After every draft pick was announced last April, general manager Martin Mayhew was asked why he didn’t draft a linebacker or a cornerback.
His answer — the draft wasn’t the finish line. He thought he could upgrade those positions better in free agency and he’s made good on his word.
The top prize was Tulloch, the league’s second-leading tackler last season with 160.
“He’s a great ballplayer,” said new starting SS Erik Coleman. “He’s tough, he’s physical, he loves to tackle and he seems like he’s in control of the defense. All those values you want in a linebacker.”
Tulloch’s presence in the middle will force the Lions to move last year’s starting middle linebacker DeAndre Levy to the outside, a move Levy was anticipating and is ready for. Most likely Durant will play on the left side and Levy on the right — the position he played at Wisconsin.
“I talked to them (coaches) and I told them I’d be willing to do whatever helps us win games,” Levy said on Saturday. “Wherever they put me, I’m going to make the most of it.”
The Lions starting linebacker trio to start last season was Levy in the middle with Zack Follett and Julian Peterson on the outside. This year, it looks to be Tulloch in the middle with Levy and Durant on the outside. With Ashlee Palmer and perhaps Bobby Carpenter, who is still unsigned, adding quality depth.
It is a significant upgrade.
“Tulloch would add a little more speed,” safety Louis Delmas said when asked about him last week. “He might be short and stubby (5-11, 240 pounds), but my man is fast. I raced him every day (in summer workouts in Miami) and I watched him run every day and man, he’d add some excitement.”
Tulloch, who played on a one-year deal last year in Tennessee, was certainly hoping for a multi-year deal. But his options got real short in a hurry when the Titans signed former Tampa Bay middle linebacker Barrett Ruud on Saturday.
That, coupled with the Lions interest in former Packers linebacker Nick Barnett, may have hastened Tulloch’s decision to take the one-year deal.
But the one-year deal isn’t necessarily an indication that he will be a short-term fix in Detroit. Players and agents feel teams may have more money to spend in the second year of the new collective bargaining agreement.
And for the Lions, they always have the option of slapping a franchise tag on him in the second year or giving him a long-term extension. Plus, the one-year deal for Tulloch could give Mayhew the flexibility needed to sign restricted free agent and starting defensive end Cliff Avril to a long-term deal.
Contract aside, the Lions offered Tulloch the most comfortable and stress-free transition. He will be surrounded by friends and familiar faces. His defensive coordinator for three of the five seasons he played in Tennessee was Lions head coach Jim Schwartz and he’s also played for defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham.
He is well-versed in the Lions’ defensive system, and he’s also friends with defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, as well as Coleman and Delmas.
“Tulloch’s locker was a couple down from me,” said Vanden Bosch. “He’s a good friend of mine and a real good football player.”
With Tulloch in the fold, the Lions aren’t expected to continue their pursuit of Barnett. Barnett cancelled his scheduled visit to Detroit on Sunday.
Aug. 1 was the first day of padded practice. Tuesday, Aug. 2 was the first two-a-day session.
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