Facts, thoughts and opinion..
A lot of things happened this past 2007 draft weekend. Some good, some interesting, some bad, and some confusing (to me at least). Let’s see if I can organize and state it all in one post.
Good: Matt Millen and Rod Marinelli (and Tom Lewand) have managed to trim all the "fat" from the roster. Guys who complained, wouldn’t try, weren’t working out and so on, have all found themselves elsewhere. The Lions acquired some new players, some draft picks, or just an empty locker in doing so. Total dead cap hit in 2007 for the entire bus ticket? $15,336,667 by my calculations. And no dead cap (so far) at all in 2008.
Good: Matt Millen manipulated the draft well, making trades down and up to end up with three 2nd round picks while keeping the team at the #2 slot in the first round and retaining a number of picks for day 2. No picks were taken away from 2008, and Mike Williams was traded to Oakland for the 105th pick (along with McCown, but then the trade couldn’t happen without McCown because they needed the savings in the cap by trading him to get rid of Williams, also because they needed to when McCown decided he didn’t want to be a lion no more, and because Oakland wasn’t going to give up a 4th for Mike Williams by himself). With the 105th pick Millen took AJ Davis, a CB from North Carolina State. Hopefully, AJ will prove worthy of the fact the lions lost their backup QB and $2.2 million in cap in the trade. I haven’t much faith in that exactly, but the other moves to get three 2nd round picks were terrific.
Great: Matt Millen didn’t get very many calls on trading out of the #2 pick (reportedly). He did get some, but the demand wasn’t such that one team could be played off the other and drive the price up. The final decision came down to taking the best player (not just the best offensive player, or the best wide receiver) in the draft or trading the pick for less then a blockbuster deal. Since no team made an offer they couldn’t refuse, and since there was a chance of making a deal a few picks later (which was an option since the presser was held off "conveniently" for about an hour) they selected Calvin Johnson, a man of such talent he’s been called a once in ten year player. The hoped for deal still never happened, but the Lions got what should be a genuine superstar wide receiver to bookend Roy Williams potentially making the Lions offense more potent then the superbowl Rams of a few years ago (in time, not from the very first game). I would’ve like to see a trade to address serious needs in the defense, but that was not meant to be.
Bad: Even though the Lions got rid of (hopefully) all the dead wood on the roster, the moves have reduced their available cap to a mere $653,831 (based on my calculations). They will still need to set aside a rookie draft pool of approximately $5 million, and they have need of at least one more free agent player, probably more.
Good or is it Bad: To get more cap space a few moves can be made such as:
Damien Woody is scheduled to make $4.5 million in salary this year. He is signed through the 2010 season. Should he be cut before June 1st (or traded at any time this year) the cap savings would be exactly zero (the accelerated signing bonus would wipe out the salary savings). If he were cut AFTER June 1st then $3 million in dead cap would be moved into next year and that much would be freed up in 2007. However, the Lions could keep Woody and just re-work his contract, turning $3.6 million of his salary into a signing bonus. He would receive the same compensation (though many would say he needs a pay cut) and it would free up $2.4 million in cap space in 2007 while keeping a former pro-bowler for depth on the O-Line, a mere $600,000 to keep him? I would do it.
The Lions could also cut or trade George Foster who’s salary for 2007 is $2.335 million. Since the Lions just acquired him in the trade with Denver I seriously doubt they wish to do that, so to re-work his contract they could turn $1.6 million of his salary in 2007 into a 2 year signing bonus and create $800,000 in cap space in 2007.
Corey Redding counts $6.775 million against the cap since he has the franchise tag on him. Should both sides be able to come to terms on a long term contract, it could conceivably free up around $4 million of cap space in 2007.
The only other significant cap savings are not so likely. Most wouldn’t free up much space, and others remove too much depth. Had a genuine starting Cornerback been acquired then Fernando Bryant could’ve been a Post June 1st cut saving $3.25 million in cap this year (but it would create dead cap next year of $3.5 million).
In summary, new contracts for Woody, Foster and Redding frees up $7.2 million in cap space, enough to sign the draft picks and maybe one or two vet minimum contracts (while still maintaining some reserve for the season in case of IR cases). Not a great situation, but manageable… however, the roster is pretty much set as is.
Bad or just confusing: In my opinion, the draft picks did not make a ton of sense. The Lions must know their cap situation. They must know they have needs on defense, including holes in the starting positions at DE, MLB and possibly CB (and many would say Safety as well). Yet they consciously choose to go offense with the first two picks. I can understand drafting CJ (as explained above, though many others would say we already had a #1 WR and we only really needed a slot WR as Furry is fine at #2). But drafting a QB who will not help the team one single bit at all in all of 2007 was a luxury that I don’t agree with. Sure you need someone to groom, but there is someone available every year that fits that description. What was critical was defensive help. The moves to have two more second round picks were good, and they were actually used on defense… the players themselves have potential as well… they are great 3rd or 4th round picks (based on how soon they may be able to start)… but that wasn’t what the team needed either. They needed starters. In all the draft there wasn’t a single starting defensive player available at pick #34, 43 or any other? I fail to believe that.
Intriguing: The actual players selected are each full of potential. Ikaika may turn out to be my favorite (after CJ of course). And Manuel Ramirez as a guard in a couple years. Alexander, to me, was a reach and I hope he proves me wrong.. I also hope he can start sometime in 2007. Stanton will hold a clipboard in 2007, a total waste of that pick (and I always root for MSU in their games I watch). Davis and Robinson, the two corners taken, will have to fight to even make the roster. I don’t think Johnny Baldwin is the answer to our prayers at MLB. Overall, intriguing players all, but only one 2nd rounder (go Icky). My draft grade is a solid C- but I’ll give extra credit points later if some of these picks actually can contribute in 2007.
Confusing: Did the Lions make these moves for the good of the team? Because they’re not afraid of being fired with yet another bad season? Or are they deluded to the point of thinking the roster looks good? Are they throwing the season away in April? Am I the crazy one and wrong about these prospects and the moves made? I hope so, but I’m not looking forward to the 2007 season as much as I normally would be. Also, I really don’t think that Millen can survive another sub .500 season, and once Millen goes a new CEO/GM will clean house... including the coaching staffs… and yet another rebuild will begin. That prospect is very VERY rough to take right now, for whatever reason.