Titus Young (courtesy of watercoolersports.com)

Titus Young (courtesy of watercoolersports.com)

The Detroit Lions recently released troubled wide receiver Titus Young, aging d-end Kyle Vanden Bosch and right guard Stephen Peterman.  KVB and Peterman were casualties of high cap numbers on aging players–according to NFL.com the Lions will save around $8 million in cap space.  Young however, is a different story.  The talented, but self-consumed Young had to be cut in an effort by head coach Jim Schwartz to regain respect in the locker room once again.

Young had become one of the most immature, diva-like personalities over the past two seasons in Detroit.  His antics rivaled those of a young Terrell Owens, but without the production.  Young’s last straw seemingly was when he intentionally lined up in the wrong position in a game against the Green Bay Packers last season.  This last show of complete disregard for team gave coach Schwartz no other option but to remove Young from the team.  Young also indulged in misguided Twitter rants, a claim that he was just as good as Calvin Johnson and a sucker punch of teammate Louis Delmas.  Young’s release was a long time coming.

Young’s departure, joined with the release of KVB and Peterman now open some glaring holes on the roster.  The Lions already had pressing needs in the defensive secondary and at the running back position, and with the probability of Cliff Avril moving on, defensive end becomes an even bigger need.  Some believe the clearing of KVB and Peterman may be a move to re-sign Avril, but I think that would be a mistake for how much he’ll cost.  It would cripple the Lions ability to fill other needs.  This will be decided on by March 12, the beginning of the league year and free agency.

The Lions don’t have a ton of cap space to bring in big name free agents this off-season, so it’s imperative that GM Martin Mayhew and the scouting department have not just a good draft in 2013, but a stellar one.  Knowing just how important this draft will be, the Lions recently hired Brian Xanders, who in some circles is considered a draft expert. Xanders most recently worked under John Elway and the Denver Broncos.  Just how much power Xanders has in the front office remains to be seen, but this move appears to have amped up pressure on Mayhew.

So will the 2013 season be the swan song for both Mayhew and Schwartz in Detroit?  Anything short of another playoff appearance and it may be another complete house-cleaning in Allen Park.  Here’s how I believe Mayhew and Schwartz will go about trying to salvage their jobs leading into next season:

  • With limited money to spend, it will be imperative that it’s spent in the right way.  With their glaring hole at WR, I’d like to see them go after a player like Danny Amendola who will be a UFA unless he re-signs with the Rams over the next few weeks.  He would be the perfect compliment to Calvin, and someone the fans of Detroit would fall in love with.  
  • Letting Avril walk and drafting a top pass rusher in this year’s draft seems to be the best strategy to win now.  Young pass rushers (see Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants and Aldon Smith of the 49ers) have had huge impacts on Superbowl teams over the past few seasons.
  • Release center Dominic Raiola.  He’s been the heart and soul of the offensive line, but in order for the Lions to regain some semblance of a running game, they need more size out of the position.  Getting a younger and cheaper option would free up more money and hopefully be the first step to repairing the broken running game.
  • They must sign a veteran corner or safety who can have an immediate impact.  According to early projections, this year’s draft looks like a very shallow draft when it comes to secondary players.  That being said, the Lions secondary is so bad that they will be forced to use a second or third round pick on the position.  Adding a solid veteran play-maker to hold down the fort for some of the younger players is the only way the Lions pass defense will make any vast improvements this season.
  • The Lions must draft an X-factor running back/wide receiver/return specialist in the later rounds.  This means taking a risk on someone with speed that can line up in different spots for certain gadget plays.  The Lions offense became too predictable last season, and they’ve got to find ways to get speed in spots that are opening due to the triple coverage of Calvin Johnson.

These are just a few ideas.  The offensive line will also have to be addressed with either a cheap FA option or in the latter rounds of the draft.  Although last season was a nightmare, the Lions do still possess All-Pro caliber players on both sides of the ball.  Schwartz and Mayhew now need to add the right pieces around them and get everyone to buy in, and quickly.  The 2013 season appears to be a crossroads for this organization.  Is this going to be a bounce-back year that makes last season look like an anomaly to getting this organization contending for a Super Bowl?  Or is it the “same old Lions,” that  results in a complete house-cleaning and another rebuild?  Although I am hoping for the former, as a cynical Lions fan, I’m betting on the latter.

Sam Plymale