Thursday, February 7, 2013
Lions: Titus Young was a distraction
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions have wasted little time reshaping their roster, hoping to get the franchise back in the right direction after it took a step back last season.
Detroit cut Titus Young, a second-round pick two years ago, and released two veteran starters, Kyle Vanden Bosch and guard Stephen Peterman, from both sides of the line.
"We need to make changes," Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said Thursday. "Obviously, things aren't going in the right direction."
The Lions lost the last eight games of the season, plummeting to a 4-12 record, a year after they were in the playoffs for the first time since the 1999 season.
Mayhew made his first major move as soon as he could, cutting Young on Monday after deciding not to wait in the hopes of getting something -- even a seventh-round pick -- in return for the troubled and talented wide receiver.
"He didn't really have any trade value," Mayhew said.
The St. Louis Rams thought enough of Young's potential to pick him up off waivers on Tuesday. He was banished from the Lions three times last year because of his behavior, including once for punching teammate Louis Delmas when the veteran safety wasn't looking. And, he recently lashed out at the team on Twitter.
"If y'all going to cut me let me go," Young posted on his Twitter account last month. "I'm tired of the threats."
Detroit coach Jim Schwartz insisted Young's recent posts didn't have a lot to do with releasing Young.
"The Titus move was about removing a distraction," Schwartz said.
Detroit drafted Young out of Boise State and he had 48 receptions for 607 yards and six touchdowns as a rookie. His production dropped off last season despite the Lions trying various ways to keep him in line.
"We exhausted all of our resources trying to keep him productive and keep him in a team mode," Schwartz said. "At some point, the player has to have responsibility.
"It was a big disappointment that it came to what it came to."
Detroit's other two moves were strictly business.
Vanden Bosch and Peterman, both of whom were released Tuesday, were respected and relatively productive players. Vanden Bosch had 15½ sacks in 43 games for the Lions and Peterman started all 48 games for them over the past three years.
But letting them go with a year left on their contracts and parting ways with Young clears $8-plus million in salary cap space.
Mayhew said he plans to spend that money "wisely" on the market in March.
The Lions brought back most of the players from their 2011 team, hoping they could return to the postseason and help the franchise win its second playoff game since 1957. They didn't add a significant newcomer last year, but plan to find at least one this offseason.
"We were a non-player in free agency last year so we'll definitely be a bigger player," Mayhew said. "We do plan to make some moves."
In addition to trying to find a veteran, or two, to give the team a boost, Mayhew hopes extend quarterback Matthew Stafford's contract for short-term help with the salary cap and a long-term gain with the leader under center the Lions have needed for decades. Stafford signed a six-year deal in 2009 with $41.7 million in guarantees that was worth as much as $78 million.
The Lions hope 42-year-old Jason Hanson returns and that veteran offensive tackle Jeff Backus chooses to continue his career.
Mayhew said he wouldn't use the franchise tag on defensive end Cliff Avril, who was tagged last season and made $10.6 million, or any other player.
"It doesn't make sense for us right now," he said.
The Lions might make more moves to restructure contracts, perhaps with receiver Nate Burleson and center Dominic Raiola, but Mayhew doesn't think the team needs to start over as it did after the team went 0-16 in 2008. He is confident last year was an aberration because of Stafford, All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson along with defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.
"We've got some strengths on our team that we can build around," Mayhew said. "It's not so much a rebuild."