17 March 2012
UPDATE: The Lions did not release monetary terms, but ESPN's Adam Schefter reports Jeff Backus' deal is worth $10MM over two seasons. $10 million bones is a little more than I expected the Lions to pay, but it's still a very reasonable deal for a starting left tackle.
Original post: After making no news early in NFL free agency, the Detroit Lions have gotten busy. A pair of veterans returned to the fold on St. Patrick's Day.
First to return was backup quarterback Shaun Hill, as word broke he had come to an two year agreement with the team.
Moments later, the Lions announced they had also retained the services of starting left tackle Jeff Backus for the next two seasons.
The Lions have agreed to two-year contracts with left tackle Jeff Backus and back-up quarterback Shaun Hill, according to league sources.
The terms of the deals were not known.
Backus is entering his 12th season with the team after being drafted in the first round of the 2001 draft. Backus has started 176 consecutive games for the Lions.
Say what you will about Backus (and fans have said plenty over the years, much of it uncomplimentary and undeserved), the Lions had little choice but to re-sign Matt Millen's first draft pick. Backus is coming off of a couple of very good seasons, the Lions don't have a replacement in-house, or have the cap space to overpay a free agent on the open market, and odds are there won't be a sere fire starting quality left tackle worth drafting 23rd overall in the draft.
There's one more reason the Lions re-signed Backus. Though terms weren't disclosed, I'm willing to bet Backus signed for significantly less money compared to his previous contract. Despite showing no sign of decline over the past few seasons, the Lions still had leverage in negotiations. Backus is coming off a serious arm injury and going to turn 35 years of age in the first month of the season, a combination not conducive to getting any kind of raise in the NFL. And the Lions and Backus knew it.
So the best option was also the only realistic option. When cap space is a premium, getting a solid, experienced starting left tackle at a discount trumps all.
Once again, the Lions are showing slow and steady wins the free agency race.
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