NFC North: Detroit Lions

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The Detroit Lions, in part due to minimal movement during free agency, still have big holes to fill on their offensive and defensive lines.

While other mock drafts -- as covered here -- have focused on the offensive line at No. 23 for the Lions, colleague Todd McShay looked at the defensive line in his latest mock draftInsider. He stuck with Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown, who has been a consistent selection across the board as a potential fit for the Lions.

Detroit is clearly doing its research on Brown, too. Defensive line coach Kris Kocurek was at Brown's pro day at the University of Texas last week, and spent some time working out Brown. So there is clear and obvious interest in the 6-foot-2, 319-pound tackle. He would be a smart fit for Detroit so he could learn from Haloti Ngata for at least a year before either playing next to him in more of a full-time role or replacing him. Both Ngata and Tyrunn Walker, the scheduled starters at tackle right now, are on one-year contracts.

When the Detroit Lions held the No. 10 pick in the draft a year ago, they went with what they believed would be the best player available instead of filling an obvious need.

Of course, the players taken almost immediately after tight end Eric Ebron ended up making massive splashes in both areas. It’s been long understood the Lions passed on receiver Odell Beckham Jr., defensive tackle Aaron Donald and offensive lineman Zack Martin to take Ebron. All three of those players made the Pro Bowl.

[+] EnlargeEric Ebron
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsThe Lions are expecting more out of tight end Eric Ebron after a modest rookie season.

Ebron had an inconsistent rookie season.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell, though, believes players such as Donald, Beckham and Buffalo receiver Sammy Watkins, whom Detroit coveted, run against the norm for rookies.

“I think you guys are looking at outliers,” Caldwell said. “You’re thinking about Sammy Watkins. You’re thinking about a couple other guys that had really good years but that’s not the norm. The norm is like some of them that you don’t know exist now on the roster but they come along and mature as time goes on.

“[Ebron] is in a normal progression, I think. We’d like to see it come along faster. I got patience but I don’t got a lot of time. I think he’ll come along.”

Ebron played in 13 games last season, making 25 catches on 48 targets for 248 yards and one touchdown. He averaged 9.9 yards a reception and became more of a factor in the passing game as the season wore on. After returning from a hamstring injury in Week 11, he had four or more targets in all but two games, including seven targets against Green Bay in the regular-season finale and eight against New England in Week 12.

He never had more than four receptions or 38 yards in a game, but Caldwell believes the progression will come in his second season.

“We certainly don’t believe he’s hit his stride in that sense,” Caldwell said. “He’s one of those guys who has worked. Let me tell you something. His offseason to this point has been pretty impressive.

“I’m anticipating, just because I know what he’s been doing and he’s been working at it. I’m anticipating to see a pretty significant rise in his performance.”

What tells Caldwell that, especially since he can’t work with him until April? Some of what he saw toward the end of the season.

“Familiarity with our system. Ability to run routes the way we would like to see them run consistently,” Caldwell said. “He’s shown flashes. Those are the key things. He improved on his blocking, there’s no question about that, at the line of scrimmage. Tremendous job of coming along in that particular area.

“But don’t get me wrong, it’s not like all of a sudden he’s going to be Charlie Sanders. But he’s going to be much better than he was.”

The Detroit Lions need to add a running back. There was little question of that even before the team cut Reggie Bush earlier this offseason.

What type of back the Lions are targeting remains in question. While it would seem logical to assume the franchise would want to add a speedy back in the mold of Bush, the team also has Theo Riddick as someone who could fill that void.

So the combination of Riddick and for-now featured back Joique Bell leaves Detroit with some options for what type of back the team might pursue.

[+] EnlargeTheo Riddick
Tim Fuller/USA TODAY SportsTheo Riddick could see a lot more touches now that Reggie Bush is in San Francisco.

“It just kind of depends,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said at the owners meetings Wednesday. “Riddick’s not particularly slow and I think you look at Joique, he had a pretty good year. The effectiveness of that particular position, in this league, you’re not going to find a whole lot of guys that are going to break out 40- and 50-yard runs consistently.

“That’s why 12 yards, in most systems, is a big play in terms of the running game. We just need to be effective in that area. Every guy that we have, some bring different elements to the table, and we just need all our guys to be able to function extremely well at that position.”

Using the big-play metric Caldwell set up along with his oft-stated goal of an average of four yards per carry, the Lions did not do well running the ball in any way last season. Bush actually was the only Detroit back to hit four yards per carry. Bell was at 3.8 yards per carry and Riddick, who has yet to gain 10 yards on a single rush in his career, was at 2.5 yards per carry. Little-used George Winn was at 3.8 yards per carry.

The Lions only had 26 runs of 12 yards or more last season -- and 11 of those came in three games (four each against Chicago in Week 16 and Arizona in Week 11 along with three against Green Bay in Week 17). The Lions gained 469 yards on those carries, with 279 yards before contact and 190 yards after contact.

Detroit was tied for 23rd in the league with the number of carries of 12 yards or more. The 469 yards were ranked No. 25 in the NFL. So this is an area the Lions know they need to improve, both with the backs and with the offensive line expected to block for Bell, Riddick and any other backs the franchise bring in.

Hitting the metrics Caldwell set, he believes, will offer Detroit more balance and turn the Lions into a better team than they were during an 11-5 season in 2014.

One of the players who might see a massive bump in production (depending on what happens in the draft) is Riddick. Despite being explosive when he was on the field, he was often stuck behind Bush and then Bell when he became the team’s primary back.

“You got to go with what’s working for you,” Caldwell said. “In this business, you play potential and you [are] hoping, you’ll be looking for a job in a short period of time.

“So we try and give it to the guys that are going to do something with it and I think he’s going to be one of those guys that force us to get him that ball a little more.”

With Bush’s departure, the Lions could have around 120 touches that need to be redistributed. Who takes them -- and how that changes the running game and offense -- is one of the questions Caldwell has to figure out this offseason.

The Detroit Lions lost their two starting defensive tackles to free agency in the past month. In their place, they signed two other defensive tackles who have played in a multiple system.

Despite the personnel shift, Lions coach Jim Caldwell said nothing is going to change with their defense from a schematic standpoint. So that means the team will continue to be based in a 4-3 world.

“We were extremely multiple,” Caldwell told reporters at the owners meetings Wednesday. “We did a little bit of everything, and I think you’ll see the same thing happen this fall.”

When asked specifically if the team will remain in a 4-3 defense like what the franchise ran with Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley in the middle, Caldwell said that “nothing’s going to change.”

The goal for Detroit, though, is to throw so many different options at an opposing offense that to prepare for them all would be extremely difficult. This leads to more unpredictability and, potentially, better opportunities for bigger plays by the defense.

“We’re going to give you a number of different looks that you’re going to have to block in terms of pass protection," Caldwell said, "and we’re going to give you a number of different looks if you decide to run the ball.

“To be able to run, you can’t always determine exactly where we’re going to be, and that’s the true value of being multiple. Some teams are not able to be multiple because of how their personnel is sort of developed and based. Ours, we have some multiplicity.”

That has been a key for the Lions with a lot of their recent moves. Both Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker can line up in various places. Defensive ends Jason Jones, Devin Taylor and Darryl Tapp have either played or worked inside at tackle.

What might not change schematically, though, will shift in personnel. Ngata and Walker replace Suh and Fairley, and Caldwell is convinced Ngata was the best possible solution to the hole the Lions had in replacing Suh.

Part of that has to do with their prior knowledge of Ngata. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin worked with Ngata during his time in Baltimore, as did Caldwell.

“I think you’re going to find him to be very, very capable at what he does,” Caldwell said. “Excellent. He and also Tyrunn Walker, I think those two guys will give us a real unusual combination.”

Unusual?

“It’s not going to be a normal pair,” Caldwell said. “I think [Walker] is going to give you some things that maybe you haven’t seen in a little while, the combination of the two. Particularly because of Walker’s versatility all across the board.

“Haloti, all you have to do is look at film of him. Just take a look.”

Over the next few months, anyone who follows the Lions will be looking. Closely. The success of both players will have a large impact on how the Lions end up overall this season.

The Detroit Lions are in need of a running back. Just don’t expect that running back to be Ray Rice.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell told reporters at the owners meetings in Arizona on Wednesday that the franchise would likely not be looking at the 28-year-old who didn’t play last season after being suspended by the NFL.

"I don't foresee that, to be plain and simple," Caldwell said. "We certainly do know him and got to know him when I was there [in Baltimore]. I think at some point, like I mentioned before, somebody will give him a second chance.

"I just don't see it. There has to be a need and a fit in all areas. At this point in time, he's not a fit for us."

Both Caldwell and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin have familiarity with Rice from their days together in Baltimore. The Lions also brought in safety James Ihedigbo last year from Baltimore, a player who knows Rice well.

While the familiarity with some of the coaching staff could have provided an easier landing place for Rice in Detroit than some other spots in the league, Caldwell, general manager Martin Mayhew and the Lions front office have placed a high emphasis on character within the locker room. It has been a message Caldwell has preached since taking over in January 2014.

"It's a number of things," Caldwell said when asked if the Lions' lack of interest in Rice was based on production or recent events. "No one thing in particular. There are a number of things."

Rice is trying to return to the NFL after being suspended last season after a domestic violence incident in Atlantic City, New Jersey, that included video of him knocking out the woman who is now his wife, Janay Palmer Rice.

Rice has 1,430 career carries for 6,180 yards and 37 touchdowns. During the 2013 season – his last in the league for now – he had 660 yards and averaged 3.1 yards a carry with four touchdowns.

Jamison Hensley contributed to this report.

Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew continued his stance from February’s combine at the owners meetings Monday, telling reporters he has yet to make a decision on the fifth-year option for left tackle Riley Reiff.

On the surface, it seems somewhat bizarre that Mayhew and the Lions would not automatically want to pick up their starting left tackle for a fifth year. Unlike Nick Fairley last season, Reiff has not caused any trouble for Detroit. He has not had problems with his weight or anything else. He has been durable as well, only missing one game due to injury in three seasons – although it was almost two full games since he was injured early against New England in Week 12 this season.

There are a couple of different reasons why the Lions could be waiting on Reiff’s option, and none of the obvious ones screams him not being part of Detroit’s franchise in the future.

The first is the team is trying to work on a longer-term deal with him, eschewing the fifth-year option and instead tying him up for the next three to four seasons for a deal that works for everybody involved. This would seem to make sense for a 26-year-old who has been one of Detroit’s better linemen the past couple of years.

He graded out as the No. 23 tackle in the league last year by Pro Football Focus – and was in the middle of the grades for starting left tackles.

The second reason is Detroit might still want to figure out exactly what it wants to do with Reiff before it commits to him fully. At the combine, Mayhew wasn’t set on Reiff being the team’s left tackle in 2015. So the Lions might want to make sure they know where he’ll play before signing him to a long-term deal.

If Detroit chooses to move him – either to right tackle or inside to guard – the franchise might want to kick around how that idea would work before settling on a long-term deal.

As of Tuesday, Detroit’s starting offensive line for 2015 would be Reiff at left tackle, an open space likely to be filled by a veteran at left guard, center Travis Swanson, right guard Larry Warford and a potential competition at right tackle between LaAdrian Waddle and Cornelius Lucas. Among the left guard candidates are Rob Sims and Justin Blalock, but either player would likely be brought in on a short-term deal to groom a drafted replacement for 2016.

But there is little reason to think the Lions won’t pick up the option on Reiff because unlike Fairley, motivation and health are not concerns. The only potential worry is where Reiff might end up playing on a retooled Detroit offensive line.

Matthew Stafford is less than two weeks from getting hitched. His bachelor party -- and the bachelorette party of his soon-to-be-wife, Kelly Hall -- has happened. And now, the gifts are rolling in.

Hall, a former Georgia cheerleader, posted one of their gifts on Instagram, and it is a unique one. Instead of buying the Staffords a blender or furniture or something equally bland, tight end Eric Ebron went a different direction. Ebron, a noted sneakerhead, decided to get the soon-to-be newlyweds matching custom Jordans.

Not a bad gift at all, especially since Hall has shown often on Instagram how much she enjoys actually playing basketball. And they look comfortable enough to lounge around the house in as well. The Stafford-Hall wedding is April 4.

While the Detroit Lions continue to pursue at least one free agent who wasn’t with the franchise last season, here’s a look at where the team’s own free agents stand after a full week of free agency.

Reggie Bush, RB: The Lions cut him to pick up some room under the salary cap after he spent 2014 struggling with an ankle injury. He signed with the San Francisco 49ers, although terms have yet to be disclosed. As of Friday at noon, there was not even a base salary listed in the NFLPA database. Because he was cut by the Lions, he will not count toward any compensatory selections.

Jed Collins, FB: The fullback signed a veteran minimum deal of $745,000 in base salary with a $65,000 signing bonus and a cap hit of $650,000 with Dallas last week.

Kellen Davis, TE: Nothing known or reported.

Rob Sims, LG: Detroit’s left guard in 2014 has not signed anywhere and has not reportedly taken any visits. He is still a possibility for a return to the Lions, although the team had Justin Blalock in for a visit. Other than having discussions with Tennessee – something we initially reported last week and multiple reports had happening this week – there has been no movement on Blalock.

Dominic Raiola, C: Not much going on here right now.

Corey Hilliard, OT: The Detroit Free Press reported that Hilliard visited the New York Jets. Other than that, nothing has happened with the vet yet.

Garrett Reynolds, OL: Reynolds signed a two-year contract with the St. Louis Rams worth $2.2 million and had no signing bonus. He had $249,999 in guaranteed money as a roster bonus, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and will have a cash number and cap hit of $999,999 in 2015. He also has up to $1 million in incentives based on team success and playing time for 2015. In 2016, he has a $150,021 bonus if he is on the roster on the fifth day of the 2016 league year. He’ll have $1.05 million in base salary with a cash and cap value of $1,200,021. He could make up to $1 million more in incentives based on playing time and team success.

Ndamukong Suh, DT: Signed a massive six-year, $114 million deal with Miami, including $59,955 million guaranteed and a $25 million signing bonus. The first three years of his base salary are fully guaranteed and the fourth and fifth years of his deal become fully guaranteed on the fifth day of each league year.

Nick Fairley, DT: He signed a one-year deal worth $5 million with St. Louis, including $2.5 million in base salary, a workout bonus of $500,000 and a roster bonus of $2 million. On the roster bonus, he’ll get $1.5 million up front and an additional $31,250 per game he is active in 2015, up to $500,000. He also has another $2 million he can earn in incentives.

C.J. Mosley, DT: Nothing known or reported to this point.

Andre Fluellen, DT: Nothing known or reported to this point.

George Johnson, DE: He was given an original-round tender by the Lions ($1.542 million) as a restricted free agent, but can try to search out better offers the Lions can match. Johnson still has more than a month before he needs to sign his tender.

Ashlee Palmer, LB: Nothing known or reported to this point.

Rashean Mathis, CB: Mathis agreed to a two-year deal with the Lions on Wednesday. While his base salary has not appeared on the NFLPA site and his exact contract details have not been made available, the Detroit Free Press has his deal at $3.5 million with $1 million in base salary in both 2015 and 2016, a $750,000 signing bonus and $250,000 in other roster bonuses.

Cassius Vaughn, CB: Nothing known or reported to this point.

Josh Thomas, CB: Nothing known or reported to this point.

Others: Quarterbacks Dan Orlovsky and Kellen Moore, defensive end Darryl Tapp, safety Isa Abdul-Quddus, linebacker Josh Bynes, long snapper Don Muhlbach and kicker Matt Prater all re-signed with the Lions either before or during free agency.

Rashean Mathis always paid attention to health and safety issues around the NFL. The cornerback has been around for over a decade and consumes as much information as he possibly can about brain trauma and CTE associated with football.

He’s been remarkably healthy throughout his career, but the 34-year-old has understood the risks he takes. It’s part of why when the Detroit Lions cornerback heard about San Francisco linebacker Chris Borland retiring after one season in the league, he was both surprised -- and not, especially because he doesn’t know Borland’s situation personally.

“I’m not questioning his decision at all,” Mathis said. “He’s a man, and he made a decision to retire after one year. That means he has other means to support his life. He has another way to make a living and that’s what this game is, it’s a way for us to make a living and that’s how we treat it as such. It’s a business for us.

“You have another business opportunity and you’re able to make an honest living of it, I don’t see anything wrong with going the other way.”

Could this lead to a massive shift of who plays football at both the highest levels -- if at all? Could this be the start of a trend not only of who plays in the league but how long players choose to play?

Mathis wasn’t buying that. He believes people are always going to play football. But he understands the thought. Mathis has said multiple times he would rather his son, Rashean Jr., play golf instead of football due to pounding your body takes.

“I don’t think it’ll be that big of a trend. Certain individuals will always play football. Football will always have the most athletic people in the world just because of what it takes to play it,” Mathis said. “To speak on it a little more, I think your financial status going into it might determine whether you decide to pick it up or not, maybe, but at the same time, you have some of the wealthiest people in this world who love this game and would love for their child to play this game.

“So there’s two sides to every coin. It just depends on what side you flip. You can argue both sides, but this is the greatest game in the world."

On Wednesday at Michigan State pro day, many of the Spartans entering the NFL competed against Borland when he was at Wisconsin. Running back Jeremy Langford said he and his teammates had not talked about the issues Borland raised much, and he figured Borland “just wanted to protect himself.”

Cornerback Trae Waynes, who is projected to be a first-round pick this spring, said he both supports and understands Borland’s decision to retire. Waynes said concerns over potential injuries -- not head injuries but injuries in general -- helped prompt his decision to leave Michigan State with a year of eligibility remaining.

“You saw [Marcus] Lattimore,” Waynes said. “You saw Ifo [Ekpre-Olomu]. I know him, too. There were some other guys that had some crazy injuries right before, they could have left their junior year and still went first round but they chose to come back.

“And it was unfortunate to see that happen to them, but that’s a risk I didn’t really feel comfortable taking.”

Both Waynes and Langford understood the same thing, though. Football is a rough game. They still choose to play it.

Calvin Johnson is off the market.

The Detroit Lions' star wide receiver proposed to girlfriend Brittney McNorton while in Baltimore for the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation dinner on Monday night at the Hilton Baltimore.

"Situation was right," Johnson told the Baltimore Sun. "Just happened to be right. We were on vacation, so why not."

McNorton, who works for the Lions as a promotions manager, said she thought she and Johnson would eventually get engaged but didn't know when it would happen. Johnson proposed along the waterfront at Balitmore's Inner Harbor under the stars.

"I thought it may be coming," McNorton told the Sun. "But I was totally surprised. Had no idea it was coming this soon."

It was a busy past few days for McNorton, who celebrated a birthday Sunday. She is the daughter of former Detroit defensive back Bruce McNorton, who played in 116 games for the Lions from 1982-90.

Johnson, 29, is entering his ninth year with the Lions after being drafted No. 2 overall in the 2007 draft. He has 643 receptions for 10,405 yards and 74 touchdowns in his career.

He is the second high-profile Lions player to become engaged in the past year. Quarterback Matthew Stafford proposed to his girlfriend, Kelly Hall, last offseason and the pair will be getting married next month.

Calvin Johnson is off the market.

The Detroit Lions' star wide receiver proposed to girlfriend Brittney McNorton while in Baltimore for the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation dinner on Monday night at the Hilton Baltimore.

"Situation was right," Johnson told the Baltimore Sun. "Just happened to be right. We were on vacation, so why not."

McNorton, who works for the Lions as a promotions manager, said she thought she and Johnson would eventually get engaged but didn't know when it would happen. Johnson proposed along the waterfront at Balitmore's Inner Harbor under the stars.

"I thought it may be coming," McNorton told the Sun. "But I was totally surprised. Had no idea it was coming this soon."

It was a busy past few days for McNorton, who celebrated a birthday Sunday. She is the daughter of former Detroit defensive back Bruce McNorton, who played in 116 games for the Lions from 1982-90.

Johnson, 29, is entering his ninth year with the Lions after being drafted No. 2 overall in the 2007 draft. He has 643 receptions for 10,405 yards and 74 touchdowns in his career.

He is the second high-profile Lions player to become engaged in the past year. Quarterback Matthew Stafford proposed to his girlfriend, Kelly Hall, last offseason and the pair will be getting married next month.

Free-agency review: Lions

March, 17, 2015
Mar 17
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Most significant signing: I'm going to amend this here and, for the purposes of the Lions, turn this into the most significant transaction. The biggest move for Detroit was trading for former Baltimore defensive lineman Haloti Ngata. Detroit had to make a big move to make up for the loss of Ndamukong Suh -- and later, Nick Fairley -- and the Lions traded away two draft picks that could have provided something in the future, in order to help the present of the franchise. The 31-year-old Ngata is considered one of the best linemen in the game, and even if his game is in the beginning of a decline, the Lions should be able to get a good year or two out of him. He's in the final season of his contract and will count $8.5 million against the cap unless Detroit signs him to an extension, which Ngata is open to.

Most significant loss: There is no other answer here than Suh. The Lions had expressed confidence for over a year that Suh would remain with the Lions, but Miami's massive contract numbers were too much for Detroit to reasonably put up and still be able to field a competitive team over the next five seasons. So the Lions had to let Suh leave and his loss will be felt throughout the team's defense, even with the acquisition of Ngata. Suh played an astronomical number of snaps for a defensive tackle last season (81 percent), was durable and dependable on the field and was one of the main cogs Detroit's defense was built around. It will be interesting to see how teams devise a game plan for the Detroit defense now that there isn't the constant need for a double-team on Suh every play. Expect Ezekiel Ansah to attract a lot of the attention Suh once received.

Biggest surprise: The trade for Ngata, covered above, was the biggest and only surprise for Detroit through the first week of free agency. Losing Suh was known before the new league year began, and the team never seemed completely sold on retaining Fairley. The move to sign tackle Tyrunn Walker -- the team's only outside free agent signing so far -- was not a splashy one, but a pickup that could end up being a strong one for the Lions. Detroit still needs to fill some holes in free agency, but maybe the biggest surprise is that the franchise didn't make many moves at all after losing Suh.

What's next: The Lions had guard Justin Blalock in for a visit late last week, and depending on what he does, that's going to be one area handled in free agency -- either by signing Blalock or re-signing Rob Sims. There are a couple of other options Detroit could pursue at guard, but at this point those are the two most likely. Cornerback is another spot the Lions need to fill, and don't be surprised if Rashean Mathis returns again with a thinning market. Guard and cornerback are the two major spots Detroit needs to fill with veterans at this point.

Free-agent offensive guard Justin Blalock visited the Detroit Lions on Thursday and has apparently left without a deal.

Blalock
A source close to the situation said the Lions' visit with Blalock was good and that the 31-year-old could be a good fit for Detroit. The Lions are weighing moving on from 31-year-old left guard Rob Sims, who is also a free agent.

The source said Blalock has interest from the St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has reported Blalock also has plans to visit the Rams.

Blalock, who was a second-round pick by Atlanta out of Texas in 2007, has played in 125 career games with the Falcons. He graded out as the 25th-best guard by Pro Football Focus last season and allowed 20 quarterback hurries and three sacks, according to PFF.

The 6-foot-4, 326-pound Blalock was cut by Atlanta in February, meaning that the team signs him won't have him count against any 2016 compensatory selections.
Some thoughts while wrapping up Day 2 of the new league year and Detroit Lions free agency:

1. Haloti Ngata is one big dude. Ngata will be a definite space eater in the middle of the Detroit defensive line for 2015. After seeing him in person, he should at the very least be able to be an effective run-stopper for the Lions this season in place of Ndamukong Suh. When speaking with him about his four-game suspension last season, he seemed pretty motivated to prove what type of player he is.

2. The Lions appear to be waiting out the market. While free agents are visiting and signing with a bunch of other places around the league, Detroit hasn't made much noise. Besides the trade for Ngata, the only name I've really heard attached to the Lions has been former Atlanta guard Justin Blalock, who is trying to set up a visit. Detroit is in search for a starting guard and a veteran leader on the line. That could be Rob Sims, but Blalock would also fit that mold. Blalock graded out better than Sims in both run and pass blocking in 2014 according to Pro Football Focus, but Sims was the better screen blocker. Sims gave up more sacks and quarterback hurries than Blalock last season, too. Detroit has been pretty smart with free-agent signings recently so it'll be interesting to see what Martin Mayhew does here.

3. I'm curious to see what happens with Nick Fairley. The Detroit Free Press reported the Lions have moved on from signing him and he was in Cincinnati on Wednesday. There has reportedly been interest in him from other teams as well. He is an intriguing free agent because all of the talent is there, but he's a question for any team because of his prior work habits and his inability to stay healthy for an entire season. He's going to sign somewhere, but what his guaranteed money ends up being is one of the more intriguing storylines remaining for me from a Lions perspective.

4. The Lions really should have discussed Suh by now. Yes, Detroit wanted to tout Ngata on Wednesday, but not having Mayhew or Tom Lewand take questions on Suh is elongating the story at this point. Suh had his media conference with Miami. The Lions found what they believe to be a replacement. So the story is almost done, except for what happened with the Lions considering their long-held public optimism in being able to re-sign Suh. Now it continues until the next time Mayhew, Lewand or Jim Caldwell take questions from the media.

5. The Lions should make some more moves. With only six picks as of now in this spring's draft (a first, second, third, sixth and two sevenths) due to the Ngata deal, Detroit's issue with depth is two-fold. The first will come with having to make sure they hit on a couple immediate starters with draft picks. The second comes from needing to fill starting holes at defensive tackle, offensive guard and cornerback. Those are the three biggest needs right now so those would be the positions that Detroit might focus on as the next wave of free agency starts to ramp up in the next few days. Cornerback, based on the option left, could be an intriguing situation.
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Haloti Ngata doesn’t know how much longer he’ll play. One thing was absolute, though: He didn’t want to go out based on the season he had last year.

It didn’t necessarily have to do with how he played during 2014 in Baltimore, but rather that he was suspended for the last four games of the regular season for violating the league’s performance-enhancing substance policy. He said he was taking Adderall.

“That’s a part of it,” Ngata said. “You want to show that you weren’t using that the whole time and you do want to not finish off your career with a suspension, so it’s just, I wanted to get out and keep on playing.”

At first, Ngata figured it would be with the Ravens, where he was named an All-Pro five times and spent the entirety of his career since being drafted out of Oregon in 2006. He had made a home there and felt comfortable with Baltimore.

[+] EnlargeHaloti Ngata
AP Photo/Paul SancyaHaloti Ngata will try to fill the void left by Ndamukong Suh in Detroit.
But as free agency loomed closer, he realized he might be headed somewhere else – even though he didn’t know until Tuesday afternoon where that would be. At no point, though, did he consider retirement, a popular topic in the past 24 hours since Patrick Willis and Jason Worilds decided to stop playing football while still in the prime of their careers.

“No,” Ngata said. “I feel like I still can play and also, with my suspension last year, I just feel like I didn’t want to end off on something like that and that be my legacy.

“I just wanted to continue to play and my body feels great, so I just wanted to continue to keep on playing.”

Ngata is in the last year of his deal but said he is open to extending his contract with the Lions. As long as his 6-foot-4, 340-pound body feels up to it, he says he will keep on playing. In 12 games last season before the suspension, Ngata had 32 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and two interceptions.

He isn’t sure where he'll fit in Detroit’s defense, though. He has played tackle on the outside shoulder of a guard for the majority of a career where he amassed 446 tackles, 25.5 sacks and five interceptions. The way he looks at it, he figures where ever the Lions can use him, he’ll be capable of playing there with what he considers his versatility.

The Lions are hoping that is enough to replace one of the most versatile linemen in the NFL, Ndamukong Suh, who left the Lions to go to Miami. Suh was part of the best run defense and a top-five overall defense last season. Detroit is banking on Ngata to replace at least some of Suh’s impact in making that happen.

“We’re going to be proud when we put our defense on the field,” defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said. “We know what we expect from our defense and what we aspire to be and the goals that we want to accomplish.

“Haloti’s going to help us get there.”

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