By: Eric Thomas
You’d think they’d be used to it by now, but at some point Lions fans just need to let go. At this point in the off season, every team is going to be a little cagey. They have to be cognizant of their negotiating positions with players, the strategy of other teams and the face they put forward to potential free agents and draft picks.
Lions fans, ever eager to jump on the limping gazelle, have called the team out on their comments in the past few days. Fans have specifically focused on the recent comments from Lions President Tom Lewand, who spoke to reporters of various outlets. In those interviews, he presented some of the same NFL pablum you’ve come to expect in any of the NFL’s endless off seasons. At least most of this chatter will come to an end in earnest at the draft next month.
In the aforementioned interviews, Lewand said the following:
On not signing Ndamukong Suh: “It’s not been frustrating we said it months ago. We didn’t have a deal with [quarterback] Matthew Stafford done until later in the summer. The timing of the Suh deal was never the factor when it came to planning for free agency.”
What’s he supposed to say? “We screwed up!” or “Suh left us at the altar this spring!” Neither would make sense. Let’s pretend the Lions are sick of Suh and looking to move on. Would it be a good idea, pre-draft, to give an interview and tell the truth? How would that look? Would that make free agents more apt to visit if the unvarnished truth were to pour out of the team president? How would other teams approach the Lions with their trade offers? Would the Lions get a first round pick in exchange for the garbage they wanted someone else to walk it to the street? If Lewand were to unload and impersonate Krusty the Clown at his retirement press conference, would that bode well for the other players who may or may not be on the bubble with the team? Of course not. It’s unreasonable for Lions fans to want the truth when a negotiation is active, whether both sides are speaking or not.
On winning now: “It’s a year of ‘Let’s go right now.’ I think you heard Jim [Caldwell] say it in his introductory press conference, we heard it in his interviews, you hear it from our players. There’s no five-year plans here.”
Again, what’s he supposed to say? “We’re not expecting to win for the next two years. We screwed up the roster too much in 2011.” Players put their lives on the line when they suit up on Sundays (and Mondays and Thursdays) so you can’t just get a mulligan. Is Lewand trying to get budget players in the defensive secondary because he has no other choice? Probably, but he can’t say that in the media. He has to put a good face on it. Who knows? The players they select might work out. If they have a draft like they did last year, getting not only quality players in the later rounds but picking up valuable pieces undrafted, the Lions could be great. You could also win the Mega Millions today. You never know.
On Suh’s cap hit: “If you only look at a guy’s cap number and you say that all of a sudden that creates a lot more room to sign free agents, it really doesn’t because then you’re signing new players and you have to fit all those guys into  and  as well. So you have maybe a lower cap number for a particular player in one year but it means, almost by definition that it’s going to be a higher number in future years so you have to be able to fit all of those dollars in a certain time frame. That’s why it’s not that linear.”
Fingers crossed that these are a bunch of words to throw the media off the scent. Suh is a really expensive player at defensive tackle, a position that can disappear with a double team. Teams can, and have, figured out how to deal with the dominant tackle from Nebraska. You couldn’t double team Ray Lewis or Troy Polamalu. If you’re a linebacker, or a hall of fame safety, you can change games and win Super Bowls. You can’t do that from the DT position, no matter how cool it is to have Suh on the team. The price they pay for Suh is far too high.
Let’s give them a little space, and take their statements with a boulder of salt. Just because they’re saying one thing to the public doesn’t mean they’re going in the wrong direction. It’s when they signed Golden Tate when you should have been worried.