The sports world is focused on Super Bowl XLVII between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers, but the Detroit Lions have made news of their own by hiring Brian Xanders as a senior personnel executive to work under GM Martin Mayhew.
Detroitlions.com Lead Writer Tim Twentyman and Columnist Mike O'Hara discuss the hire in their Wednesday breakfast column.
What are the ramifications of this hire, and what impact will Xanders have on personnel decisions?
Mike: The phrase I’ve heard often is that because of his experience, Xanders will bring "another pair of eyes" to personnel decisions. The larger question is how much of a voice Xanders will have. The way Xanders' role has been portrayed, he'll bring a new dimension in developing personnel decisions in both the draft and pro personnel.
My take is that Xanders will help fine-tune the work done by the pro and college scouts before Mayhew makes the final call. That can't be a bad addition, can it?
Tim: Not at all. Look at some of the draft classes he helped put together with the Broncos.
Those 2010 and 2011 drafts in Denver produced the most starts (155) and playing time (more than 12,000 snaps) of any rookie classes in the NFL, according to The Denver Post.
How Xanders explained it to me Monday night is that he’s taking a little bit from each of the Falcons, Broncos and Patriots models for how they identify players and then their roles within the scheme. He is implementing that into an in-house scouting system.
How is it ever a bad idea to get another pair of eyes and a fresh perspective in free agency and draft discussions? Don't the Lions need to hit on this draft and find themselves some immediate contributors?
Mike: They need to hit for a high average at whatever they swing at. In terms of the Patriots’ model, Bill Belichick once said that teams can get players from a lot of places – the draft, free-agency, trades or re-signing their own players. It doesn’t matter where they come from.
A lot of decisions have to be made in many areas for the Lions to be more like the playoff team of 2011 and less like the disappointment of 2012.
Free agent signings begin on March 12, but there will be action before then – re-signing some players, releasing others, and restructuring contracts.
Do you expect that a lot of people will be scanning the fine print in the "transactions" column to see which Lions are affected?
Tim: The Lions have some marquee free agents at some marquee positions come March.
Teams will certainly be interested in how things shake out for cornerback
The Detroit Lions have some tough decisions to make and the reality of the salary cap is that some players will be let go and the Lions will need some young guys to step into their place and perform.
With so many unrestricted free agents (23 total) currently on roster, the Lions will need second-year players like
What about the Lions' interest in scanning the "transactions" column? Do you anticipate them being more active this offseason?
Mike: I don’t quite agree that the players you mentioned are in the "marquee" category in terms of how they are viewed around the league, but they’ve been good players for the Lions at key positions.
Avril in particular, has been steadily productive at left defensive end. His baseline is about 10 sacks a season. The only issue is whether other teams put a price tag on him, Houston and Delmas that is more than the Lions can match.
One item in the paper recently that made my eyes shoot out of their sockets as if the Rockettes were rehearsing in my living room is that the Dolphins will let Reggie Bush become a free agent.
Bush would be perfect for the Lions' offense. Once he gets grooved and teams have to defend him,
Tim: By "marquee" I mean top five available at their position and I think all three of those players fit that description. That will make them all attractive in free agency.
The Lions are on the lookout for big-play running back, who can also be a threat in the passing game - much like
They need a back who can win one-on-one matchups with linebackers and help divert some attention away from Johnson. I certainly wouldn’t put it past Johnson to have a 20-plus touchdown season with a healthy compliment of receivers and that big-play running back in the fold.
The only problem with Bush is that most teams are looking to fill the same role and he’d be the best available if the Dolphins do indeed let him test the waters.
You know what that means in free agency, Mike, you’ll probably have to overpay. Bush made a base salary of $4.5 million last year and he’ll want a raise, so we’re talking somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 million per – on the conservative end - to acquire his services.
The Lions could have space depending on who from the current roster stays and goes, but that’s a big commitment for a player who’s rushed for 1,000 yards in a season only once (2011; 1,086) and has never totaled more than eight touchdowns combined (passing and receiving) in a season.
What about that game being played Sunday in New Orleans? Who wins and why?
Mike: We already have a winner in one sense. The game of football wins because the Super Bowl matches two teams who play solid, tough football.
There’s no such thing as a "hot team" winning the Super Bowl. Nobody goes into the game on a losing streak. Both teams played their way into the game.
I like both teams and both coaches, Jim and John Harbaugh, but I like the Ravens a little more. They’re just a little tougher, and Joe Flacco has an edge over Colin Kaepernick in big-game experience.
Like a lot of the playoff games, this should go down to the last possession – and maybe even overtime.
Make it Ravens 26, 49ers 20.
Tim: I see it going the other way. Here are five 49ers players who've dominated the game every time I watch them - Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Jonathan Goodwin, Alex Boone and Anthony Davis.
That’s the starting five for the best offensive line in football. They are maulers and their steady play has allowed a smooth transition for quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
The Ravens are a great story and they’ve proven me wrong with wins over the Broncos and Patriots to get to this point, but the 49ers are too big, too strong and too much of a well-oiled machine not to win.
Make it 49ers 24, Ravens 17.