Lions: Ominous words on Louis Delmas

February, 22, 2013
2/22/13
1:20
PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- Let's start a busy day of live blogging here at the NFL scouting combine with some revealing comments from Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew. During an early-morning session with local reporters, Mayhew said he is focused on re-signing nine of the team's 23 pending free agents.

Delmas
His subsequent comments to the national media gave me at least some reason to wonder whether either of the Lions' two primary starting safeties -- Louis Delmas and Amari Spievey -- are in their plans.

Spievey's situation is relatively straightforward. He has started only two games since suffering a concussion in the 2011 wild-card playoff game against the New Orleans Saints, and his 2012 season ended early because of another concussion. Mayhew indicated the Lions might pass on offering Spievey a restricted free agent tender -- known as a "non-tender" -- as a result.

"I guess we'll have to wait and see on that," Mayhew said. Asked to explain the source of his uncertainty, Mayhew said: "It's just the total package of everything he's dealt with. He obviously was a good player for us when he was healthy, but we'll have to take a wait-and-see approach on that."

Delmas' situation is less clear -- but much more concerning if you're a Lions fan. Based purely on talent and impact, Delmas would almost assuredly be one of the team's top offseason priorities. But a knee injury that hampered him throughout last season and cost him eight games appears unresolved at the moment.

"Our doctors are still evaluating his situation," Mayhew said, "and we're still making those decisions as we speak."

I realize that general managers don't like to signal their offseason plans, but I found Mayhew's response on Delmas to be far less definitive than I would have guessed. Does it mean Delmas has a chronic injury that can't easily be corrected by surgery? At the end of last season, at least, it appeared Delmas was gutting out a miserable situation via limited practice time and game-day decisions.

That approach can work for getting through a given season, but it doesn't lend itself to much of a long-term financial commitment. If they do bring Delmas back, you wonder if it will be a short-term deal that protects the team in case the knee does not improve.

"I think anytime we look at free agents, the one thing we really focus on is the injury history," Mayhew said. "[There is also] the background, character, football character, playing ability, obviously, but the injury question always comes into play. It's something you always need to be aware of. You always want to know what you're buying, and I think that's going to be a factor moving forward for a lot of free agents."

So was Mayhew in gamesmanship mode, or do the Lions have serious concerns about Delmas' future? If there are still medical questions about his knee, more than six weeks after the season, then there is real reason to be concerned. Stay tuned.

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