The Lions went 0-16 in 2008, and they are more blunt than ever about why.
"There's a reason the record was what it was last year, and it wasn't because of bad luck or a rash of injuries," coach Jim Schwartz said. "There's a lot of work that needs to be done."
The Lions have holes all over the roster. Asked for their biggest area of need, Schwartz said: "I don't know. We have a lot. Let's put it that way."
The defense is in particularly bad shape. The Lions have ranked last in the league each of the past two years, and they allowed 517 points in 2008, second-most all-time.
"We probably have a little farther to go on defense than we do on offense," Schwartz said. "When I talk about wanting the team to be big, strong and physical, there are more of those pieces in place on offense than there are on defense right now."
Heading into Free-Agency ...
Seattle's Maurice Morris was a relatively small but very effective signing by Detroit.
Maurice Morris (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
As the Lions headed into free agency, they didn't rule out chasing a high-priced player, but they made it seem highly unlikely. They indicated they were looking more for mid-level players.
They left the first day after acquiring one mid-level player in Seattle's Maurice Morris. Morris will share ball carrying duties in 2009e with second-year back and last year's rookie standout Kevin Smith.
The team also held talks with Bills' cornerback Jabari Greer. The team enters the off-season in search for two starting cornerbacks. Other players that visited the team's Allen Park headquarters on Friday included receiver Nate Washington (Steelers) and OG Derrick Dockery (Bills).
"The important thing for us, though, is that we can't put all our eggs in one basket," general manager Martin Mayhew said. "We have a number of needs, offensively and on the defensive side of the ball. We're going to try to address as many of those as we can, and we're not one player away."
The Lions exchanged contract offers with quarterback Dan Orlovsky and fullback Moran Norris. They kept in touch but did not exchange offers with players such as linebacker Paris Lenon and defensive tackle Shaun Cody. Their status depends on how free agency plays out.
1. Quarterback: Daunte Culpepper doesn't seem to be the long-term answer. Jon Kitna seems likely to be cut or traded. Dan Orlovsky is set to be a free agent. And Drew Stanton and Drew Henson are projects. The Lions need a QB for the future, and they hold the No. 1 pick in the draft. They are looking hard at Georgia's Matthew Stafford.
2. Linebacker: The Lions have had the NFL's worst defense the past two years, and they allowed 517 points in 2008, the second-most in league history. They have holes all over. Ernie Sims is their only linebacker with playmaking potential. Aaron Curry could be the pick at No. 1. There could be good options at No. 20, too.
3. Cornerback: The Lions had only one interception by a defensive back in 2008, and they just released that defensive back -- Leigh Bodden. They are shifting from the Tampa Bay model, looking for bigger, stronger, more physical players.
Free-Agency Notes ...
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
- RB Aveion Cason helped boost the Lions' return game, but not enough, and wasn't a factor in running game.
- DT Shaun Cody didn't live up to expectations as a second-round pick and hasn't heard from the Lions.
- WR Keary Colbert joined the Lions late and didn't make an impact.
- T Damion Cook played a backup role along the line. If he returns, it will be for depth.
- T George Foster struggled after being traded from Denver and lost right tackle job to 2008 first-rounder Gosder Cherilus. Unlikely to return.
- RB Rudi Johnson did not regain his Pro Bowl form in Detroit. Unlikely to return.
- LB Paris Lenon was a smart, hard-working veteran but didn't make enough plays in the middle. Unlikely to return.
- OL Andy McCollum filled in at center while Dominic Raiola was injured in 2008 and Lions ran the ball well. Still unlikely to return.
- WR Shaun McDonald didn't produce the same way after Mike Martz left.
- DT Langston Moore was a solid role player, but the Lions cut him once and have young defensive tackles.
- LB Ryan Nece was signed because of his experience in the Tampa Two, and the Lions are ditching the Tampa Two. Unlikely to return.
- FB Moran Norris signed during the season and made an impact as a lead blocker. Lions want him back.
- QB Dan Orlovsky didn't make mistakes as a starter, but didn't make enough plays, either. Unlikely to return.
- TE John Owens was a solid blocker but didn't make an impact as a receiver.
- DE Corey Smith was a good role player on defense and a playmaker on special teams. Could be back.
- CB Stanley Wilson never developed and spent 2008 on injured reserve. Unlikely to return.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered)
- DT Shemiah LeGrande (not tendered as ERFA).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: Unknown
- PK Jason Hanson: Potential UFA; 4 yrs, terms unknown
- OG Stephen Peterman: Potential UFA; $15M/5 yrs, $5.5M guaranteed
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: RB Maurice Morris (Seattle).