The NFL offseason is here, which means it is time for teams to assess their needs to prepare to improve themselves for 2011 (if there is a season). With that in mind, here's a look at what I feel about Detroit's needs, listed from most pressing to least pressing. That doesn't mean the Lions will be able to address their more important needs sufficiently, be it in free agency or the NFL Draft, but it would be nice if they could.
1. Outside linebacker: The Lions probably could use two new starting outside linebackers. Julian Peterson is gone, Zach Follett is coming back from a serious injury, and Ashlee Palmer probably doesn't cut it, and it certainly can't play two positions at once. Unfortunately, they probably won't be able to address these needs properly in the Draft.
2. Cornerback: Chris Houston and Alphonso Smith were solid, but beyond that the Lions were poor at cornerback. With passing being en vogue in the NFL, you need more than two decent cornerbacks.
3. Offensive tackle: I'm not sold on Gosder Cherilus, and I'm ready to give up on him as a tackle. He can still have value, of course. Robert Gallery was a bust at tackle who became a really good guard for the Oakland Raiders. Plus, Jeff Backus has maybe two more seasons left in him at tackle before he'll need to head to guard as well.
4. Safety: Louis Delmas is locked into his spot, but he's also had some injury issues. Amari Spievey has shown potential alongside him, but having another safety to go with them would be a wise move.
5. Middle linebacker: DeAndre Levy should be the starter, but last season he was hurt and you need a backup just in case. Landon Johnson was decent, but a more reliable backup is needed.
6. Wide receiver: Calvin Johnson? Outstanding. Nate Burleson? A strong number two wide receiver. Beyond that? Nothing. With such strong tight ends and good receiving running backs, a third wide receiver is less important, but would still be a good add.
7. Offensive guard: If the Lions don't want to move Cherilus over, replacing Stephen Peterman would be the move to make. Either way, a change is needed on the right side of Detroit's offensive line.
8. Defensive end: Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril are both really good, but Vanden Bosch is getting older and Avril has had injury issues. Turk McBride and Lawrence Jackson would provide nice rotation depth for the Lions, but adding somebody else to the mix would be shrewd.
9. Defensive tackle: Ndamukong Suh is amazing, but somebody has to go next to him. Corey Williams is solid, but he took a lot of penalties last season, and Sammie Hill is still a bit raw. A move isn't needed, but one could reasonably be made.
10. Center: Dominic Raiola is decent enough, so at most a decent backup is needed.
11. Running back: Jahvid Best has a ton of potential and skill, but he's also coming off a season where he had double turf toe. Plus, running backs get worn down no matter how durable. Maurice Morris is a decent backup, as is Kevin Smith, but the latter has apparently made noise about not sticking around. A late draft pick on a larger running back wouldn't be a bad idea. As for fullback, Jerome Felton has that locked down on the occasion the position is needed.
12. Quarterback: Matthew Stafford is the starter and Shaun Hill is the backup. However, with the injury concerns Stafford has had, the Lions need to make sure they have at least a mediocre third stringer.
13. Kicker: As long as the Lions keep Dave Rayner behind the aging Jason Hanson, they'll be set.
14. Tight end: Brandon Pettigrew is really good, and Tony Scheffler could start for a lot of teams. Plus, Will Heller is a nice blocking tight end. If they keep all three, they are set.
15. Punter: Nick Harris is the punter. That is all.
That's how I see Detroit's need this offseason. I would only say outside linebacker, cornerback, and offensive tackle are pressing needs, and I don't know if offensive tackle is terribly pressing. As Martin Mayhew and company have rebuilt this team, their needs have become less egregious and fewer in number. This is a very good thing. One more good offseason and then, if there is a season, the Lions could not only manage a winning record, but a playoff appearance.