A tumultuous offseason hasn't quenched the optimism surrounding the Detroit Lions, who return 21 of 22 starters from last year's playoff squad. This type of roster consistency is unusual in the NFL, but it might not last for long.
The Lions' defense, in particular, could look drastically different in 2013, and here's why: Up to nine key contributors could be unrestricted free agents after this season, per Justin Rogers of MLive.com.
Defensive end Cliff Avril has until July 16 to sign a long-term deal with the Lions. He told Adam Schein of SiriusXM BLITZ on Tuesday that talks are "progressing," but we're not holding our breathe. A one-year deal appears likely.
Along with Avril, defensive tackles Corey Williams and Sammie Hill are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents in 2013. That list also includes defensive end Lawrence Jackson, linebackers DeAndre Levy and Justin Durant, safety Louis Delmas and cornerbacks Chris Houston and Jacob Lacey. Not a minor cast of characters. Detroit's defensive line, which employs an eight-man rotation, also must prepare for the eventual departure of 34-year-old Kyle Vanden Bosch.
It's too early to speculate how the Detroit Lions will navigate through this, but a young, talented roster could look markedly different a year from now. The NFL's better teams -- and front offices -- learn how to grow a roster and lock in core players amid constant turnover. It will be interesting to see how general manager Martin Mayhew and the Lions tackle what lies ahead.