ERIC WRIGHT, Cornerback
The Lions are gambling, and gambling big, that increased pressure from an improved front seven—including rookie tackle Nick Fairley, on the mend from surgery for a stress fracture in his left foot, and middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch, formerly of the Titans—will make up for their shortcomings in the secondary. Rather than seriously enter the bidding for a high-profile cornerback, Detroit reached toward the bottom of the free-agent barrel and signed Wright to a one-year, $2 million contract. (The Lions did pursue the Bengals' Johnathan Joseph but weren't close to matching the Texans' five-year, $48.75 million deal, with $23.5 million guaranteed.)
A four-year starter in Cleveland, Wright was yanked for poor play by coach Eric Mangini last December and now hopes to rebuild his career in Detroit. He's not alone. The Lions are banking that a handful of corners who failed elsewhere—Wright, Chris Houston (Atlanta), Alphonso Smith (Denver), Nathan Vasher (Chicago)—can form an adequate group. There's plenty of focus on Matthew Stafford's health in Detroit, but there's cause for concern on the other side of the ball. If the Lions are going to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999, they're going to have to do it with one of the worst crops of corners in the league.