A coach has been hired. A staff is being filled out. The Detroit Lions' offseason and planning for the 2014 season is officially here.
To start that process, we will look at each position group over the next two weeks, analyze what worked and what didn’t before projecting what could happen between now and training camp in 2014, which is only a mere seven or so months away.
Today the series continues with wide receivers.
Previous positions: Quarterbacks; Running backs; Wide receivers; Tight ends; Offensive tackles.
The good: There’s a lot to like here for Detroit. Larry Warford was possibly the steal of the draft in the third round in 2013. He played every snap this season and became one of the best right guards in the league. He didn’t allow a sack -- one of 11 guards to accomplish that. Rob Sims allowed only one sack this season according to Pro Football Focus. Dominic Raiola had arguably the best season of his career. He didn’t allow a sack and graded out as the second-best center in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. He was one of eight centers, according to PFF, to not allow a sack this season.
The bad: According to PFF, Sims graded out negatively for the season in run blocking, but the Lions did have a 1,000-yard rusher in Reggie Bush and a 650-yard season from Joique Bell. That is about the only negative you can say about the interior of Detroit’s offensive line this season. Warford and Raiola were particularly strong and Raiola might have played his way into extending his career with the Lions.
The money (using 2014 cap numbers from Roster Management System): Sims is entering the final year of his deal and is slated to make $3.775 million against the cap, the highest of any returning lineman. Leroy Harris, who played in one game this season, is slated to make $2,062,500 against the cap entering the final season of his deal. Detroit’s other two returning guards, Warford and Rodney Austin, are on the cheap and their first deals. Warford is slated to make $714,250 against the cap and Austin $495,000.
What Caldwell might favor: At guard, it is tough to say what Caldwell truly favors from a body type, although he does seem to favor having one guard who is taller -- more like a tackle -- than a shorter guard. That said, it is tough to see the Lions moving on from Sims or Warford this season, so any shaping of the line will be done from depth. At center, he appears to like bigger centers as Jeff Saturday was 6-foot-2, 295 and Gino Gradkowski was 6-foot-3, 300 pounds.
Potential cuts: Harris is likely a clear restructure-or-go case. He won’t beat out Sims or Warford for the starting guard spots and Austin has potential as a backup. If the Lions bring back Gandy -- and he has some familiarity with Caldwell from their shared time in Indianapolis -- there isn’t much reason for keeping Harris around when he didn’t play a season ago at the money he is slated to be making.
Draft priority: Expect the Lions to draft a center somewhere in the middle rounds in May -- perhaps a little higher if Detroit chooses to move on from Raiola. Gabe Ikard, from Oklahoma, is an intriguing prospect. Bryan Stork is the Rimington Trophy winner and could be an interesting choice as well.
Numbers in this post were culled from ESPN Stats & Information and Roster Management System.