25 million in 2014, $2.8 million in 2015, $3.65 million in 2016, and $4.35 million in 2017 along with a $4 million signing bonus.
This means his cap numbers will be $2.25 million in 2014, $3.8 million in 2015, $4.65 million in 2016 and $5.35 million in 2017.
Of his entire deal, $8 million is guaranteed.
What does this mean for the Lions? It gives Detroit a pretty decent out if Pettigrew's skills decline after the first two years of his contract. They would be almost all paid out of the guarantee at that point, so they could let him go if need be and not face a big loss in the monetary department. Also, remember that the salary cap is expected to jump massively over the next few seasons, so what looks like a big number for Pettigrew with the current cap might appear to be a bit smaller by the time 2016 comes around.
Pettigrew also offers a veteran option for a team without one at tight end. Other than Pettigrew, the tight ends on the Detroit roster have less than two seasons of combined actual game experience.
The Detroit Lions are bringing back Brandon Pettigrew and this ensures one thing in Detroit: While the team will have an offense that might look schematically like the New Orleans Saints' offense, this guarantees it won’t be Saints-like.
At least not in the same construct of what New Orleans likes to do.
Pettigrew is not a Jimmy Graham-like tight end. He won’t stretch the field. He won’t create an obvious mismatch against anyone who lines up against him. Though Detroit had said he was a priority free agent throughout the offseason, he is a different type of tight end than Graham.
He is more of a dual-threat tight end, as much of a blocker as a pass-catcher. He was integral in Detroit’s running game as a player who can line up on the line of scrimmage as well as in the slot and even outside. His versatility and flexibility has been one of the more attractive things about him.
He will not, though, break a defense.
In his five seasons in Detroit, his longest-ever reception has been 35 yards. In 2010. He has had only four games in which he had a reception of 30 yards or more, and only one of them came after the 2010 season. Last season he had fewer yards (416) than any season but his rookie year, and also fewer drops (four) than any season in his career. His two touchdowns were his fewest since his rookie year.
He also had declining receptions the past two seasons after an 87-catch, 826-yard season in 2011.
While Pettigrew is still productive and still young enough at age 29, part of the reason Detroit might have brought him back is the lack of experience at the position otherwise. If the team had not kept Pettigrew, the only tight ends on the roster would have been Joseph Fauria, Michael Williams and Matt Veldman. Fauria and Williams were rookies last season, and of the three, only Fauria had any extended playing time or even caught a pass.
Williams spent last season on injured reserve and Veldman was signed for the last game of the season from the practice squad.
With a thin tight end market, there were not going to be any options better than Pettigrew available for Detroit to sign as a veteran. Owen Daniels, Jermichael Finley and Dustin Keller all could have been intriguing options, but they have significant injury histories that made them more of a risk than Pettigrew, who the team drafted in 2009. And Pettigrew has developed a rapport with quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Pettigrew’s signing also probably means the team might avoid taking a tight end early in May’s draft, although depending on how the Lions really feel about Fauria and Williams, it might not completely preclude them from doing so.
But this was the safe signing for Detroit. He was the player the team knew and the one the front office was the most familiar with. With little other options out there, it was also the one that ended up making the most sense.
Even if he can’t do some of the things the team might want him to be able to in the offense.
Detroit took care of its wide receiver issue – at least in part – by signing Golden Tate. It handled a defensive line hole – kind of – by signing two players, but also had a big hole open when Willie Young went to Chicago.
And the Lions made progress on their gap at safety on Thursday, although no deal was completed. Meanwhile, the Tate deal also showed the Lions need to find some more room under the cap, so contract restructures and other moves might be coming as well.
Oh, and Detroit still could end up signing some players, too. This is Free Agency – Day 4.
What’s changed: Not much yet. A source said Shaun Hill is still on the table to Detroit, but that both sides were also looking at other options before talking again soon.
Who is out there: Shaun Hill; Luke McCown.
Chances something happens Friday: Not likely, but there could be a move if both Hill and the Lions agree that it is the best fit still at this point.
What’s changed: Henry Hynoski is off the board, re-signing with the Giants, so the Lions' search for a fullback continues. It might end shortly if the team feels comfortable enough with Montell Owens. He is due $100,000 on the fifth day of the league year if he is still on the roster.
Who is out there: Vonta Leach, Jed Collins.
Chances something happens Friday: If Detroit thinks there are better options they can secure, they could let go of Owens, but if not, they’ll keep him on the roster and could end the search for a true fullback.
What’s changed: Not much from the Golden Tate signing. His cap number in 2014 will be $3.1 million and the Lions currently have over $20 million in cap room invested in the position. This seems like a wait-a-while-and-see position now.
Who is out there: Lance Moore; Jason Avant.
Chances something happens Friday: Don’t see anything happening here Friday.
What’s changed: Brandon Pettigrew signed a four-year deal Friday morning worth $16 million, according to the Detroit Free Press. This should solve their need at tight end.
Who is out there: Brandon Pettigrew
Chances something happens Friday: Definite. He is expected to be in Detroit on Friday.
What’s changed: Phil Costa is off the board, headed to Indianapolis.
Who is out there: None.
Chances something happens Friday: Highly, highly unlikely. At least for anyone of note.
What’s changed: The Lions signed two depth defensive linemen Thursday, Darryl Tapp and Vaughn Martin. Also, Willie Young is headed to Detroit’s rival, Chicago, so he is no longer a candidate to return to the Lions. That said, Young being off the board means there is a need with Detroit.
Who is out there: No one of note right now. Could Jared Allen or Julius Peppers end up being a possibility? If they are willing to come cheap, maybe.
Chances something happens Friday: If it is a veteran Detroit knows, perhaps. But not likely at all considering both Peppers and Allen were out there when the team signed Tapp and Martin.
What’s changed: LaMarr Woodley is headed to Oakland, so that homecoming is not going to happen.
Who is out there: Right now, no one.
Chances something happens Friday: Still not a massive need at the outset.
What’s changed: Not much from a day ago. The same guys are still out there and none of them have even really seemed to move the marker with other teams.
Who is out there: This is what I wrote Thursday and it still applies: Rashean Mathis is still out there. With Denver signing Aqib Talib, it would seem like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie wouldn’t be returning to the Broncos. He played for Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin in Arizona. Charles Tillman is out there, too. After the Tate signing, though, Rodgers-Cromartie and Tillman might be out of Detroit’s price range.
Chances something happens Friday: Not likely.
What’s changed: James Ihedigbo seemed close to signing a deal Thursday, but left the Lions facility without a definitive job in hand. He told reporters that he hopes to sign with the Lions and that an issue with his representation is part of the holdup.
Who is out there: Chris Clemons is still out there, but the Lions seem focused on Ihedigbo.
Chances something happens Friday: Highly possible if he can get things sorted in a timely manner.
The Detroit Free Press reported the deal is worth $16 million, with $8 million guaranteed.
"I love the city. I'm grateful for being able to be here. The city is going through changes as is the organization," Pettigrew told the club's website.
The Lions needed to re-sign Pettigrew or find another tight end because they otherwise would have been very thin at the position, with only Joseph Fauria and Michael Williams, neither of whom has more than two years of experience.
The 20th overall pick in the 2009 draft out of Oklahoma State, Pettigrew spent the past five seasons as one of Detroit's primary tight ends, specifically known for his ability to both block and run routes effectively.
The 28-year-old has played in 71 games, catching 284 passes for 2,828 yards and 16 touchdowns. Pettigrew also has six fumbles and 34 drops in his five seasons with the Lions.
His role changed in 2013 from being primarily a route-runner -- he caught 59 or more passes each season from 2010 to 2012 -- to a blocker. His receptions (41), yards (416) and touchdowns (two) were all his lowest totals since his rookie season, but that can be largely attributed to his shift in role.
Pettigrew was drafted the same year as Matthew Stafford and has been the quarterback's primary tight end the majority of Stafford's career.
The signing is not as high-profile as Golden Tate and is not expected to make anywhere near the same impact, either, but the Detroit Lions attempted to fill a need Thursday when the team signed Darryl Tapp from Washington.
Much like we did with Tate in this space on Thursday, I caught up with my colleague in Washington, John Keim, to get a feeling of what the Lions might be getting with the 29-year-old, who will turn 30 during the 2014 season.
"Darryl Tapp had to learn a new position last season and there’s no way to do that in just one season. He’d been mostly a backup defensive end prior to joining the Redskins, who moved him to an outside linebacker’s role," Keim wrote. "But he was never going to be anything other than a spot player in Washington with Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan on the outside. They hoped he could provide some pass-rush help in certain packages, but that never really materialized.
"But Tapp showed that he was strong at the point of attack out of a two-point stance and when he did get pressure it stemmed from that strength, especially in his lower body as he played with good leverage. He worked well against tight ends in the run game.
"The Redskins were content to let him go, however, and they’re still looking for pass-rush help. They also have a young outside linebacker in Brandon Jennings and would like to add more young players who can help on special teams. They’re also keeping an eye on former backup Rob Jackson, an unrestricted free agent who hasn’t gotten much of a sniff thus far. But there’s a chance he and Jenkins could be the backups next season, making Tapp expendable.”
Tapp had 10 tackles and a sack last season. His best season was in 2008, when he had 54 tackles and 5.5 sacks. He probably isn't a suitable replacement for Willie Young, but the Lions are probably expecting Jason Jones or Devin Taylor to fill that role in 2014.
And now, a look around the Interwebs at a ton of Lions news from Thursday:
- From ESPN: A look at Golden Tate's salary cap number and also a peek at Joique Bell's contract. There's still a chance Shaun Hill returns to the Lions. The Lions signed Tapp and Vaughn Martin as well, but James Ihedigbo left without signing a deal. Willie Young is leaving Detroit for Chicago and the Lions are losing a strong, productive player. Mel Kiper's mock draft preview and analysis of his third mock-up. And watch Matthew Stafford sink a full-court shot -- with a football.
- Golden Tate will challenge Jeremy Ross for punt return duties, writes Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
- Ihedigbo will discuss the Lions with his wife, writes Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News.
- Fullback Henry Hynoski might have agreed to go back to New York while still in Detroit, writes Kyle Meinke of MLive.
Tate's signing bonus is $8 million and his base salaries are $1.5 million (2014); $3.75 million (2015); $4.75 million (2016); $6 million (2017) and $7 million (2018).
Tate will have a cap number of $3.1 million in 2014, $5.35 million in 2015; $6.35 million in 2016; $7.6 million in 2017 and $8.6 million in 2018. Other than Tate's signing bonus, there are no other bonuses or incentives mentioned in his contract.
Tate's base salary is fully guaranteed for 2014. In 2015, $1 million of his base salary is fully guaranteed and $2.75 million is guaranteeed for injury. The entire base salary will be fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2015 league year. He has nothing guaranteed in the final three seasons of the contract.
That leads to his $3.1 million cap number for 2014. That would be the 13th-highest cap number on the Lions as of Thursday afternoon, right ahead of Joique Bell's $2.3 million and below Nick Fairley's $3.146 million.
The initial salary numbers were first reported by @RavensInsider. The other numbers were culled from ESPN Stats & Information.
It also means Detroit has $20.27 million of cap room tied up in wide receivers for 2014. That number could be a bit misleading, however, since Calvin Johnson's cap number is $13.058 million and Tate's is $3.1 million. The other receivers are Ryan Broyles ($1.003 million); Kevin Ogletree (635,000); Kris Durham ($570,000); Jeremy Ross ($570,000); Patrick Edwards ($495,000); Corey Fuller ($420,000) and Cody Wilson ($420,000).
More details about Tate's contract will likely pop out in the next few days.
That leaves the Lions with about $4.5 million in cap room -- give or take a signing or two -- according to the Detroit Free Press. This likely means before Detroit makes any more moves, contract restructuring is likely coming. Or a cut. Or a new contract for defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh that would cut the albatross that is the $22.4 million counting against the cap. Detroit will have to make some moves to work out some cap room over the next couple of months.
Including his version of crazy trick shots.
Stafford's girlfriend, Kelly Hall, posted a video of Stafford throwing a football full court from the corner and hitting nothing but net.
It's an impressive few seconds of video that you can watch here.
This is part of a good week for Stafford, who got a strong No. 2 wide receiver in Golden Tate. He signed with the Lions on Wednesday on the second day of free agency.
For context, when I covered Michigan, I saw Denard Robinson attempt this during "College GameDay" when the traveling basketball studio show came to Ann Arbor for the Michigan-Ohio State game. Robinson did not come close to making any of his attempts before running and making a layup. Then again, Robinson is now an NFL running back, not a quarterback.
A few hours later, the Lions filled the roster hole left by Young with Darryl Tapp, who is joining the team from Washington. He would be Detroit’s fourth signing of the free-agent period and the second defensive lineman to join the club Thursday, along with Vaughn Martin.
Tapp played 11 games with Washington last season, making nine tackles and recording one sack. Prior to last season, he spent four years in Philadelphia and his first four seasons in the league with Seattle. He was a second-round draft pick of the Seahawks in 2006 out of Virginia Tech.
Tapp had a negative overall grade by Pro Football Focus last season and he played in only 81 defensive snaps. His snap counts have declined each year since 2008, when he played 702 defensive plays and had a career-high 54 tackles.
Tapp hasn’t started a game since 2011 with Philadelphia and hasn’t been a full-time starter since the 2008 season with Seattle.
With Detroit, the 29-year-old, who will turn 30 in September, will likely be a depth defensive end. This could signal that the Lions feel comfortable with either the recovery of Jason Jones from his season-ending patellar tendon injury or the progression of Devin Taylor from his rookie season until now. Tapp will likely be the fourth defensive end in the rotation.
He made $865,000 last season with Washington and had a cap number of $580,000. His cap number has only been over $1 million twice in his career – in 2010 and 2011 with Philadelphia.
Kiper is tabbing Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans with the No. 10 pick to Detroit, and while it would make sense for the Lions to pick up another receiver, considering who else is available on Kiper's board still at No. 10, it might be a stretch.
Based on Kiper's latest mock draft, the Lions would have their pick of Evans, linebacker Anthony Barr, tight end Eric Ebron, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and cornerback Justin Gilbert. All, in one way or another, have been linked to Detroit early in the process.
And considering the team's needs at the present moment -- safety, cornerback, tight end and defensive end -- it would be surprising to see Detroit go with Evans if this were the way it were to shake out.
Of course, a lot can shift between now and May, or even a week from now, when most of the quality free agents will have likely been scooped up. And if Detroit addresses some of its other needs, then Evans becomes a potential value/best player available pick and could give the Lions a dynamic receiving corps.
Here is Kiper's take on why he would still go with Evans:
"After the Lions signed Golden Tate, the obvious reaction is to think they go another direction here. I'll counter and say that the Lions didn't just need one wide receiver, they needed two, and I'd also say that while Tate is a nice addition, he doesn't do much to ease the worry of what this offense looks like when Calvin Johnson isn't healthy. The Lions shouldn't be done at this position, and I think Evans is too good to pass up here. Tate's presence doesn't mean this is no longer a need."
There is definitely logic there, especially if offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi believes Tate will be more effective in the slot than on the outside or wants to get super creative and use Johnson in the slot more often. But depending on what Detroit needs, it might not be the best use of such a high draft pick.
The source said the Lions are still a potential landing spot for Hill, who has spent the past four seasons backing up Matthew Stafford. Other teams have reached out to Hill, and the Lions have also been looking around, the source said, but the sides are expected to touch base again soon.
Hill has played in 15 games for the Lions since signing in 2010, completing 269 of 432 passes for 2,891 yards, 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
In his career, he has completed 591 of 954 passes for 6,381 yards, 41 touchdowns and 23 interceptions.
Finding a backup quarterback to Stafford is one of the areas Detroit needs to fill during the offseason. Other than Stafford, the only quarterback on the roster is Kellen Moore, who has yet to play in a game.
The Detroit Free Press is reporting part of the issue for Ihedigbo is his representation.
Ihedigbo, who would come into Detroit as a strong candidate to start at safety opposite Glover Quin, had 99 tackles and three interceptions last season. He is the first safety the Lions have targeted for a visit in free agency, although they have expressed interest in former Miami safety Chris Clemons and were reportedly interested in T.J. Ward, who signed with Denver.
Ihedigbo played the past two seasons in Baltimore under new Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.
The Lions are searching for a replacement for Louis Delmas, whom the team released in February. Delmas then signed with Miami earlier this week.
Bell's entire 2014 salary is guaranteed along with the $3 million signing bonus. He has nothing guaranteed in the 2015 or 2016 seasons. His cap number is $2.3 million in 2014 and $3.5 million in both 2015 and 2016.
"It's not based off getting paid," Bell said Wednesday. "It's never been about the money. But I don't work for free."
The full contract details have yet to come out, but that is what his base numbers are being reported as on the official NFLPA site.
Bell rushed for 650 yards last season and felt like Wednesday was part of his validation for a career that saw him bounce around his first two seasons before heading to Detroit.