While the Detroit Lions suffered arguably their most humiliating loss in franchise history on Sunday, there could be more of the same in the works for the beleaguered team from a beleaguered town. In the wake of the team’s 17-10 loss to the (at the time) winless St. Louis Rams, reports are now coming out regarding the future of the Lions and their plans moving forward. And they’re not pretty.
Detroit is certainly in line for yet another top pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. If the season ended today the Lions would pick somewhere between No. 2 and No. 6 based on a coin-flip. So let’s assume Detroit ends up picking no lower than No. 5. They’re due to owe whomever they select somewhere in the neighborhood of the $34 million in guaranteed money the Seattle Seahawks gave to Aaron Curry (the No. 4 pick in the 2009 draft). Curry’s deal could net him a total of $60 million over six years.
Detroit is struggling and will net another top player from the 2010 draft to help the rebuilding process, what’s the problem? Well, the Lions already have committed $137 million to two players on their roster – Matthew Stafford (No. 1 overall pick in 2009) and Calvin Johnson (No. 2 overall pick in 2007). Stafford’s deal includes $41.7 million in guarantees and could be worth up to $78 million, while Johnson’s owes him $27.2 million in guarantees and could escalate to as much as $64 million. They are the two highest paid players in Lions history.
Let’s also just remember that the Lions have won a total of 32 games (while losing 103) since 2001. They last made the playoffs a decade ago in 1999.
When you consider the tough economic times and the Lions’ shrinking fan base, losing may actually be putting the team in a deeper financial hole. It’s going to be difficult to justify spending an outrageous sum of money on one player, when the team has so many obvious holes. So the yearly high draft picks could actually be positioning the Lions for more futility and a future as an NFL bottom-feeder.
Detroit’s budget will certainly be limited in 2010. Their best option would be to trade down at least 10 spots to a team looking for a quarterback, and get some later round picks to fill out the roster. Rumors are that everyone will be looking to trade down in the 2010 draft though, so they could be stuck with whatever selection they end up with.
ESPN.com has some possible selections the Lions might consider with their impending top-five pick. Here’s what I think of they guys who might be available.
Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
Suh is flat-out the best player in college football. You may not have heard of him because he plays for Nebraska, but the dude absolutely controls every game he’s in. Suh has been ranked at the top of Mel Kiper’s 2010 Big Board for virtually all of the 2009 season.
Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma
Though his stock has fallen during the season, McCoy would give the Lions an instant upgrade along the defensive front. I don’t think he’s worthy of a top-five pick right now, but maybe if he comes on strong over the last few weeks of the season and has good workouts he could position himself for a better selection.
Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
Probably the second-best player in college football behind Suh. Berry has a knack for making plays and the person he’s most often compared to is Ed Reed. A guy like Berry would give Detroit’s defense a personality and a playmaker. He’s currently No. 2 on Kiper’s Big Board.
Taylor Mays, S, USC
If Berry isn’t available, the Lions couldn’t go wrong with Mays. While not as adept at making plays in college as Berry, that’s likely because teams avoid Mays at all cost. He’s 6’3, 235-pounds and ran a 4.3 40-yard dash during Spring evaluations at USC. Mays is a huge hitter and intimidating presence and a leader on and off the field. If Berry opts to return to Tennessee or is gone by the time the Lions pick, this four-year starter would be a great snag. Mays is currently No. 7 on Kiper’s Big Board.
Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State
Okung projects as the best offensive tackle in the 2010 draft. He’s athletic, strong and nasty. He’s currently No. 6 on Kiper’s Big Board, will be a left tackle in the NFL and selecting him would provide blind-side protection for Matt Stafford’s $41.7 million arm. If the Lions paired Okung with current right tackle (and No. 17 pick in 2008) Gosder Cherilus, they’d have two excellent pillars to build upon.
If the Lions do end up picking in the top five that’s far too high for a linebacker or a corner and defensive ends are far too hit-and-miss to invest top-five money in. The above mentioned guys should be where Detroit focuses its attention.