NFC North: Morning Roar

The Lions, lying in wait for a new year ...

It took a little bit longer than expected, but the Detroit Lions finally nabbed a safety Monday night as James Ihedigbo -- the team's first real target -- agreed to join the club.

Ihedigbo
He'll line up opposite Glover Quin as the last line of defense for Detroit as the team tries to improve a secondary that struggled toward the end of last season. So they replaced Louis Delmas for Ihedigbo, but what are the Lions getting? Here are some thoughts from colleague Jamison Hensley, who covers the Ravens.

"Ihedigbo wasn't expected to start last year after the Ravens signed Michael Huff in free agency and drafted Matt Elam in the first round. But he turned into one of the biggest surprises on defense. Playing nearly every snap on defense, Ihedigbo finished second on the team with a career-best 99 tackles.

"He's basically a lesser version of Bernard Pollard. Ihedigbo is solid at coming up to make the hit but he doesn't make enough plays in coverage. All three of his interceptions last season came against Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. Excluding the two games against Cincinnati, Ihedbigbo broke up only seven passes in 2013.

"Ihedigbo wasn't in the Ravens' plans in 2014. General manager Ozzie Newsome said the team needed to add a more athletic safety. The Ravens also plan to move Elam to Ihedigbo's strong safety spot, which is the first-round pick's natural position.

"Basically, he's a great special teams player and an average safety."

And now, a look at other Lions news from across the Interwebs:
The Lions, lying in wait for the new year...

This is the time of year where the intensity of free agency begins to slow down just as coaches need to start traveling and making rounds to various college campuses around the country to evaluate prospects.

That obviously includes the Detroit Lions, who had sent scouts and head coach Jim Caldwell to Florida State on Tuesday, according to colleague Jared Shanker.

Shanker said some of the other Lions coaches were focused on defensive backs there -- including safety Terrence Brooks and cornerback Lamarcus Joyner.

Brooks is the No. 5 safety in the draft and the No. 70 player overall according to ESPN, while Joyner is the No. 6 cornerback and No. 35 player overall. The biggest issue for Joyner would be his size as he's 5-foot-8. Brooks, at 5-foot-10 7/8, would be somewhat short for a safety but defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has experience with that before working with Ed Reed in Baltimore.

Of course, having Caldwell there likely means the team was at least watching Florida State's two biggest prospects, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (No. 30 overall) and 6-foot-5 wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (No. 36 overall).

Benjamin would be an intriguing target should he still be around for the Lions in the second round, although Shanker wrote that Benjamin made a first-round case Tuesday.

And now, a look around the Interwebs for other Lions news.
The Lions, lying in wait for this new year...

DETROIT -- It was one of those questions that gets asked during an hour-long interview, a throwaway of sorts that could lead a subject anywhere and into any spot.

There were a few of those Monday night during Tom Lewand's hour with Bernie Smilovitz at the TAP restaurant at MGM Grand, but one stuck out. Smilovitz, about 45 minutes or so into the interview, asked Lewand what he would do if he could be the NFL Commissioner for a day.

The first part of his answer was somewhat expected -- to try to improve player health and safety. He said while he felt it has been good, "it has to get better."

The second part was a bit more unexpected.

While Lewand wouldn't go as far as to allow cameras into the locker room for halftime strategy sessions or even halftime speeches as college basketball has done in recent years, he expressed a desire to give fans more experiences in the stadium.

And to make the fan experience more enjoyable -- including some access via video to locker rooms before the game.

"We want to have exclusive opportunities to consume our game," Lewand said.

How the NFL does this could go a multitude of directions and, have fun with this in the comments, what would you like to see to improve your time at football games?

And now, a look around the Interwebs in search of Lions news:
The Lions, lying in wait for this new year ...

After a week of free agency, one of the areas the Detroit Lions still need to fill is who, exactly, will back up starting quarterback Matthew Stafford.

For the past four seasons, that job has gone to veteran Shaun Hill, who played in 15 games over his four seasons in Detroit throwing 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. And now, Hill is a free agent and at age 34, is likely reaching the point where he needs to figure out where he wants to finish his career.

After the season and even last week, it looked like that destination could still be Detroit. But on Sunday night, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Hill is headed to visit the St. Louis Rams on Monday.

While a visit is not a deal, by getting a player in a facility, it increases their chances for committing to a deal. And the Rams need a backup quarterback after Kellen Clemens left for San Diego.

Hill is from Kansas and started his college career at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas. And Missouri is closer to Detroit than Kansas, if that matters to Hill. So this could be something worth watching Monday as free agency enters its second week.

If Hill were to head elsewhere, 32-year-old Luke McCown could be looked at to be his replacement. McCown has familiarity with offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi's offensive scheme.

And now a look at other Lions news from around the Interwebs.
The Lions, lying in wait for this new year. ...

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:
Good Morning and RROOOOAAARRR!!!!!

Over the past week, the Detroit Lions set a somewhat large premium on finding wide receivers to join star Calvin Johnson and complementary receivers Ryan Broyles, Kris Durham and Jeremy Ross as potential pass-catchers.

And after talking to a ton of receivers over the weekend -- almost every top receiver at the combine said they had meetings with the Lions -- the receivers were finally able to work out Sunday for coaches, scouts and general managers.

Here's a quick look at how receivers did at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday (all numbers from NFL.com):

40-yard dash: Top performer -- Brandin Cooks (Oregon State) 4.33. Others of note: Paul Richardson (Colorado) 4.4; Martavis Bryant (Clemson) 4.42; Odell Beckham (LSU) 4.43; Sammy Watkins (Clemson) 4.43; Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt) 4.46.

Bench Press: Top performer -- Cody Latimer (Indiana) 23. Others of note: Matthews 21; Bryant 16; Cooks 16; Watkins 16; Jeremy Gallon (Michigan) 15.

Vertical jump: Top performer -- Tevin Reese (Baylor) 41.0. Others of note: Bryant 39.0; Allen Robinson (Penn State) 39.0; Beckham 38.5; Marqise Lee (USC) 38.0; Richardson 38.0; Mike Evans (Texas A&M) 37.0.

Broad jump: Top performers -- Donte Moncrief (Mississippi) and Reese 11 feet, 0 inches. Others of note: Lee 10-7; Robinson 10-7; Watkins 10-6; Bryant 10-4; Richardson 10-4.

3-cone drill: Top performer -- Damian Copeland (Louisville) 6.53. Others of note: Beckham 6.69; Cooks 6.76;

20-yard shuttle: Top performer -- Cooks 3.81. Others of note: Beckham 3.94; Robinson 4.00; Lee 4.01; Bryant 4.15.

60-yard shuttle: Top performer -- Cooks 10.72. Others of note: Beckham 10.93; Robinson 11.36; Shaq Evans (UCLA) 11.51; Evans 11.58.

And now, some Lions news from around the Interwebs:
Good Morning and ROOOOOAAARRRR!!!!!

The Detroit Lions are apparently heading back to the middle of Michigan to play some charity basketball.

According to two separate reports in two separate newspapers, the Lions will play the "crime stoppers" from two separate counties over the next few months -- the Gladwin County Crime Stoppers in March and the Saginaw County Crime Stoppers in May.

Kind of a slower news morning here, so figured I'd just mention these two charity games. The NFL scouting combine starts a week from today and things should pick up heavily soon.

And now, a look around the Interwebs in search of Lions news:
Good Morning and RRROAAAAARRRR!!!!

One month. Likely at least $6 million.

That's what the Detroit Lions are looking at right now. Free agency and the start of a new league year kicks in at 4 p.m. ET on March 11 -- one month from now. Normally, this could be a reason for excitement for the Lions and other teams around the league, as it gives them a chance to start to craft their franchises for a run at the playoffs.

But right now for Detroit, the Lions are a little more than $6 million over the projected 2014 salary cap of $126 million -- and that's before the terms surrounding center Dominic Raiola's new contract are known. So the Lions have some maneuvering to do to knock down their cap number before they have to be below it at 4 p.m. ET on March 11.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Lions cap is now at $132,769,422 -- so there is some major money that needs to be cut. Some of that can happen through restructuring contracts of veterans or making decisions on the futures of others, such as safety Louis Delmas or guard Leroy Harris.

The Lions are going to want to cut more than the $6 million-plus, though, since they will eventually need room to sign their rookies and perhaps make a run at a free agent or two. This will be the next big area to pay attention to as the team moves along with the personnel and evaluation process of veterans, rookies and free agents.

And now, a look at Lions news from around the Interwebs:

The Lions applaud Michael Sam for his courage and a look at whether or not he could fit in Detroit's plans. Detroit has a decision to make on tight end Brandon Pettigrew and the latest in the Meet the Free Agents series on receiver/returner Jeremy Ross.

Charles Tillman doesn't think it would be awkward to join the Detroit Lions, writes Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.

Teryl Austin is going to try and solve the Nick Fairley conundrum, writes Kyle Meinke of MLive.
Good Morning and ROOOOOAAARRRR!!!!

Ndamukong Suh, his contract and his pending potential free agency in a year are one of the big issues for the Detroit Lions this offseason. No one disputes that.

And it is an issue the Lions would like to resolve sooner than later -- especially because getting Suh to agree to a contract extension before March 11 could open up key salary cap room to help sign free agents to help Suh and the Lions reach the playoffs next season. No one disputes that, either.

Here's where this column from the Detroit Free Press comes in. Drew Sharp writes the Lions should learn from Seattle and let Suh walk in free agency -- or try to trade him for draft picks.

I understand where Sharp is going with this, and the Lions showed over the past 12 months the ability to scout and identify draft picks and free agents who will actually fit into what the team wants to do. And yes, Suh's $22.4 million cap number this season will cause major problems for the Lions, no matter what anyone in the front office might say.

This is the way of the NFL. Make decisions. Decide which players are worth it and which aren't. And it is difficult to say Suh is definitely not worth it at this point.

But getting rid of Suh without at least exploring the possibility of locking him up to a long term deal makes little sense. First, it would seem unlikely at best that the Lions would be able to find someone to take Suh in his final year because of the massive cap number.

If Suh does have interest in staying with Detroit -- he's been fairly quiet on the subject but general manager Martin Mayhew and team president Tom Lewand have indicated that is the case -- why wouldn't the team want to work out a cap-friendly deal with him and then build around him and linebacker DeAndre Levy.

That would be the ideal option for both the Lions and Suh. Does it happen? Still too early to say. But trading him just doesn't seem like something that would be a realistic option right now.

And now, a look at Lions news around the Interwebs:
Good morning and ROOOOAAAARRR!!!!i

While a lot of the focus over the next few months will be on who the Detroit Lions might draft in May or what will happen with key free agents like Dominic Raiola or Brandon Pettigrew, another interesting decision is looming.

What will Carlin Isles, the fastest man in rugby signed to a futures/reserve contract with the Lions, decide to do.

According to this story on CNN International, the answer is still unknown.

When Isles was around for the final week of the regular season in Detroit -- and the final week of the tenure of Jim Schwartz -- Isles said the 2016 Olympics was a goal for him in Rugby Sevens. But so was playing in the NFL, and what Isles lacks in size, he makes up for in speed.

But the question still remains for Detroit, if Isles chose football, where would he play? Would he be a return specialist -- and does that even fit with Jeremy Ross an exclusive rights free agent likely to return. Or could his speed negate his size issues at receiver, running back or cornerback.

Should he choose football over rugby, that is just one of many questions that will be asked as he embarks on trying to make it in the NFL.

And now, a look around the Interwebs in search of Lions news:
Good morning and ROOOOAAARRRR!!!!

It has been a good few days for former Detroit Lions coaches.

On Friday, the Buffalo Bills hired Jim Schwartz as the team's defensive coordinator and officially introduced him Monday. During his introductory press conference, he said he plans on bringing an attack defense to Buffalo.

He also had some interesting things to say about the Lions, the team that fired him after five seasons in December.

"In our business that is not unusual. I think if you look around, just about every coach has been in that position. Every coach has had some situation. There are some great ones that have been fired," Schwartz told reporters Monday. "It is part of this business and it is the way it goes. We do this because we love to do it.

"I graduated from Georgetown -- I think I was the first guy in the history of Georgetown to ever go into coaching. I did not do it because the money was here even though I have made a lot of money in my career and things like that. I did not do it to be on national TV. I did it because football is what I love the most. I played Division III football. It was non-scholarship. That is the attitude I have taken through my whole career. I work an awful lot, but I wouldn’t say I have a great work ethic. I just like what I do.

"When you combine your hobby and your profession, I think you’re in a great position. There was never a question of getting back on the horse, so to speak. It was just making sure that the opportunity was the right one. I am very confident that this is it."

It'll also give Schwartz an opportunity to face Detroit twice next season in Detroit -- once in the preseason and once during the regular season, perhaps on Thanksgiving.

The other big former Lions hire came Monday night, when Dallas hired former offensive coordinator Scott Linehan as the Cowboys' "passing game coordinator."

How this could work in Dallas will be interesting, as Bill Callahan -- last season's offensive coordinator in Dallas -- is still on staff. So an interesting situation for Linehan to walk into.

The good news for Dallas is Linehan ran a productive passing offense with the Lions and he is familiar working with a dynamic quarterback-receiver combination. In Detroit, he had Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. Now he'll have Tony Romo and Dez Bryant.

The Lions' passing offense was in the top five in the league the past three seasons with Stafford running the team.

Both Linehan and Schwartz were fired on the day after the season.

And now, a look around the Interwebs in search of Lions news:
Good morning and RROOAAARRRR!!!!

Joique Bell will be in New York this week for the Super Bowl. So might some other Detroit Lions, although none will be playing in the game at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

Three former Lions, though, will be participating in Sunday's Super Bowl.

Denver:
Center Manny Ramirez: Drafted in the fourth round by Detroit in 2007. Played in 18 games for the Lions and was with the club from 2007 to 2010. Has been the Broncos’ starting center the past two seasons.

Linebacker Paris Lenon: Played in every game for the Lions from 2006 to 2008. Made 309 tackles in his three seasons in Detroit along with 3.5 sacks, two interceptions, four forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.

Seattle:
Defensive end Cliff Avril: Played his first five seasons in Detroit after being drafted in the third round by the Lions in 2008. Left in free agency after the 2012 season. He had 165 tackles in his five seasons with the Lions along with 39.5 sacks, an interception and 16 forced fumbles. Had 20 tackles and eight sacks for Seattle this season.

And now a trip around the Interwebs in search of Lions news:
Good Morning and ARRRCCTTICCC ROOOAAARRR!!!!

A week ago, when he was announcing Jim Caldwell as the Detroit Lions new head coach, general manager Martin Mayhew said he didn't expect his senior personnel executive, Brian Xanders, to be around for long.

Turns out, Xanders might be with Detroit for at least a little bit longer.

According to this report from Mike Klis in the Denver Post -- and Xanders was the general manager for the Broncos from 2009 to 2012, so he is plugged in with these matters -- Xanders is not a finalist for the Miami Dolphins general manager job.

This means Xanders is likely to stay in Detroit for the time being, a benefit for the Lions. Xanders helped revamp the organization's scouting system when he was hired a year ago and he and Mayhew combined to put together a strong offseason of acquisitions for the Lions in both free agency and the draft.

So having Xanders around for a little while longer should assist Detroit as it heads into this offseason, where there are some key personnel moves to discuss as well as some holes to fill in free agency and the draft -- as there is every year.

At some point, Xanders will likely be a general manager again. He is young and he has put together a strong pedigree of fielding teams -- or at least assisting in it. Detroit should enjoy his services while he is with the Lions.

And now, a look at Lions news from around the Interwebs:
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With Ken Whisenhunt headed to Tennessee instead of Detroit, the Lions are back in somewhat of a search mode.

And quickly, that search centered on the first candidate the Lions interviewed -- Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell. Caldwell interviewed with Detroit on Jan. 3 and then sat this week as the Lions interviewed Whisenhunt, former Tennessee coach Mike Munchak and former Houston coach Gary Kubiak.

And, so far as anyone knows, those are the only four true candidates Detroit has had since Lovie Smith and Bill O'Brien took the Tampa Bay and Houston jobs within a week of the Lions having a vacancy.

But if the Lions end up hiring Caldwell, they actually will help Baltimore as well. As colleague Jamison Hensley writes, the Ravens were going to have to make a tough decision on what to do with Caldwell after his offense finished 29th in the NFL this season.

If Detroit ends up making him its head coach, it'll be a decision the Ravens will not have to bother to make.

Instead, the Lions could give Caldwell a second shot at coaching in the NFL after he was fired in 2011 after three seasons with Indianapolis. It would be his third head coaching job, as Caldwell led Wake Forest from 1993 to 2000, having some of the top passers in Demon Deacons history, including three-sport star Rusty LaRue.

And now, a search around the Interwebs for Lions news.
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While a lot of the attention around the Detroit Lions in this space has been about the coaching search -- and rightfully so -- we've also tried to mix in some of the beginnings of what the team will look for in May's NFL draft.

And colleague Kevin Weidl, a former scout with the Jets, broke down the draft needs of the NFC North recently Insider, including the Lions. Weidl agrees with what I've written before. The Lions need help at wide receiver, cornerback and weakside linebacker -- although in my opinion the linebacker situation could be dictated by the defensive scheme of the new coach.

Weidl's concern -- and it is a valid one -- is that as of now there are no surefire elite cornerbacks in this draft. The closest would be Justin Gilbert from Oklahoma State, as I wrote about the other day. Darqueze Dennard from Michigan State has the chance to be a riser as well, but isn't there yet.

Weidl also says if Sammy Watkins, the receiver from Clemson, is available at No. 10, Martin Mayhew should take a strong look at selecting him. Agreed here.

Whether he is there or not is the issue. Todd McShay has Watkins at No. 4 on his latest Insider Top 32 and has USC'S Marqise Lee at No. 9 and Gilbert at No. 10. Also, he has linebackers Khalil Mack from Buffalo and C.J. Mosley from Alabama (not the C.J. Mosley who is a defensive lineman already on the Lions) as in his Top 10. Considering the quarterback needs at the top of the draft, at least one of those players should fall to the Lions.

For what it's worth, if the Lions end up with the linebacker Mosley, writers and editors everywhere will have to figure out a Mosley system for notation in stories after first references.

Meanwhile, Mel Kiper Jr. moved Watkins up to No. 6 on his Big Board Insider with Lee at No. 14 and Mike Evans from Texas A&M at No. 15. Gilbert is No. 16 and Dennard is No. 19.

Those are the names to watch for now, but that will surely change over the next four months until the draft.

And now a search around the Interwebs for Lions news:

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