Detroit Lions: Leroy Harris

The NFL released its performance-based pay list Monday, where every team is to allocate $3.46 million amongst its players for things they have accomplished during the season.

Here is the full pdf.

When it came to Detroit, the Lions gave the most money to rookie right guard Larry Warford, who earned an extra $260,630.09 for his standout first season with the Lions.

His rookie linemate, LaAdrian Waddle, picked up an extra $181,182, behind only Warford, receiver Kris Durham ($220,174.55) and cornerback Rashean Mathis ($188,695). The common thread with all the players is that they were reliable starters for Detroit by the end of the season.

Most players received some sort of payout, and here are the bottom five: Quarterback Shaun Hill ($76.90); tight end Matt Veldman ($309.09); guard Leroy Harris ($400.28); fullback Montell Owens ($641.50); tackle Barry Richardson ($875.40).

Hill shouldn't go spending that money just yet, though. The players will receive this money on April 1, 2016.
Every day we’ll take a look at one of the Detroit Lions heading for free agency, what he has meant to the team before and a prognosis on whether or not he’ll be back with the club in 2014.

To view the entire series to date, click this link.

Hillis
Harris
Free agent to be: Leroy Harris

Position: Offensive guard

Age: 29

Years in the league: 7

What he made last season: $937,500 (cap number); $1,050,000 (cash value); $800,000 (base salary); $225,000 (signing bonus); $25,000 (roster bonus).

What he did last season: Harris played in one game last season -- the season finale -- and was otherwise inactive for the majority of the season. He was brought in to be a reserve guard and possibly push -- or win -- the starting right guard spot that eventually went to rookie Larry Warford. The third-round pick from Kentucky played every snap last season and Dylan Gandy was his backup, so Harris really didn’t have a role on game day with the Lions.

His potential market value: Some team might have interest in him as a free agent past the first tier of players. He spent the first six years of his career with Tennessee and was a starter for the Titans in 2010 and 2011. So there could be some value there for him when he heads to free agency, but he won’t be someone who will be signed immediately.

Will he fit the Lions still: Not much. The team barely used him last season and released him earlier this month. Detroit feels confident with what it has as its starting guards -- Warford and Rob Sims -- and also have a reserve guard in Rodney Austin that they want to give a shot to. They might look into bringing in a cheap veteran as well, but it won’t be Harris.

What happens: Harris will be in an NFL camp next season, but it will be somewhere other than with the Lions. He is a recent free agent and a released veteran, so he can sign anywhere. Where that is will remain a question for a little while, probably through next week.
The Detroit Lions cleared more cap space Monday afternoon by releasing veteran guard Leroy Harris.

Hillis
Harris
This move was expected, as Harris was due $2,062,500 against the salary cap for 2014, which would have been the final year of his deal with Detroit. Harris has $112,500 of dead money on his contract according to overthecap.com, so the move will save the Lions $1.95 million in cap room for when free agency starts March 11.

Harris was brought in to compete for the right guard job eventually won by rookie Larry Warford, who then solidified the position as one of the best young guards in the league. He could have also been used as a backup center, but general manager Martin Mayhew said he planned to find one to groom for the future whenever Dominic Raiola is no longer with the club.

Meanwhile, Harris played in one game in 2013, the season finale against Minnesota.

It was the fewest amount of games Harris has played in a season. He was drafted in the fourth round by Tennessee in 2007 and signed with the Lions before the 2013 season.
Every day we’ll take a look at one of the Detroit Lions heading for free agency, what he has meant to the team before and a prognosis on whether or not he’ll be back with the club in 2014.

To see the Meet the Free Agents series thus far, click this link.

Free agent to be: Dylan Gandy

Position: Guard/center

Age: 31

Years in the league: 9

What he made last season: $620,000 (cap value); $905,000 (cash value) -- $840,000 (base), $50,000 (roster bonus); $15,000 (workout bonus)

What he did last season: Gandy played in 15 games, mostly as a special-teams player and, due to injuries, as a receiving-eligible sixth offensive lineman. Gandy played 15 offensive snaps last season but primarily served as a backup to center Dominic Raiola and guards Rob Sims and Larry Warford. They missed a combined two snaps all year.

His potential market value: Tough to say. He hasn’t been a consistent starter since the 2009 season, his first with the Lions. It is important to at least have some veteran backups and that he can play multiple positions helps, but it will depend on the needs of various teams on the offensive line. He’ll likely be in a situation where he will be taking the veteran minimum or slightly more.

Will he fit the Lions still: Not particularly. The team has the interior of their offensive line set with Raiola, Sims and Warford all set to come back for 2014, as well as Rodney Austin under contract. The team is also expected to draft a center in May. If the team releases Leroy Harris, who is supposed to count $2,062,500 against the cap next season and didn’t play a game in 2013, perhaps the team could bring back Gandy with part of that cap room.

What happens: Detroit will have other priorities ahead of looking at Gandy, so if he is able to find another offer from a team, he would probably be wise to take it. Unless the Lions are planning on filling every “major” hole through the draft -- receiver, cornerback, safety and potentially tight end and linebacker -- Gandy will not be the first priority and as a veteran could be expensive for Detroit to retain. If he is still around after the initial wave of free-agent signings, then the team could bring him back. But if Harris remains on the roster, don’t expect it. It might be an either/or situation there. He does have some familiarity with new head coach Jim Caldwell from their time together in Indianapolis, so that could be a help as well.
Recruiting has been deemed a completely inexact proposition seemingly forever. Guys who are highly rated don’t pan out. Guys who were walk-ons turn into NFL players and, sometimes, stars.

So as teams across the country sign players Wednesday, here’s a look back at where the Detroit Lions were ranked when they were high school seniors. For rankings from 2006 forward, the rankings used are ESPN’s rankings. From 2002 to 2006, we used the Rivals.com rankings.

In some cases, no rankings were available. If something is not denoted as coming from another site, it is ESPN’s ranking from that year.

What you’ll see is most of Detroit’s players were not highly-rated players coming out of high school. Some had no ranking at all. Just goes to show how blue chip recruits in high school don’t always turn into top-level college or NFL players.

This post covers the offense. The next post will cover the defense and specialists. Running backs:
    Bush
    Bush
  • Reggie Bush (2003): No. 1 running back per Rivals.com; No. 2 overall player per Rivals.com. Signed with USC.
  • Joique Bell (2005): Not listed anywhere among the Rivals rankings for the 2005 class. Signed with Wayne State.
  • Theo Riddick (2009): No. 48 athlete; No. 65 in his region (the Northeast). Signed with Notre Dame.
  • Mikel Leshoure (2008): Not ranked at all by the ESPN rankings. No. 28 running back by Rivals.com. Signed with Illinois.
  • Montell Owens (2002): No information on his recruitment was available. Signed with Maine.
  • Steven Miller (2009): Not rated in 2009 out of high school when he signed with Nassau Community College. Not rated in 2011 when he signed with Appalachian State.
Wide Receivers:
    Johnson
  • Calvin Johnson (2004): No. 6 wide receiver by Rivals.com and No. 37 overall player. (If you’re curious, Early Doucet was the No. 1 receiver in his class according to Rivals.) Signed with Georgia Tech.
  • Nate Burleson (2000): Can’t find a ranking for Burleson from 2000, but here’s an interesting story about his recruitment from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Signed with Nevada.
  • Kris Durham (2006): No. 66 receiver. No. 200 player in his region. Signed with Georgia.
  • Kevin Ogletree (2005): No. 59 wide receiver according to Rivals.com. Signed with Virginia.
  • Jeremy Ross (2006): No. 174 wide receiver. Signed with Cal.
  • Micheal Spurlock (2001): Nothing available from a rankings or story perspective. Signed with Mississippi.
  • Ryan Broyles (2007): Rated as the No. 58 wide receiver in his class. Signed with Oklahoma.
  • Cody Wilson (2009): Not rated in 2009. Signed with Central Michigan.
  • Corey Fuller (2008): Not rated by either service. Signed with Kansas on a track scholarship. Transferred to Virginia Tech for football. Was an indoor All-American in track in high school.
  • Patrick Edwards (2007): Not rated by either service. Was a walk-on at Houston.
Tight ends:
    Pettigrew
    Pettigrew
  • Brandon Pettigrew (2004): Was not ranked by Rivals.com with a number. A two-star recruit by Rivals. Signed with Oklahoma State.
  • Joseph Fauria (2008): No. 15 tight end. Signed with Notre Dame (eventually transferred to UCLA).
  • Michael Williams (2008): No. 26 tight end and No. 20 player in Alabama. Signed with Alabama.
  • Matt Veldman (2007): Not rated by ESPN or by Rivals. Signed with North Dakota State.
  • Dorin Dickerson (2006): No. 11 wide receiver in his class and No. 74 prospect overall.
Offensive linemen:
    Raiola
  • Dominic Raiola (1997): No available recruiting rankings, but he was the first player from Hawaii to accept a scholarship to Nebraska, according to the Nebraska website.
  • Rob Sims (2002): No. 20 offensive guard according to Rivals.com. Signed with Ohio State.
  • Riley Reiff (2008): Rated as the No. 84 defensive end. Signed with Iowa.
  • Larry Warford (2009): Rated as the No. 51 offensive guard. Signed with Kentucky.
  • Corey Hilliard (2003): Not rated by number as an offensive tackle in his class by Rivals.com. Rated as a two-star recruit. Signed with Oklahoma State.
  • Jason Fox (2006): Rated as the No. 22 tight end. Signed with Miami (Fla.).
  • Leroy Harris (2002): Rated as the No. 42 defensive tackle by Rivals.com. Signed with N.C. State.
  • Rodney Austin (2007): Not rated by ESPN.com or Rivals in his class. Signed with Elon.
  • Dylan Gandy (2000): Not rated by any service I could find, but here’s an interesting story from when he was drafted with some backstory of how he ended up at Texas Tech.
  • LaAdrian Waddle (2009): Rated as the No. 19 offensive tackle in his class and the No. 43 player in the Midlands. Signed with Texas Tech.
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.

2014 free agents: Dylan Gandy; Dominic Raiola

Raiola
Warford
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.
At the start of every year, no matter the beat I’ve covered, I’ve always thrown out 10 things for the next calendar year that are likely to be wrong, but are guesses and predictions nonetheless.

If there’s something I’ve learned, it is incredibly tough to predict the future, so understand this is just an exercise mostly in fun and don’t take it too seriously (unless I get things right, of course, then I’ll look like a genius).

So with that, Happy New Year and here are 10 things that could happen (but probably won’t) in 2014.

1. The Lions will have a coach in place in three weeks or less. Yes, this isn’t that bold, but Detroit’s brain trust seems to be moving quickly with identifying and interviewing candidates. Three of those people have already surfaced and many more probably will in the next few days, especially since a lot of those candidates are likely coaching this weekend. And the coach the Lions eventually hire ends up being ... Lovie Smith. (Remember, this is just a likely-to-be-wrong guess.)

[+] EnlargeDominic Raiola
Tim Fuller/USA TODAY SportsThe 35-year-old Dominic Raiola showed this season that he can still play at a high level.
2. The Lions bring back Brandon Pettigrew. The value for the tight end is just too high, despite the sometimes unfortunately-timed drops. He has become a comfortable target for quarterback Matthew Stafford and also is critical to protecting both Stafford and the run game. Of course, the offensive style of the new head coach and/or offensive coordinator plays into this decision as well, but the rest of the position is either inexperienced or one-dimensional or both.

3. Dominic Raiola returns, too. The veteran center had the best season of his career in 2013, indicated a desire to return in 2014 and would prefer to come back to Detroit, where he has spent his entire career. While the Lions will draft a center to eventually replace the 35-year-old, they will have him around for a year or two to mentor that replacement first.

4. In the 2014 NFL draft, the Lions will go wide receiver in the first round and cornerback in the second round, solidifying two needs. It’s too early to say who the Lions will pick because declarations of underclassmen have not even come out yet, but if Sammy Watkins is available at No. 10, it would not be surprising to see him end up in Detroit.

5. The Lions are not big players in free agency. With so much money tied up in its core players who are locked up for the next few years -- including last year’s big free agent signings of Reggie Bush and Glover Quin -- Detroit doesn’t make nearly as big a splash this season in the free-agent market. The team will bring in a couple of mid-level players who will end up being contributors in the fall, but for the most part, the same roster that was around in 2013 will be with Detroit in 2014. Part of this reason is cap space, which leads to...

6. At least one veteran gets surprisingly cut. Nate Burleson has already said he is willing to restructure his deal to stay with the team and open up some cap space. But there’s a chance other players won’t be as willing to do that. Beyond Burleson, Louis Delmas has a $6.5 million cap number on the final year of his deal, Chris Houston has a $4.8 million cap number and guard Leroy Harris, who barely played this season, carries a $2.062 million cap number.

7. Ndamukong Suh does not sign an extension. Suh enters the final year of his deal and, like Matthew Stafford last season and Calvin Johnson before him, there is a decision that needs to be made with the defensive tackle. Suh’s cap number is a massive $21.412 million in 2014, 17.31 percent of the Lions' total -- more than any other signed Lions player for 2014. Considering how much money the Lions have tied up in Stafford and Johnson, it is tough to see Detroit being able to offer a massive deal to Suh right now, so he might play out the final year of his deal and go from there. What happens here may be dependent on the new coaching staff.

8. Calvin Johnson goes over 1,400 yards again. His knee healthy after an offseason of recuperation, the best receiver in the NFL once again asserts his dominance and leads the league in receiving, going over 1,400 yards for the fourth straight season.

9. DeAndre Levy is a Pro Bowler. His name got out there this season and next season, Levy takes the next step to becoming enough of a household name (because that’s what a lot of Pro Bowl voting is) to become an actual Pro Bowler and also an NFL All-Pro. The All-Pro designation ends up being the bigger honor.

10. The Lions finish next season 9-7. This might not sound like a lot of excitement, but without knowing who the coach is going to be or anything else at this moment, that feels like a pretty optimistic prediction. But with the talent pieces there for the most part, the Lions just need a coach who can be successful enough to actually get the pieces to all smartly work together.
DETROIT -- Detroit may have star receiver Calvin Johnson available for Sunday's game against the New York Giants, but the Lions will be without both their starting cornerbacks.

Rashean Mathis (illness) and Chris Houston (toe) are both inactive for Detroit on Sunday, leaving the Lions extremely short at corner. Bill Bentley, the team's usual nickel back, and Jonte Green will be the presumed starters at corner.

Chris Greenwood is the team's top reserve and Darius Slay, who was listed as doubtful heading into the game as he recovers from a torn meniscus in his right knee, is also active.

The Lions' other inactives are expected: quarterback Kellen Moore; running back Mikel Leshoure; offensive guards Leroy Harris and Rodney Austin and tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who was ruled out Friday.
DETROIT -- His experience is minimal with 20 defensive snaps this season. And now, in the biggest game of the season for the Detroit Lions, on national television against the Baltimore Ravens, one of the starting cornerbacks will be Jonte Green.

Green was inactive for some games earlier this season and was essentially the last option for the Lions at cornerback when he was active. He will now have to cover Marlon Brown and be effective in his role.

Veteran Rashean Mathis is expected to line up opposite Baltimore's top target, Torrey Smith.

Green landed in this role due to injuries to starter Chris Houston and top reserve Darius Slay, both of whom are inactive for the Lions on Monday night. Detroit now has Mathis, Green, Bill Bentley and Chris Greenwood, who has never played an NFL game, as its active corners.

The Lions' other inactives were as expected as well: quarterback Kellen Moore, running back Mikel Leshoure, guard Leroy Harris, tackle Jason Fox and guard Rodney Austin.

Ansah, Burleson inactive for Detroit

November, 17, 2013
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PITTSBURGH -- Not much of a surprise, but defensive end Ziggy Ansah and wide receiver Nate Burleson are among the inactive players for Detroit on Sunday against the Steelers.

Ansah tested the ankle during warm-ups before the game, but had only practiced one day in the past two weeks and appeared unlikely to play from the start. Rookie Devin Taylor will make his second career start in place of Ansah.

Burleson had hinted he likely wasn't going to play this week as well, but he warmed up before the official no-go decision was made.

In bigger news for the Lions, Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley was deemed inactive. That's a big deal for Detroit, which will start rookie right tackle LaAdrian Waddle for the third straight game. Facing Woodley would have been the biggest test so far for Waddle.

Lions inactives: Burleson, Ansah; OT Corey Hilliard; OG Leroy Harris; RB Montell Owens; CB Bill Bentley; QB Kellen Moore.
DETROIT -- Of all of the Detroit Lions' inactives, the one that was unexpected was return specialist Micheal Spurlock not playing.

Spurlock
Spurlock has had his issues this season, but was healthy all week, so unless he suffered a late injury, this is a healthy scratch. Look for a combination of receiver Jeremy Ross and running back Theo Riddick to work kick returns and Ryan Broyles to possibly work in punt returns in place of Spurlock.

Detroit's other inactives are wide receiver Nate Burleson, quarterback Kellen Moore; running back Mikel Leshoure; cornerback Jonte Green and offensive linemen Leroy Harris and Corey Hilliard.

Also, and this isn't a surprise, LaAdrian Waddle is starting in place of Jason Fox at right tackle.

RB Joique Bell active for Lions

October, 20, 2013
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- He spent about 15 to 20 minutes working out on the sideline, going through ladders and other drills testing out his injured ribs. At the end of it, it was determined running back Joique Bell would be active Sunday against Cincinnati.

Bell
How much Bell plays could be dependent on how much pain he is in with contact. Watch for Mikel Leshoure to potentially see some carries in his place behind starter Reggie Bush.

Detroit's inactives are as expected: receiver Nate Burleson; quarterback Kellen Moore; running back Theo Riddick; cornerback Jonte Green; offensive linemen Leroy Harris and Jason Fox and tight end Tony Scheffler.

One other interesting note is receiver/returner Jeremy Ross, who was signed off the practice squad Saturday, is active. It'll be interesting to see how much work the former Green Bay Packer gets today.
CLEVELAND -- Ending the biggest suspense in Detroit this week, wide receiver Calvin Johnson is active and will play Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.

Johnson
He was the largest question among the Lions players, but he took part in warmups, including receiver drills, and looked fine making his cuts and moving through ladders. He got an extensive stretch before the end of workouts, but he'll be giving it a shot Sunday.

Detroit's inactives are wide receiver Nate Burleson, quarterback Kellen Moore, cornerback Jonte Green, running back Theo Riddick, guard Leroy Harris, tackle Jason Fox and tight end Tony Scheffler.

Running back Mikel Leshoure is active for the second time this season.

DT Nick Fairley inactive for Lions

September, 15, 2013
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Detroit Lions will play Arizona without one of their biggest defensive playmakers.

Defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who missed practice Wednesday and Thursday with an injury to his shoulder, was deemed inactive Sunday and won’t dress for the Lions.

C.J. Mosley, a ninth-year pro out of Missouri, will start in his place. It wouldn’t be surprising to see defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh now command more double teams due to Fairley’s absence.

There were no other surprises on the inactive list for the Lions: quarterback Kellen Moore, running back Mikel Leshoure, safety Don Carey, offensive lineman Leroy Harris, wide receiver Ryan Broyles and right tackle Jason Fox, who was deemed out on Friday.

Corey Hilliard will start in place of Fox.
ESPN colleague Mike Sando's annual age analysis of NFL rosters found that the Detroit Lions have the oldest roster in the league.

That designation might seem odd when you consider the relative youth of the Lions' primary players. You also might not be interested in a ranking where the full range of age differences is only a few years. In sifting through the Lions' roster, however, the culprit -- if you consider an "old" roster a bad thing -- is a big group of veteran backups.

By my count, the Lions have nine projected reserve players whose ages range between 30 and 33 years old. Six are newcomers to the roster and three -- defensive tackle Justin Bannan, linebacker Rocky McIntosh and defensive back Rashean Mathis -- were signed two weeks ago.

On the one hand, it makes sense to have veteran backups when you have some young starters. If right guard Larry Warford struggles, the Lions could replace him with Dylan Gandy (31) or even Leroy Harris (29). If Darius Slay needs more seasoning, the Lions could replace him with Mathis (33).

McIntosh (30) is available to spell any of the Lions' three starting linebackers. Israel Idonije (33) will back up rookie defensive end Ziggy Ansah, while Bannan (34) and C.J. Mosley (30) will provide depth for Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.

On the other hand, we discussed earlier the Lions' draft issues in the past five years. One of the reasons they needed veteran depth is the inability to develop it on their own. Signing veteran backups also makes it difficult to plan long-term and orderly transitions at certain positions.

Regardless, the team the Lions have on the field at any given point will be a nice blend of young and middle-aged players. If you look at their starters on offense, defense and special teams, you really only see five who are 30 and older. Three of those are on special teams -- place-kicker David Akers (38), long-snapper Don Muhlbach (32) and returner Micheal Spurlock (30).

So I'm not sure there is reason to panic here. But if nothing else, now you know why the Lions rank atop Sando's age rankings.

*Update: The Lions released McIntosh, slightly lowering their composite team age, to make room for safety DeJon Gomes, who was claimed on waivers from the Washington Redskins.

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