The Detroit Lions came into the 2012 season with high hopes after finishing the 2011 record with a 10-6 record that sent them to the playoffs for the first time since 1999. However, nothing seemed to go right for the Lions, except for Calvin Johnson, of course, as they finished the season with a 4-12 record that put them in last place in the NFC North.
The Lions will be looking to bounce back for the 2013 season to prove that 2011 wasn't a fluke. However, in order to do that, they'll need to upgrade a few positions and make some moves in the offseason. The Lions had a top-five offense in 2012, but the defense was mediocre at best and when playing against the likes of Adrian Peterson, Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler twice in a season, the defense needs some help.
Biggest need: Secondary
The Lions' secondary was a revolving door throughout the 2012 season. There were 11 different players who were on the field for at least 100 snaps and only one player, Ronald Bartell, in the secondary played the majority of the snaps throughout the season. Furthermore, the players in the secondary, for the most part struggled badly when they were on the field. The Lions ranked 24th in opposing passer rating and the defense was ranked No. 19 in pass coverage.
The Lions will need to look for players to help the secondary in free agency and with their early picks in the upcoming draft. The only upside of the 2012 secondary was that coaches got to see some of their younger players get some experience. The Lions signed They need help badly at safety and cornerback, though.
The folks over at SB Nation's Pride of Detroit gave their opinion on the Detroit needs:
The Detroit Lions enter free agency with a lengthy list of needs. On offense, for example, they're in need of a speedy running back (think Jahvid Best but healthy), depth at wide receiver, a new right guard and possibly an upgrade at center as well. The most pressing need is a replacement for Best, but don't overlook the changes on the offensive line. Stephen Peterman has already been released, meaning there will be at least one new starter next season. The replacement could be somebody already on the roster, but it's on the list of needs for now.
On defense, the Lions have needs at every position but defensive tackle and middle linebacker. Positions like defensive end and outside linebacker could be in need of two new starters depending on what happens with free agents like Cliff Avril, Justin Durant and DeAndre Levy.
The Lions also could be in need of some serious help at cornerback and safety if Chris Houston and Louis Delmas aren't re-signed. The Lions have numerous defensive starters set to hit the open market, and just how big their needs end up on this side of the ball will come down to how many players they are able to re-sign. Of course, even if everybody returned, the Lions would still need an upgrade in talent at defensive end, cornerback and safety.
It's also worth noting that the Lions are in need of a new punter. They could also be in need of a new kicker with Jason Hanson's career potentially winding down.
Other needs: Defensive end, running back
The Lions have a great duo at defensive tackle, but the defensive end positions need upgrading. The Lions weren't great at pressuring the opposing quarterback, racking up 34 sacks, which tied them with the Cowboys at No. 20. Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch started at defensive end, and both struggled to consistently pressure quarterbacks combining for only 14 sacks. Vanden Bosch is out, and Avril may soon follow in free agency. The Lions could really use some help at the position.
Mikel Leshoure has a role to play, grinding out games and running out the clock if the Lions offense can get to that point again. They need a difference-maker at the position, a dynamic player that can make things happen with the ball in his hands.
Wide receiver is another need, filling the depth chart behind Calvin Johnson. Titus Young is gone. Ryan Broyles can't stay healthy.
NFL Draft outlook: Lions looking to take advantage of high draft pick
The Lions earned the No. 5 overall pick with their 4-12 record and they'll be looking to use that pick to help their defense. Several recent have had the Lions selecting Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner or BYU defensive end Ezekiel Ansah to help the team pressure the opposing quarterback. They have a top-five pick in all seven rounds so they should be able to grab a handful of defensive players that can help heading into the upcoming season.
Salary cap situation: Finding room to maneuver
Detroit cleared up some cap space by trimming its roster, Vanden Bosch most notably. Restructuring deals with Nate Burelson and Dominic Raiola freed up another $5 million, and a potential extension for Matthew Stafford could open more room under the cap for Detroit to accomplish some needed roster moves this month.