The Detroit Lions have made plenty of big move so far this off-season but most of those moves were to the coaching staff. However it seems the Lions are now making moves to their roster and their first roster move involves letting go of a offensive option and leader and that player is wide receiver Nate Burleson.
Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reported the news first when he tweeted that, the Lions had informed wide receiver Nate Burleson that he was being released today:
The Lions have informed Nate Burleson he's being released today. Move saves about $5.5M in cap room, leaves the locker room short a leader.—
Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) February 13, 2014
Burleson: "It’s a hard decision for them to make, but I can’t blame them for making it." Said he still intends to play in 2014.—
Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) February 13, 2014
Lions senior writer and insider Tim Twentyman confirmed the news, while Nate Burleson took to Twitter to thank the Lions organizations and fans:
Lions senior writer and insider Tim Twentyman, at one point even said it was possibility that Lions could re-sign Burleson for less money if both parties were willing to make that move but Twentyman quickly reported that the Lions were not interested in re-signing Burleson for less money:
I must say I am not shocked by this move. Burleson has had his moments with the Lions but he has also had inconsistent moments, whether it be because of injuries or dropped passes. I believe the Lions feel they need a better No.2 receiver. Plus as Dave Birkett and Tim Twentyman said, this move clears $5.5 million worth of salary cap space. It may not seem like a lot but that move could very well go along with helping the Lions to sign a key free agent or help with a contract extension.
The main thing the Lions lose in this situation is a leader. Burleson was a leader in the locker-room and players respected him. So during the off-season it will be interesting to see if anyone steps up to fill that void.
With Burleson being gone, that opens up the idea of the Lions selecting a wide receiver in the 2014 NFL Draft. The question remains what round will the Lions select a wide receiver. The Lions have the 10th overall pick in the draft but there has been back and forth debating on what they should do with it, some feel the Lions should draft a cornerback, some feel they should draft a wide receiver and some feel they should even draft a safety.
Now just last month, I wrote an article about the Lions draft options with 10th pick and I broke down their options when drafting a wide receiver. See below:
Now if you’re a Lions fans who is thinking wide receiver in the first round you have to remember that right now the only wide receiver projected to be taken in the Top 10 is Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins. That isn’t to say that there aren’t any more good and talented receivers in this year’s draft worthy of being taken in the Top 10 because that just isn’t true. However, until pro days, the NFL combine and team interviews take place, Watkins is predicted to be the only receiver taken in the Top 10 of the draft while the other receivers are expected to be taken later in the draft.
As of right now, I personally don’t expect Watkins to drop to the Lions at the 10th pick but if for whatever reason he does drop to the Lions, I think the Lions need to take advantage and draft him. It’s very clear that the Lions have a great receiver in Calvin Johnson but the Lions still needs a reliable and electric receiver to help carry the load. As I mentioned above, Nate Burleson had his moments with the Lions but he is still inconsistent and the rest of the Lion receivers like Kris Durham are solid but lack speed, elusiveness and consistency. Drafting Watkins give the Lions are versatile option to throw to besides Johnson. This past season he displayed his great speed, hands and route-running prowess. He also does a good job of creating and gaining yards after the catch due to his good vision and agility. Overall, he makes up for what Burleson and Durham lack which is consistent speed and elusiveness. Lions could use Watkins in a variety of ways but particularly with short passes and hand-offs, which gives him the opportunity to make plays after the catch.
Now if your Lions fan who is demanding that the Lions draft a wide receiver with the 10th pick, I must say I disagree. I am perfectly fine with the Lions drafting a wide receiver with the 10th pick but it must be the right receiver that fits what the Lions need but if they can’t find that in the first round, I encourage them to draft a cornerback with the 10th pick. For those Lions fans who want a wide receiver with the 10th pick, you must keep in mind that Watkins may not available for the Lions at the 10th pick. However, there are plenty of good and talented wide receivers that will be available after him that the Lions could take with the 10th pick like Marqise Lee of USC, Mike Evans of Texas A&M or Allen Robinson of Penn State, or the Lions could be patient and grab an underrated wide receiver in the later rounds, like Brandin Cooks of Oregon State, Devin Street of Pittsburgh or even Jeremy Gallon of Michigan and that’s just to name a few.
Keep in mind that the Lions could also be looking to acquire a receiver in free agency. So as you can see, the Lions definitely have decisions to make when it comes to what they will do with 10th overall pick in this year’s draft. Ultimately the success of this draft for the Lions comes down to what I said before, “if the Lions have the right type of staff that knows how to scout and select talent, then the Lions can find what they want and need in the first round of this draft just like they can find what they want and need in the sixth and seventh rounds of this draft.”
As far as Burelson is concerned, I am sad to see him go but I understand why the Lions made this move. I expect that Burleson will find a new NFL home, where he will once again be a leader and an offensive option, because there is no doubt, he’s still capable of producing in a complementary role. According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Dallas made some sense as a potential landing spot since former Lions coordinator Scott Linehan’s is there and Tampa Bay is another team to watch.
Written by LBeasley (Lauren Beasley), Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit