‘Shutdown Corner’ offseason TPS report: Detroit Lions

Brian McIntyre
Shutdown Corner

Over the next few weeks, "Shutdown Corner" will pay homage to "Office Space" (TPS reports) as we take a quick look back at each team's 2012 season and a look at what lies ahead for the 2013 offseason. We move to the NFC North and the Detroit Lions.

2012 record: 4-12

What went wrong: The Lions were 4-4 at the midway point of the season before losing their final eight games, including five losses at home and four losses by three points or less.

The Lions ranked third in total offense, thanks largely to a No. 2-ranked passing attack, and were in the middle of the pack (13th) in total defense, but turnovers, takeaways and giveaways, were an issue. Matthew Stafford was intercepted 17 times and the Lions lost 16 fumbles. Conversely, fumble luck worked against the Lions, who recovered just six fumbles on defense. The Lions' defense also ranked towards the bottom of the league in interceptions, picking off 11 passes as cornerback Chris Houston and safety Don Carey tied for the team lead with two apiece.

The Lions were dreadful on special teams, ranking 30th in Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted special teams DVOA metric. Not only were the Lions' return games anemic, they allowed four return touchdowns, including two, one kick return and one punt return, in a 20-13 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 30.

Another area that went wrong for the 2012 Lions was a lack of discipline on and off the field. Several Lions were arrested last offseason, including multiple arrests of 2011 first-round defensive tackle Nick Fairley (marijuana possession in April, DUI in in May) and 2011 second-round running back Mikel Leshoure, who received a two-game suspension for his pair of marijuana-related arrests. 2011 seventh-round offensive tackle Johnny Culbreath got the ball rolling with a marijuana-related arrest in January and was released before training camp. Another player to get released for multiple arrests was veteran Aaron Berry, who was arrested for assault and DUI in a three-day span in July.

The Lions also had issues with 2011 second-round wide receiver Titus Young, who punched teammate Louis Delmas during the offseason workouts and, amid other internal discipline issues, was suspended by the team for two games after intentionally lining up in the wrong spot during a November loss to the Green Bay Packers. The Lions ended up placing Young on injured reserve and released him earlier this month.

What went right: Calvin Johnson showed why he's one of the league's highest-paid receivers by catching 122 passes for 1,964 yards, breaking Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice's single-season receiving yardage mark. Imagine what Johnson could do with a solid No. 2 receiver on the other side.

Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh had a productive season, posting eight sacks, a team-high 17 tackles for loss and 33 hits on opposing quarterback. Most impressively, Suh had just one unnecessary roughness penalty called against him, an impressive number for a player whose reputation often precedes him.

Coaching/front office changes: After a few seasons of continuity, head coach Jim Schwartz has a few new faces on his coaching staff. The Lions fired special teams coordinator Danny Crossman, who landed on his feet with the Buffalo Bills. Replacing Crossman is John Bonamego, who coached the special teams units with the Jacksonville Jaguars last season. The Lions also parted ways with running backs coach Sam Gash, receivers coach Shawn Jefferson and offensive line coach George Yarno, while secondary coach Tim Walton left to take over defensive coordinator duties with the St. Louis Rams.

New additions to Schwartz's staff include Curtis Modkins (running backs), Bobby Johnson (tight ends,), Jim Washburn, a legendary defensive line coach who will work as a defensive assistant. Former NFL safety Marcus Robertson will coach the secondary, while Tim Lappano moves from tight ends coach to receivers coach and Jeremiah Washburn moves from assistant offensive line coach to offensive line coach.

The Lions' front office added former Denver Broncos general manager Brian Xanders in the role of senior personnel executive.

Estimated 2013 cap space : $2.442 million (before the Dominic Raiola renegotiation)

Possible cap casualties: The Lions have already begun the process of clearing cap space, restructuring the contract of center Dominic Raiola and releasing veteran defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch and guard Stephen Peterman. The Lions are also expected to receive cap relief with an extension for quarterback Matthew Stafford, who is scheduled to earn $12.5 million in cash and has a team-high cap imprint of $20.82 million in 2013. The Lions could also gain cap room by restructuring and extending the contract of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who is due $12.275 million in cash and has an $18.1725 million cap figure, but GM Martin Mayhew says the team has no plans to restructure or extend Suh's contract.

Nate Burleson caught just 27 passes, averaged less than nine yards per reception and landed on injured reserve with a broken leg in the middle of the season. The Lions lack a No. 2 receiver opposite Calvin Johnson, but does that warrant bringing Burleson, who turns 32 in August, back at a $4.5 million base salary? No. 2 tight end Tony Scheffler is due $2.45 million in cash compensation in the final year of his contract, including a $500,000 roster bonus on March 13. Releasing Burleson and Scheffler would save the Lions $4.918 million in cap space, but also around $7 million in cash.

If the Lions really want to create cap space in 2013, they could adjust Calvin Johnson's contract. Since they'll be paying Johnson $25 million in 2013 anyway, they could drop his $5 million base salary to the league minimum ($715,000) and add the remaining $4.285 million to his $20 million option bonus to free up $3.4 million in cap space this season.

Unrestricted free agents

Cliff Avril, DE
Gosder Cherilus, OT
Louis Delmas, S
Justin Durant, LB
Drayton Florence, CB
Andre Fluellen, DT
Dylan Gandy, G
Jason Hanson, K
Nick Harris, P
Will Heller, TE
Sammie Lee Hill, DT
Corey Hilliard, OT
Chris Houston, CB
Lawrence Jackson, DE
Jacob Lacey, CB
Patrick Lee, CB
DeAndre Levy, LB
Stefan Logan, RB
Don Muhlbach, LS
Kassim Osgood, WR
Kevin Smith, RB
Corey Williams, DT

Restricted free agents

Jason Fox, OT
Amari Spievey, S
Willie Young, DE

RFA tender amounts in 2013 are:

• $1.323 million for right of first refusal and/or original draft round compensation

• $2.023 for right of first refusal and second round draft selection

• $2.879 for right of first refusal and first round draft selection

Franchise Tag candidates: The Lions are not flush with cap space, so they likely will not use the franchise tag in 2013. If they did, however, the logical choice would be defensive end Cliff Avril, who had 9.5 sacks in 2012 while playing under the $10.605 million franchise tag. Avril, a 2009 third-round pick out of Purdue, has 29 sacks over the last three seasons, but a second franchise tag would cost the Lions $12.726 million. Another candidate is safety Louis Delmas, but it would take a lot of courage to fully guarantee $6.803 million in base salary for one season to a player who hasn't played a full season in the NFL and has missed 13 of his last 32 games due to injury.

Previous installments of the "Offseason TPS Reports" series:

AFC East: New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills
AFC North: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns
AFC South: Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans
AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos
NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Washington Redskins

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