Shutdown Corner Offseason Blueprints: Detroit Lions

After the Seattle Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII, all 32 teams officially entered the offseason and started plotting how they could position themselves for a shot at Super Bowl XLIX. Shutdown Corner will look at the offseason blueprint for each of the 32 NFL teams, presenting one team a day (using the 2014 draft order, starting with the Houston Texans and finishing with the Seahawks), leading you right up to the start of free agency on March 11.


2013 record: 7-9

Projected current salary-cap space (according to $4.3 million

Key free agents: TE Brandon Pettigrew, OT Jason Fox, DE Willie Young, DT Andre Fluellen, CB Rashean Mathis.

Possible salary-cap casualties: DE Jason Jones (already cut S Louis Delmas, WR Nate Burleson).

Draft situation: Have 10th overall pick, own all of their original picks except for their fifth-rounder (traded for WR Mike Thomas)

Revisiting 2013: The Lions started last season with playoff aspirations and were in the hunt in a shaky NFC North after a Week 13 blowout of the Green Bay Packers gave them a record of 7-5. But four straight losses to finish the season (three to teams outside the playoffs) left the Lions at home in January, below .500 and it led to the ouster of head coach Jim Schwartz. Calvin Johnson had a strong season despite little help around him and some inconsistent play by Matthew Stafford. The Lions were an undisciplined team, and that's putting it lightly. They also had no idea how to close out games, with seven of their nine losses involving blown leads late in the fourth quarter or coming in overtime.

Reasons for optimism: Johnson remains the best wide receiver in the game, and Stafford remains a very talented work in progress at age 26. Respected new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi told Shutdown Corner he didn't think Stafford was "broken" and there are some solid complementary parts with Reggie Bush, Joique Bell and a good offensive line for new head coach Jim Caldwell and his staff. Ndamukong Suh — whom the team will try to extend this offseason and lower his salary-cap number — leads a very good defensive front that can get after quarterbacks.

Glaring hole to fill: Johnson is almost by himself at wideout, and if the Lions don't get him proper help it could ruin his career. Some insiders even wonder if Johnson could pull a Barry Sanders at some point and just walk away, but we're likely several years from even worrying about that. Ryan Broyles remains on the roster, but he's a walking infirmary. Kris Durham could be back, and so could Jeremy Ross. But the Lions need much more — likely two receivers, and it might be smart to add both a veteran and a rookie, or two, to the mix. Burleson isn't likely to return.

Toughest decision: Do the Lions pay Pettigrew? Or should they move in a different direction at tight end? On the one hand, Pettigrew is a good blocker who helped fuel the run game and could be a key cog for Lombardi's offense. But Pettigrew's hands are inconsistent, and he's not really a dynamic receiver. The Lions have some complementary parts at the position with Joseph Fauria, Michael Williams and Dorin Dickerson, but none of them are complete players. Pettigrew is fairly well-rounded, but he might have an inflated idea of his own worth and could outprice the Lions on the open market. He's not worth franchising, even though the team has no other logical candidates for the tag. The draft has some interesting options here, but it's a bit of a shallow pool.

Best-case offseason scenario: Lombardi, Caldwell and Stafford will go to work on helping Stafford, both in terms of providing him more receiver and tight end help but also in terms of building back up his confidence and tailoring the offense to his skills. Defensively, the team needs to add a corner (yet again) after some unknowns and misses with recent draft picks. They also might need safety help if Delmas isn't re-signed at a cheaper cost, plus they desire depth elsewhere. It will be an interesting test to see how Caldwell's calm affects this roster, which was built under the tough-guy watch of Schwartz.

Previous Blueprints: 32. Houston Texans; 31. Washington Redskins; 30. Jacksonville Jaguars; 29. Cleveland Browns; 28. Oakland Raiders; 27. Atlanta Falcons; 26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers; 25. Minnesota Vikings; 24. Buffalo Bills

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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