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Friday, March 5, 2010
Key point: Burleson makes Lions better

By Kevin Seifert

Detroit literally signed dozens of veteran free-agent players last offseason, searching desperately in every corner for players to upgrade its moribund roster. I didn't think the Lions had any other option at the time, but it goes without saying that I like what they're doing this year much better.

Nate Burleson
Nate Burleson looks like a clear upgrade as the Lions' No. 2 receiver.
They're on the verge of acquiring defensive tackle Corey Williams from Cleveland, a clear upgrade over their existing personnel. Coach Jim Schwartz showed up on the doorstep of free agent defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, who would give the Lions a more credible pass-rusher than they have had in several years. And early Friday morning, they signed receiver Nate Burleson to a five-year, $25 million contract that includes $11 million in guaranteed money.

NFC North fans might have lost track of Burleson after he signed with Seattle in 2006, and he's since rehabilitated a torn anterior cruciate ligament and admittedly produced some uneven performances.

But don't confuse him with the lackluster Bryant Johnson, whom the Lions tried to insert as their No. 2 receiver last season. Burleson is a hard worker with sure hands and, at 29, has a long career ahead of him. Trust me when I tell you he will know how to take advantage of the mismatches afforded by the presence of Calvin Johnson.

I realize there are some reasons the Seahawks weren't interested in keeping Burleson after his contract expired. Ultimately, his career in Seattle was disappointing. He caught 83 passes in his first three seasons before making 63 catches in 2009.

But for the Lions, this offseason isn't about finding the perfect player at each position. Free agency doesn't allow for that. Every player available has some imperfections. What it should be about, however, is Detroit limiting its acquisitions to players who make it better -- and not those who are simply different than the incumbents. A solid 2009 draft class has afforded the Lions some flexibility in these matters, and it could be compounded by another successful effort next month.

Is Burleson worth $11 million in guaranteed money? I'm not sure. But in an uncapped environment, who cares? Here's the better question: Are the Lions better today with him on their team? Without a doubt -- and we haven't always been able to say that about a Lions acquisition in recent years.