I've long been told patience is a virtue. I've also been told good things happen to those who wait.
Waiting patiently has paid off for Martin Mayhew and the Detroit Lions.
After a morning of negotiations with Tulloch’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, the Lions re-signed their top remaining free agent to a new five-year deal this afternoon.
Terms of the deal were not immediately available.
Chris McCoskey of the News threw some numbers out there, we'll see what sticks.
Financial terms were not released, but it's a safe bet he will be paid somewhere between the $6 million per year he sought and the $3.2 million he played for last season.
Tulloch was the Lions leading tackler and essentially the QB of the defense. Re-signing him can only be considered a coup for Mayhew and Lions' capologist Tom Lewand.
The Lions did the smart thing in free agency. They waited out the market, while allowing their own free agents (like Tulloch, Shaun Hill and Jeff Backus) play the field and set their relative worth. Ultimately, the Lions were able to sign their own free agents, including number one target Tulloch, at what will likely turn out to be fair market value.
A little more than a week ago, the Lions were in salary cap Hell, Calvin Johnson's cap crushing contract was going to cripple the franchise's long-term plans and it appeared they were going to lose some key players in free agency because of it.
As of today, the Lions have managed to retain all the players they considered vital, have the All-World Johnson under lock and key with a long-term, cap friendly contract, and still have some salary flexibility. The only free agents who moved on were 3rd string quarterback Drew Stanton and starting cornerback Eric Wright. Both were considered easily replaceable.
The Lions started to fill in those blanks today, starting with the defensvie backfield, siging cornerback Jacob Lacey to a one year contract.
Lacey, 24, started 27 games over the last three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, and clearly he likes to hit. He posted 221 tackles in those three seasons, with five interceptions. He returned two of those for touchdowns.
Most likely he will compete with Aaron Berry and Alphonso Smith for the starting right cornerback spot vacated by Eric Wright, who signed with Tampa Bay. Lacey may also be a candidate to play the nickel back role.
The Lions retained more of their defensive line depth as well, bringing back defensive tackle Andre Fluellen on a one year contract. Ashlee Palmer, the special teams ace and backup linebacker who has been non-tendered, was also re-signed for one year.
All three are solid, low risk, high value signings, which has been Mayhew's M.O. from the outset. Never grossly overpay for a free agent.
So the salary cap panic has passed. I don't know exactly how the Lions did it...but they did, and with little to no drama.
Goddamn wizardry, indeed.no comments
The Detroit Lions continue to lock up their own free agents, as former Aussie Rules star Ben Graham agreed to terms. Graham averaged 44.1 yards per punt and 38.7 net with the Lions in 2011.
Here's the Detroit Lions' press release:
LIONS RE-SIGN P BEN GRAHAM
The Detroit Lions announced today that they have signed P Ben Graham to a 1-year deal. Additional terms were not disclosed.
Graham originally signed with Detroit November 15 and was the team’s punter for the final seven games of 2011. He had 10 of his 28 punts for the Lions downed inside-the-20 with only 3 touchbacks.
Entering his 9th NFL season, Graham has also spent time with the New York Jets (2005-08), New Orleans Saints (2008) and Arizona Cardinals (2008-10, 2011). He has 434 career punts for 19,178 yards (44.2 avg) with 150 punts downed inside-the-20.
What about 2nd year man Ryan Donahue, the Lions' punter for the first eight games of the season before going down to a season ending quad injury? According to Tim Twentyman at the DetroitLions.com blog, both players are under contract. So expect a furious training camp competition between Donahue and Graham.
If a punting competition can actually be furious, that is...no comments
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.no comments
When the NFL's free agency period went live, the Detroit Lions were down to Matthew Stafford as their only quarterback. 3rd stringer Drew Stanton and backup Shaun Hill were allowed to hit the open market.
Yesterday, it appeared the Lions would be radically overhauling the depth chart behind Stafford, as Stanton signed a one year deal with the New York Jets, and Hill was visiting with the St. Louis Rams.
So much for the overhauling...
After Hill talked with the Rams and then left town unsigned, Rams St. Louis Dispatch beat winter Jim Thomas tweeted breaking news...about the Detroit Lions:
With the stroke of a pen, and a little patience, the Lions retained a quality veteran backup quarterback.
Unlike many in the Lions fanbase, the team itself weren't (openly) worried about the possibility losing Hill or the status of the depth chart. They would rather play the waiting game than overpay in a panic. The strategy worked.
Let's not forget the fact the Lions are a playoff team and the Rams are the dregs of the league. If you are destined to be a (highly thought of) backup, why not do so on a good team?
With Hill's status cemented, the Lions can go back to...well, waiting patiently to see where the market falls on Stephen Tulloch.
So before getting all wound up over the Lions' seeming lack of interest in free agency, remember one thing. Patience is a virtue.no comments
A week ago, the Lions were in cap Hell, sitting $11MM over the NFL's $120.6MM salary cap. Forget trying to sign any players on the open market, the Lions didn't even have the flexibility to make an offer to their own free agents.
So Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand got to work, and accomplished what looked to be impossible.
They restructured the contracts of Matthew Stafford, Ndamukong Suh and Nate Burleson to get the Lions under the cap before the NFL deadline, signed Calvin Johnson to a new, long-term, more cap friendly deal and have decided to let certain players test the open market, two of whom (CB Eric Wright and QB Drew Stanton) have signed (and you could easily argue they were overpaid, especially Wright) with other teams.
After all the contract juggling, robbing Peter to pay Paul, back-loading deals in anticipation of the cap getting a substantial bump when the new TV deal kicks in, and making sure their most important players were happy, where do the Lions stand?
According to Jason La Canfora of NFL.com, the Lions are $13,033,733 under the salary cap. In less than a week, the Lions cleared over $24MM in salary using smarts, capology and mathmagic. The sort of thing the franchise used to show not being capable of doing.
So what's next?
Waiting out the free agent market.
The Lions are going to wait and see what offers Stephen Tulloch and Shaun Hill receive. Apparently negotiations are continuing with the injured Jeff Backus, who will likely take a sizable pay cut to return. They are also being visited by a few free agents, but none have signed, despite saying good things about the team. The most well-known being WR/KR Ted Ginn Jr.
The Lions have made a pair of minor signings, bringing back DB Erik Coleman and signing their only free agent to this point, FB James Bryant. Bryant is just training camp roster filler, Coleman a depth only guy.
It seems the Lions strategy is to be on the lookout for OL depth first and foremost, then waiting for Tulloch, Backus and Hill to make their decisions. The Lions won't make any sort of rash, expensive moves on any player, be it one of their own or off the open market. They aren't flush with cap space, but aren't exactly hurting talent-wise, either.
When it comes to free agency, fast and furious doesn't win the race. Doing your full due diligence does, while waiting for asking prices to drop to something more cap palatable. The Lions are taking the second option, which really is the smart move at this point.
It's a long, long off season. Not doing anything in the three days of free agency does not an off season make.no comments
Saturday is your last chance to take the Guinness pledge and be involved in setting a Guinness World Record! Read on to learn how you can take part in the fun.
When you go to Guinness.com, you will be prompted to click “Join the Party,” after which, you'll be taken to a form to sign the pledge. This form asks for first name, country, zip and optional code, which is MICH. This is how Guinness and I will track pledges. You need a paper trail (as it were) to set a world record, after all. Keep in mind you'd be doing me a favor by doing so.
What's better than free beer? A free trip to drink beer! When you take the pledge, you can also enter at Guinness.com to win a trip to Dublin!
If you are looking for ideas as to where to live up to the pledge, the new Guinness Pub Finder will point you in the right direction.
How will be you be celebrating St. Patrick's Day 2012?
It better be with a pint of Guinness!
There's one last reminder for everyone, and it involves another kind of pledge. Be it on St. Patrick's Day or at any other time, please pledge to drink responsibly when celebrating. Don't drink and drive, and if you must be out and about with the Irish (and those who are for one day), please use a designated driver.
On a personal note, Guinness and I thank you for your pledges! Have a safe and fun St. Patrick's Day!no comments
We won't have Drew Stanton to kick around anymore.
The team's third-string quarterback agreed to terms today with the New York Jets, where he'll serve as the backup to Mark Sanchez. According to the New York Daily News, Stanton's deal is for one year and $1.25 million.
Thought to be a player many fans, including myself, believed wouldn't make it in the NFL, Stanton proved us all wrong.
Stanton's NFL career got off to the worst start possible. Matt Millen reached to draft him in the 2nd round of the 2007 draft, raising expectations. Stanton suffered a minor knee injury in training camp, but thanks to Mike Martz and Rod Marinelli not believing in him, they buried him deeper than a dog does a bone by putting Stanton on IR. Sitting out his rookie season, plus having the scent of Millen all over him, Stanton had the deck stacked against him...and it was the Lions' doing
But Stanton persevered, outlasted Millen, Martz and Marinelli, and ultimately played his way into the lineup when Matthew Stafford and Shaun Hill were injured.
Stanton proved his NFL worth by going 2-1 in three 2010 starts. His lasting legacy being a 2010 week 15 OT victory over the Bucs, which ended the Lions record setting road losing streak.
Featuring Jim Schwartz's epic fist pump!
This is what I wrote about Stanton after the win:
I have to eat plenty of crow about Drew Stanton. He played the best game of his career today, and it wasn't even close. Stanton made the throws he had to make. He got the ball in the hands of his playmakers, Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson. He salvaged plays with his mobility. There were no turnovers. There were clutch drives. He beat good teams.
When Stanton took over as the starter three weeks ago, he was playing for his NFL life. Two wins later, Stanton has proven he can play in the NFL. He has shown he can lead an NFL team to victory if used correctly. Stanton won't live up to his 2nd round draft status, isn't a star, and I doubt he'll ever be a long-term starter. But there's a place in the NFL for gamers at quarterback...and Stanton is a gamer.
I'd be fine with Stanton continuing on as the starter for the remainder of the season. There's no reason to rush Matthew Stafford or Shaun Hill back when Stanton has proven capable. If they are 100%, great. Get them back under center. If not, why take a chance? Let's roll with Stanton.
Funny how a pair of wins can change your perception of a player.
Those four paragraphs are why the Jets so badly wanted Stanton as their number two to Mark Sanchez. He's a gamer.
But after five (often unappreciated) seasons as a backup in Detroit, it was probably time to move on. So happy trails, Drew Stanton. May you continue to force fans to eat crow!no comments
ESPN's Kevin Seifert has Schwartz's gushing quote:
"This is a great day for every kid who was early for every meeting. This is a great day for every kid that stayed after practice, every kid that put the team before himself, every kid that let his play speak for him, because as good a football player as Calvin Johnson is, he's a better teammate and he's a better person. So we're very glad to have him here."
And that's why no one in Detroit is upset Megatron is now the highest paid athlete in the NFL. He's a great player on the field, a gentleman off of it, and humble everywhere. Johnson is the antithisis of your stereotypical obnoxious, headline seeking, 100% diva wide receiver.
Calvin Johnson won't eat or smoke his way out of Detroit, change his name (and back again) for sake of publicity, shoot himself in the leg, ultimately finding himself in prison, punch a woman in a bar after hours, quit on plays...or his team, write a self-aggrandizing book, get benched for being an ass to his teammates, or be an all-around jerkwad dickweed who has more bridges burned than pass receptions made.
What Calvin Johnson will do is make Pro Bowls and All-Pro teams, set team and league records and make Chris Carter continue to eat crow, with none of the drama normally associated with highly paid wide receivers.
Megatron just plays football at an extremely high level, bringing no baggage along for the ride. He's more than earned the big contract.no comments
UPDATED: You can read Detroit Lions' press release announcing the Calvin Johnson's contract after the jump.
Before the Lions could realistically do anything personnel-wise during the off season, the status of a certain player nicknamed Magatron needed to be solidified.
Consider the next seven years of Calvin Johnson solidified.
At 1PM this afternoon, thee Lions are going to announce a major move to secure their long-term future as a playoff contender. They will extend the contract of the consensus best wide receiver in the NFL by giving him the biggest contract is football history.
Seven years? Not so fast. The Lions' Tim Twentyman corrects Schefter on Twirtter:
Be it seven or eight years, it's all good.
$132MM is fine and dandy, but will Megatron ultimately see all of it? I wouldn't bet on it. Which is why the important number is $60MM guaranteed. No matter what may happen down the line, Johnson has that $60MM in his hip pocket.
Reports are Megatron's new deal gives the Lions an extra $10MM of wiggle room under the 2012 salary cap, which is considerable considering Johnson's previous contract would have been a $22MM+ cap hit. The cap room was badly needed, as re-sgning inside linebacker Stephen Tulloch the Lions' main priority in free agency. They have already lost cornerback Eric Wright to the Bucs, so time was of the essence in getting this deal locked down.
To give you a reminder how important Johnson is to the Lions, check out the highlight reel of Megatron in 2011 beast mode:
We get to watch Matthew Stafford throw to Calvin Johnson for the reminder of the this decade. That's going to be really damn fun...
Let the Megatron transforming into armored car jokes begin!
The official announcement is after the jump...
Capologists and mathmagicians take note. The Lions were in salary cap Hell...the key word being "were," as Ndamukong Suh, Matthew Stafford, Nate Burleson and some creative accounting bailed the team out.
According to multiple reports, all three players have restructured their contracts to give Detroit some salary cap relief before free agency starts tomorrow. Suh was slated to make $9.25 million in 2012 - ($12.8 million salary cap). Stafford's base salary was $10.5 million ($16 million salary cap), while Burleson was slated to receive $4 million ($4.97 million salary cap).
The only numbers released so far has Burleson agreeing to convert $3.125MM of his $4MM contract into a signing bonus. No word as to the changes in the contracts of Suh and Stafford , but the likely scenario would have the players taking league minimum salaries in 2012, with the remainder owed to be paid as a signing bonus, which can be pro-rated over the life the contract.
These huge numbers are making my head spin, but tracking contracts have become a part of NFL fandom. Teams need to free up cash in order to be a off season player. Manipulating the salary cap plays as just an important part of the off season as the draft and free agency.
So what's next?
The big cap fishes remain Calvin Johnson and Cliff Avril. Combined, their cap hit for 2012 is a staggering $32MM. If the Lions can come to a long-term contract with Avril, lowering his currently franchise tag mandated 2012 salary of $10.6MM, and extend Megatron with a back loaded deal (Johnson is in the last year of his rookie contract), only then can the Lions can start free agency in earnest.
On Sunday, word on the street had the Lions approximately $11MM over the $120.6MM salary cap. Today's restructurings should put the Lions in the range of $115MM. $5MM is comfortably under the NFL cap. Yet it's not enough to do what needs to be done in re-signing free agents like Stephen Tulloch and Jeff Backus.
But the Lions had to start somewhere...and that start was lowering their salary obligations for the coming season.no comments