NEWS

TIM AND MIKE: Is Brandon Flowers a legitimate option for Detroit?

Posted Jun 18, 2014

Senior writer Tim Twentyman and columnist Mike O'Hara discuss Chris Houston's release, Brandon Flowers rumors and more

Brandon Flowers has become an interesting commodity for teams needing help at cornerback, and reports have suggested that the Lions could be part of the pack that has some level of interest.

It’s logical for the Lions to be mentioned as a potential bidder for a veteran cornerback after releasing Chris Houston last week. Houston was a starter for the Lions for four years.

It’s cutting season in the NFL. The June 1 deadline passed that lets teams reduce the salary-cap impact for this year. The Lions took advantage of it to cut Houston.

Could Flowers be transplanted in Detroit? Are other areas under consideration for additions? And what shape are the Lions in with the official offseason workout program officially over?

Mike: According to reports, as many as 10 teams have made contact with Flowers, and it’s likely that the Lions are one of them. That doesn’t mean he’s headed to Detroit, though.

Brandon FlowersCB Brandon Flowers (Photo: AP Images)

Flowers has some leverage that could make his asking price more than the Lions can afford. He’s only 28, he made the Pro Bowl last season and was a No. 1 alternate in 2012. One negative is that he’s only 5-9. However, Flowers has proven he can be effective at that size. He was a six-year starter in KC.

I’d rate it a slight chance – very slight, in fact – that he ends up in Detroit. But isn’t it worth the Lions time to take a look?

Tim: Martin Mayhew is doing his due diligence by picking up the phone and poking around a little bit. I’m not surprised at all the Lions have surfaced in reports about teams interested in Flowers.

Like you, Mike, I think it’s a long shot he ends up in Detroit, though. He’s coming off a five-year, $50 million contract and he’s not giving any discounts if as many as 10 teams have truly shown interest as the reports suggest.

Who knows if he fits the Lions man scheme or not? He is undersized, and despite making the Pro Bowl on a very good defense, he had a career-low one interception playing mostly in the slot.

Could the Lions find a place for him? Certainly. But for the price he’s likely to command, it seems unlikely he’ll be a legitimate option for Detroit.

Can Darius Slay, Rashean Mathis and Bill Bentley get the job done if there are no additions between now and training camp?

Mike: They are the top three candidates, and in that order, with rookie Nevin Lawson No. 4.

The way Slay performed in minicamp made it look like he has taken a giant step from his rookie season, when he looked like the adjustment from Mississippi State to the NFL was too much for him. He needed a break-in period, and he got it.

If the Lions can get another steady year out of Mathis, that will be a bonus, but they need another young cornerback to develop. Bentley has the best chance of the three cornerbacks drafted by the Lions in 2012. Chris Greenwood hasn’t stayed healthy long enough to be more than an intriguing prospect with ability.

Lawson lacks height – he’s only 5-9 – but he’s strong and doesn’t seem fazed by the pro game. He got more work than most rookies do at nickel back. That could be a sign that the coaches see something in him.

Any surprise that Houston was let go?

Tim: I wouldn’t count out veteran Cassius Vaughn from that mix, Mike. He might give Lawson a run for the No. 4 spot. He made a number of plays in the open sessions to the media and I think he’s impressed some coaches early on.

As far as Houston is concerned, it was a little surprising he was released one year after signing a $25 million contract. It was a decision probably made easier by the kind of offseason Slay had.

Houston struggled with injury and the Lions didn’t think he was going to be able to make it all the way back from this one. Aside from the injury, Houston lost his confidence last year, and that might have been more damaging from a team perspective than the toe injury.

He actually took himself out of a game last year. Richard Sherman would never take himself out of a game. Never. When a cornerback loses that swagger and confidence, it’s hard to get it back.

Agree?

Mike: Agree, agree, agree.

That’s a way of saying we agree on three things.

1. An injured toe is hard for a cornerback to overcome. So is a loss of confidence. Houston had both – bad toe, bad personal karma – and that led to him being released. He gave the Lions’ pretty good service for four years, and that shouldn’t be forgotten.

2. Right about Cassius Vaughn in the mix with Nevin Lawson. I look for them to share time as backups. Vaughn’s only 26, which makes him a young veteran. He has good size (5-11, 195) and experience on returns.

3. The surprise in releasing Houston was because of the contract he signed last year, not because of his recent performance.

One more thing about Houston, and it’s not entirely directed at him, but a new coaching staff breeds change, and we’re seeing that with the Lions. There are new systems on offense and defense, and new players in key spots.

No coach would take over a team that went 4-12 and 7-9 the last two seasons with the Lions’ talent level and stand pat.

Agree?

Tim: I do. Speaking of the coaching change, the one wildcard in all of this for me is that staff.

Maybe this offensive scheme and the additions of Eric Ebron and Golden Tate is exactly what Matthew Stafford needs to take the next step and join the upper echelon of quarterbacks in this league.

Maybe Teryl Austin’s defense will get the full potential out of the talented defensive line unit. Being a former secondary coach, maybe Austin’s aggressive man-cover style is exactly what some of these young cornerbacks need to speed up their development.

Maybe all the little mistakes and missed opportunities that turned a Lions lead or a tie in the fourth quarter of 15 games last year into a final record of 7-9 won’t be as prevalent under the fundamentally-driven Jim Caldwell. Maybe two or three of those games end up in the win column.

Maybe the answer will be no on all three counts, but we won’t know that until September. It’s a wildcard and the biggest mystery in this whole equation.

What was the most encouraging thing you saw over the last month of OTAs and minicamp practices?

Mike: Hands down to me, it was watching Calvin Johnson running and catching passes without a hint of the injuries that hampered him much of last season.

He looked like Megatron again – so much so that a 2,000-yard receiving season could be in order.

Tim: For me it was seeing something new on defense and the early performance by that group.

Players were lining up in multiple spots, linebackers were given the green light to be more aggressive and cornerbacks were up on receivers and not eight yards off in Cover 2.

Who knows if all of it will work, but it will be interesting, and most definitely different.

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