- Kevin Seifert, NFL Nation
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We've already hashed through the Detroit Lions' conundrum with cornerback Aaron Berry from several angles Monday morning, noting how easy the ultimate resolution could be and how at least some fans feel disappointed in and disconnected from the franchise. The team's decision to release Berry, reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter and others, leaves us with a few items to wrap up.
It's worth repeating that Berry hand-delivered this outcome to the Lions, who prior to this weekend had been unwilling to jettison talent for off-field transgressions. Two arrests in a month by a marginal player at a time of high scrutiny? There was no other option.
Some of you have already pointed out, correctly, that Berry hardly ranks as a prominent player and, thus, made this decision even easier. As an undrafted free agent, he received a signing bonus of $1,500 in 2009 and has earned minimum salaries in each of his past two seasons. According to records I've seen, Berry will count $500 on the Lions' salary cap after his release. That hardly represents a lost investment.
Lions president Tom Lewand offered a statement that leaves vague whether the team has entered a new phase of internal discipline. Here is the statement: "We have repeatedly stressed to everyone in our organization that there will be appropriate consequences when an expected standard of behavior is not upheld." Does that mean Berry fell short of a standard that other players arrested this offseason did not? Was a new standard established early this summer -- after run-ins by Johnny Culbreath, Mikel Leshoure and Nick Fairley -- and before Berry's run began? We might not get those answers until the next incident. With the offseason coming to a close and free time dwindling for players, "next time" might not be for a while.
Berry ran with the Lions' first-team defense throughout the offseason, but you could make an argument that there isn't much separation between him and some of the other cornerbacks who will now compete for a starting job. That list includes Jacob Lacey, Alphonso Smith and rookie Dwight Bentley. The Lions fielded a weak secondary during parts of the 2011 season, and losing a potential starter isn't ideal. But if he wasn't much better than his competitors, the on-field impact could be minimal.
Moving swiftly Monday morning puts a symbolic capper on the offseason and allows the Lions to open training camp with Berry's future no longer in question. It's the best the Lions could do to diminish the distraction of their offseason.
The biggest remaining question to me is whether what we've seen this offseason reflects poor judgment by some key players, or simply some dumb and poorly-timed mistakes. The former would suggest the Lions are in for another season of bad judgment on the field. The latter would mean there will be no connection. A fair-minded person might say it's a little bit of both.
We've already hashed through the Detroit Lions' conundrum with cornerback Aaron Berry from several angles Monday morning, noting how easy the ultimate resolution could be and how at least some fans feel disappointed in and disconnected from the franchise.