The biggest landmark on the upcoming horizon is March 12 – the open of free agency and the Detroit Lions have many players eligible for some form of it, including some key starters.
Let’s dive deeper into the most significant pending free agents for the Lions.
Today’s free agent focus: Lawrence Jackson
Jackson appeared in 15 games for the Lions in 2012, registering 20 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
Predominately lining up at right defensive end, Jackson often spelled veteran – and recently released – Kyle Vanden Bosch while matching up against the opposition’s left tackle (often a more difficult matchup than the right tackle).
Jackson suffered through statistical declines in 2012, recording six less tackles and two less sacks despite appearing in four more contests. Although, in fairness to Jackson, he saw less action on game day last year, averaging just over 26 snaps (40.1 percent) a game compared to 34 (42.8 percent of snaps) in 2011.
Jackson has spent three seasons with the Lions since being acquired in a trade from the Seattle Seahawks and has proven his ability to contribute in a reserve role. However, he has also watched his tackle and sack number decline corresponding with a year-over-year dip in snap percentage.
Still, Jackson proved he could be plugged in when needed and has been a reliable member of the team’s defensive end rotation.
When thinking of key free agents for the Lions, Jackson isn’t always one of the first players that come to mind.
Jackson didn’t start a single game for the Lions and played in less than half of the team’s defensive snaps in 2012, so it’s easy to skim past his name when considering the team’s top offseason priorities.
Despite the lack of buzz surrounding a potential re-signing, the 27-year-old’s return could be more valuable than what first impressions might indicate.
Jackson knows the system and – with some youth and new faces on the defensive line next season – the presence of a hard-working and knowledgeable veteran can pay dividends. Also, Jackson has demonstrated an ability to be productive when given playing time.
The interesting thing with Jackson is he doesn’t give the impression that his top motivator in signing is a financial one.
Jackson has made his desire to return to Detroit clear – as have many of the pending free agents on the roster. However, what is unique with Jackson is the fact that he isn’t looking for a massive pay raise to stay, he just wants the opportunity to flourish on the field.
“I’m not a guy that’s worried about the money,” said Jackson at the tail end of the 2012 season. “I’m on a path to try and achieve greatness, whether it comes in the form of helping my team or my individual journeys. Every day I show up to work, I want to improve on something in my game, which in turn will help the team as a whole. You have to stay motivated to get better.”
Once the season had wrapped up, Jackson indicated he was simply waiting for a call from the Lions and hoped to stay because Detroit was a place where he felt he could be great.
“I think that I have an opportunity (to achieve my goals), especially playing next to guys like Ndamnukong (Suh) and Nick (Fairley), when you get guys who know how to play like that, everybody feeds off of each other. One thing I can do is help and make the guys around me better and they have that same ability. Working with those guys is great. I’ve enjoyed my time here, I hope it’s extended.”