After a disappointing 4-12 season the brain trust of the Detroit Lions will be forced to examine their roster and identify areas of opportunity in an effort to bounce back in 2013.
With a significant portion of their roster scheduled for free agency – including many starters – and the limitations imposed by the salary cap, some changes may have more to do with resources than improvements.
The lengthy, work-filled offseason is upon the Lions. To help shed some light on the pending tasks at hand, we will go over a roster breakdown, position by position.
Scheduled For Free Agency: None
In terms of personnel the Lions are set at the quarterback position for 2013. Starter Matthew Stafford will begin the season – his fifth – at the age of 25, as he slowly begins to enter his prime.
A strong-armed gunslinger, Stafford is a still-developing top-end talent. After suffering through injury riddled campaigns in his first two seasons, Stafford has thrown for over 10,000 yards and 61 touchdown passes over the last two years. Some pundits have expressed trepidation due to some mechanical flaws in Stafford's delivery, correlating those with his reduction in completion percentage (59.8). However, the Lions brass has demonstrated an unrelenting commitment to the quarterback and has praised his ability to creatively distribute the ball in all situations, correlating it with his reduction in sacks (29).
With Calvin Johnson and the expected return of Nate Burleson, along with potential additions to the offensive line and backfield in the offseason, it is not unreasonable to expect a more experienced Stafford to perform more admirably in 2013.
Shaun Hill will remain the team's primary backup at the position. An 11-year veteran, Hill is an ideal fit for the number two spot because he is a capable player with starting experience as well as a committed teammate willing to faithfully serve his role on the team.
Hill was vital in leading a comeback attempt against the Tennessee Titans in week three; completing 10-of-13 pass attempts for 171 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Hill has started 10 games for the team and has appeared in 33 career games; he is a serviceable insurance policy for Stafford.
Kellen Moore is the team's third quarterback. Moore will enter 2013 as a 24-year-old sophomore with no regular season experience. A highly successful collegiate player, Moore lacks the ideal size and arm strength for the quarterback position but he does have a quick release, accurate delivery and strong understanding of the game.
He figures to have a spot on the Lions final roster in 2013 but there are no guarantees for the Boise St. product.
In terms of personnel, the Lions are set. They will likely bring in a fourth arm for camp and that could open up a competition for the third quarterback spot.
Outside of a potential challenge to Moore, don't expect any other changes here. Rather, the Lions priority will be to reduce Stafford's team-high cap hit of $21 million.
Stafford's contract will need to be reworked or extended in order to provide the Lions with the cap flexibility to retain and pursue key free agents. That will be the largest story line this offseason for the team's quarterbacks.