• Detroit Lions release Chris Houston, Young cornerbacks could be in position for bigger roles

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    Detroit Lions v Tennessee TitansThe Detroit Lions announced Friday afternoon that they have released seven-year veteran corner-back Chris Houston, who had been re-signed as an unrestricted free agent a year ago with the intention that he would be the team’s top cornerback.

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    After announcing it, the Lions released this statement:

    “Chris Houston underwent a significant medical procedure this spring,” the Lions said in a statement. “Both parties felt that the best course of action at this time is to release Chris and allow him to rehabilitate his injury away from the Club.  The Lions appreciate Chris’ contributions over the years and wish him the best in his recovery.”

    Now despite the shock of some, I must say I am not that surprised that Houston was released. He is coming off one of the worst seasons of his career, where he missed four games because of toe and foot injuries. The Lions have made it publicly know that they questioned whether Houston would ever return to true form since he got injured and had toe surgery in May. Plus, Lions head coach Jim Caldwell hinted that this could happen when he reportedly told reporters Houston was excused from the Lions’ off-season program.

    Keep in mind this move isn’t just about letting go of injured player who can longer help the Lions, this move is also about creating cap space which is something the Lions need right now.

    According to the Lions senior writer Tim Twentyman, Houston had base salaries of $3.5 million in 2014, $4.5 million in 2015 and 2016 and $6.3 million in 2017, for a total of $18.8 million left on his deal. He had $3.9 million remaining in prorate bonus money due to him, according to spotrac.com, which the Lions will still be responsible for on their cap.

    Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press broke down how the release of Houston benefits the Lions.

    By cutting Houston, the Lions freed up enough cap space to sign first-round pick Eric Ebron to a four-year contract that includes a fifth-year team option and a $7.2-million signing bonus.

    Houston will count just $1.3 million against the salary cap this year, down from $4.8 million, and $3.9 million in 2015. The Lions entered today with less than $1 million in cap space and still are hoping to sign defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to a long-term extension this off-season. – Dave Birkett (Detroit Free Press)

    Overall, I think this is a solid move, I know the Lions originally signed Houston with the intention that he would be the team’s top cornerback but I have to be honest, I never thought he was a solid long-term option, I always figured he was a short-term option and it seems I was right.

    If you’re wondering where the Lions go from here, at this point I expect second-year cornerback Darius Slay and veteran Rashean Mathis to hold down the top-two cornerback spots. Now once they enter training camp it will get interesting because you never know who may step up and come ready to play. The other cornerbacks on the roster include Bill Bentley, four-year veteran Cassius Vaughn, Jonte Green, Chris Greenwood and rookie Nevin Lawson. This release of Houston, opens up opportunities for a lot of these young cornerbacks, which could be a plus for the Lions.

    However, I will say that even with Houston now gone, the Lions inconsistent secondary still has a question mark surrounding them as they approach the this upcoming season. The secondary has been a long-time weak link for the Lions and there is possibility that problems could become worse.

    This move also makes you question the Lions decision to not draft top-notch cornerback in the 2014 Draft. Despite my advice to draft a cornerback in the first round, the Lions took tight end Eric Ebron over a handful of cornerbacks with the 10th overall pick, including Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard and Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller. Then there were plenty of other talented cornerbacks who dropped to the second and third round like Stanley Jean-Baptiste of Nebraska and Pierre Desir of Lindenwood but once again the Lions chose other players and they didn’t draft a cornerback until the fourth round, when they drafted Nevin Lawson.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I like Lawson and I think he could prove to be a steal in this year’s draft if he is developed right but it doesn’t change the fact that the Lions had multiple opportunities to make their secondary better in a number of ways and they chose not to take advantage of them.

    Nonetheless, I am choosing to have faith and be patient with defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. When it comes to improving secondaries, he has a good track record. During his three years with the Ravens, they finished fourth against the pass in 2011, 17th in 2012 and 12th last season. He also helped to lead the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. He has also done a solid job of developing talent, specifically in the secondary. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith and safeties Antrel Rolle and Adrian Wilson are products of his great coaching and development. During his time at Michigan as a defensive assistant, he coached Cato June, Charles Drake, Marlin Jackson, and Jeremy LeSueur (all of whom were drafted into the NFL).

    So for now, I will be patient because time will soon tell whether the Lions made the right decision as far as the secondary is concerned.

    Written by LBeasley (Lauren Beasley), Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit

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