Offseason Forecast: Detroit Lions

  • By Kevin Patra
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What's changing

The biggest on-field change in Detroit will be on the offensive line. The Lions ran more plays against fronts of six or fewer defenders than any team, yet still couldn't create significant running lanes. The entire right side of the line could be replaced after cutting right guard Stephen Peterman and potentially losing free agent tackle Gosder Cherilus. Tackle Riley Reiff played well in spots his rookie year and could take over at right tackle or at left tackle as the team phases out the aging Jeff Backus.

With the offseason officially under way, Around the League will examine what's next for all 32 teams.

AFC East
» Bills | Dolphins | Jets | Patriots
AFC North
» Bengals | Browns | Ravens | Steelers
AFC South
» Colts | Jaguars | Texans | Titans
AFC West
» Broncos | Chargers | Chiefs | Raiders
NFC East
» Cowboys | Eagles | Giants | Redskins
NFC North
» Bears | Lions | Packers | Vikings
NFC South
» Buccaneers | Falcons | Panthers | Saints
NFC West
» Cardinals | Niners | Rams | Seahawks

Biggest free agents

» DE Cliff Avril: Most assume Avril will depart for more money. However, after cutting Kyle Vanden Bosch, the Lions only have one defensive end signed for 2013, Ronnell Lewis (two career tackles). Cuts have opened a bit of cap space and if no team offers him a big contract don't be shocked if he ends up back in Honolulu blue.

» OT Gosder Cherilus: Lions fans are often frustrated with Cherilus' propensity for penalties, and while he's not a bruising run blocker, he is a better-than-average pass protector.

» S Louis Delmas: The Lions were more aggressive against both the run and pass with him patrolling the back end. He just can't stay healthy. The Lions will look for a more consistent option moving forward.

Other key free agents: LB Justin Durant, CB Chris Houston, DE Lawrence Jackson, LB DeAndre Levy, DT Corey Williams

What they need

The Lions cut the best wide receiver in the game, according to Titus Young Sr. Complements to Megatron are a necessity, but the Lions haven't had a consistent second and third receiver since Johnnie Morton and Brett Perriman 15 years ago. Anyone know what Mike Furrey is up to?

The secondary has been a disaster in Detroit this entire millennium. The last time the Lions had the No. 5 pick in the draft they selected cornerback Bryant Westbrook in 1997. The last time they took a defensive back in the first round was the following season, Terry Fair. (Smash cut to Lions fans cringing). With Delmas likely exiting and Amari Spievey missing most of 2012 with injuries, they could be in the market for two safeties along with upgrades at the corners.

Take a look at the best photos from the Detroit Lions' 2012 season.

Offseason crystal ball

With just $3 million of cap space, general manager Martin Mayhew will have to hit on his draft picks, which he hasn't done the last couple of years. A defensive end is the best bet at No. 5  and finding secondary help in later rounds is a must. The Lions would be better off bringing back defensive ends Jackson and restricted free agent Willie Young than spending big on Avril.

Mayhew will chase a change-of-pace running back either through the draft or free agency. Reggie Bush is the hot name, but with a horde of free agents to sign they aren't likely to spend big at that position.

Cutting a troublemaker like Young Sr. was a good step toward changing the culture, but don't expect it to be the final snuffing. There will be a short leash for the Lions in 2013.

Follow Kevin Patra on Twitter @kpatra.