The Lions look like a team about to go on a free agent shopping spree.
They cleared $8.5 million off the books earlier this week by cutting Titus Young, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Stephen Peterman. That put them $5 million under the cap.
If they cut center Dominic Raiola, which is under consideration at this point, they would lop another $4 million off — pushing the cap space to $9 million.
General manager Martin Mayhew said Thursday that he plans to start negotiations on a contract extension with Matthew Stafford, whose cap hit will exceed $20 million. If they do something similar to the deal they made with Calvin Johnson last season — cutting the cap hit from $21 million to $11.5 million — the Lions could hit free agency with close to $20 million (though that doesn’t include what they will need to spend on retaining the likes of Cliff Avril, Chris Houston, Louis Delmas, Justin Durant, etc).
The point is, they will have some money to spend, possibly on an elite free agent or two.
One name that has come up a lot is Buffalo’s left guard Andy Levitre. And the reason his name has come up is because of the Lions’ new running game coach, Curtis Modkins, who was with him in Buffalo. He thrived in the system Modkins is trying to implement in Detroit.
Levitre, though, has started 64 straight games at left guard. The only starting lineman certain to return for the Lions is Rob Sims, who plays left guard. Presumably, it would be Sims who would have to switch, but I don’t know that for sure.
It’s an intriguing thought, though. The starting offensive line next season could be — Bill Nagy at center, Levitre and Sims at guards, Riley Reiff at one tackle and either Jeff Backus (if he returns), Jason Fox or Corey Hilliard at the other.
Now, don’t take this and run. Raiola could still be back. He could agree to a restructure. Nagy could start at right guard. That wouldn’t be the worst thing, either.