The Detroit Lions have begun to make a handful of roster moves with the NFL free agency period quickly approaching (March 11, 4 p.m. EST).
Kicker David Akers and safety John Wendling are among five players that will not return next season. Detroit has also decided to part ways with defensive end Israel Idonije, offensive lineman Dylan Gandy and linebacker Rocky McIntosh.
Akers made just 19 of his 24 field goal attempts in his only season with the Lions. General manager Martin Mayhew expects kickers John Potter and Giorgio Tavecchio to compete for the starting job, both had signed future deals this offseason.
Wendling spent four seasons in Detroit, primarily as a special teams player. Isa Abdul-Quddus, who just signed a one-year deal worth $645,000, will take his spot on special teams along with providing depth at the safety position.
While speaking with the media at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, Mayhew has also alluded to other possibilities in the near future.
Detroit will re-sign exclusive rights free agents Kris Durham and Jeremy Ross to one-year contracts for the league minimum. Durham, who was Matthew Stafford’s roommate at Georgia, caught 38 balls for 490 yards this past season. Ross took over kick and punt return duties during the course of the season, scoring a touchdown on each. He averaged 16 yards on 15 punt returns and accumulated 439 kick-return yards on 15 attempts.
Although Jim Caldwell would not directly speak about Brandon Pettigrew’s future with the team, Mayhew confirmed that re-signing the tight end is a priority. Whether the club will pursue a long-term deal or resort to placing the franchise tag on the (soon to be) 29-year old, remains to be seen. Placing the franchise tag on Pettigrew would guarantee him $6.7 million for the 2014 season.
Pettigrew’s numbers have dropped over the past two seasons, catching just 100 passes over the last two seasons compared to 154 over the previous two seasons, but Mayhew says the coaching staff likes what he can do in the passing game as well as in the running game.
The Lions have also said that Joique Bell will remain with the team next season. Both parties are interested in a long-term deal, but if the numbers don’t match up then Detroit plans to tender the Michigan-native tailback. Bell had a break-out season in 2013, proving he can be a great compliment to Reggie Bush. The former Wayne State graduate rushed for 650 yards, scored eight touchdowns and caught 53 passes for 547 yards this past season.
Justin Rogers of MLive.com predicts that a long-term contract for Bell would cost the team $3-3.5 million per year.
Detroit also has interest in signing Ndamukong Suh to a long-term extension, in order to reduce his $22.4 million cap hit for the 2014 season. Mayhew says he expects for such a deal to get done soon, possibly as soon as the eve of free agency.
Even without a long-term extension for Suh, the Lions will enter the free agency period close to $10 million under the 2014 salary cap. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith announced that next season’s cap will be (approximately) $130 million, a $7 million increase from 2013.
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