Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Lions defend their moves
Mike O'Hara / The Detroit News
ALLEN PARK -- The Lions have been filling primary needs, particularly in the secondary, but the free-agent and trade markets have left holes and disappointments.
The Lions signed free-agent tight end Michael Gaines (Buffalo) on Monday to help the running game and have made three moves in the last week to strengthen the secondary.
But Monday, they lost free-agent offensive tackle Damien Woody to the Jets, and they came up short last week in attempts to acquire Jets middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma.
And they still have to troll the free-agent market to make up for the loss of nose tackle Shaun Rogers, who was traded to the Browns on Friday in a deal that gave the Lions starting cornerback Leigh Bodden and a third-round draft pick.
Defensive coordinator Joe Barry was on the offensive Monday for how the secondary should be better -- and against the perception the Lions did not try hard enough to land Vilma.
"Both Leigh and Dwight (Smith, free-agent safety), they improve us," Barry said. "Simply look at their production. They bring playmaking.
"When guys can go out and get picks, when guys can intercept the ball and have the threat of running it back for a touchdown, that's splash-play ability. Both guys have that."
Bodden, who started all 16 games and had six interceptions in 2007, said he defended the opponent's top receiver in Cleveland. That meant lining up twice a year against Cincinnati's Chad Johnson.
"Chad Johnson, he knows who I am," said Bodden, who has two years left on his contract (his 2008 base salary of $1.75 million is low for a starting cornerback in his sixth season). "I definitely do a good job against him. I do pretty well against the good wide receivers."
As for not acquiring Vilma, Barry said the Lions made the same offer Vilma accepted from the Saints.
"I'm tired of people saying, 'Why wouldn't they go after Jonathan Vilma?' " Barry said. "We went full bore after Jonathan Vilma. Everybody in this building did. It just didn't work out.
"Everything was the same. The player always has control in the situation."
The Saints gave the Jets a fourth-round pick, with conditions that could make it a third-rounder in 2009. The Lions made the same offer, Barry said.
Cowboys running back Julius Jones and oft-injured Panthers middle linebacker Dan Morgan were scheduled to be at the Lions facility late Monday.
Seahawks defensive linemen Chuck Darby and Ellis Wyms are expected in this week. Both played in Tampa Bay when Detroit coach Rod Marinelli coached the defensive line.
No visit is planned by running back Warrick Dunn , released Monday by the Falcons, but the Lions are likely to show interest.
Gaines, 6-foot-3 and 273 pounds, caught a career-high 25 passes for Buffalo in 2007.
His contract is worth $10 million over four years, with $3 million guaranteed. He spent the previous three years in Carolina.
Woody agreed to terms Monday on a five-year, $25.5 million contract with the Jets that included $11 million in guaranteed money. He will play right tackle, where he played the last five games in 2007 after losing his job as the starting right guard.
John Owens , a backup tight end with the Lions last year, signed a one-year contract.