5 Detroit Lions Veterans Who Could Be Camp Casualties
For some veteran Detroit Lions, training camp might be the unexpected end of their tenure in the den.
Between now and the Week 1 kickoff against the New York Giants, Detroit will cut many players. Some will be undrafted rookies and roster filler, but other cuts will come from the veterans pool.
Last year, some of the veterans released included Ricardo Silva, Brian Robiskie and Jake Scott. The latter, pictured above, missed the cut even though he performed well during camp and preseason trials.
That fate is going to happen to some more seasoned Lions this year, too. Here are five prime candidates for the chopping block, or perhaps the trade block if the team can extract any value from another team.
Veteran wideout Kris Durham could be in for a very rude awakening. After spending most of 2013 as Detroit's No. 2 receiver, he might not even make it as the No. 5 in 2014.
He has only himself to blame.
Pro Football Focus (subscription required) charted Durham with the worst grade (minus-12.3) of any Lions offensive player in the past three seasons. He caught just 13 of the last 37 balls thrown his way—a period coinciding with Detroit's offensive collapse down the stretch.
Durham is now a known commodity, and what the NFL knows about him is not favorable. The new coaching staff has other options in players like Jeremy Ross, Kevin Ogletree and sixth-round pick T.J. Jones.
While those players are not as established, their potential to be better than Durham should carry them to roster spots ahead of the limited veteran. Being quarterback Matthew Stafford's college roommate can only mean so much for Durham.
Like Durham, running back Mikel Leshoure has fallen from much higher on the positional depth chart. Just two years ago Leshoure was the featured back, getting 215 carries and scoring nine touchdowns.
With the addition of Reggie Bush, the emergence of Joique Bell and his admitted loss of explosiveness from his Achilles tendon tear in his rookie season, there just isn't room for a bigger role in Detroit for Leshoure.
He currently sits fourth on the depth chart, behind Bush, Bell and Theo Riddick. That is not expected to change, no matter how strong Leshoure looks in camp.
There might be a role for the former second-round pick from Illinois as a between-the-tackles power back. As noted by one camp observer, he's got the build for it:
Mikel Leshoures legs are tree trunks. #LionsPractice— SandmanLions (@Sandman7773) July 28, 2014
This is the final year of his rookie contract. Because he's inexpensive proven depth at just over $1 million, per Spotrac, it's unlikely the team outright cuts Leshoure. But with the rash of running back injuries around the league, perhaps the Lions will get a trade offer they cannot refuse for him.
It would take unusual circumstances for the Lions to part with rock-solid starting left guard Rob Sims. Yet some of those requisites are already playing out.
Sims continues to sit on the sidelines as he recovers from undisclosed offseason surgery. Every day he misses action is an opportunity for someone else to prove they can do the job just as good as he can.
The Lions happen to have two young players gunning for that role.
Rodney Austin got a long look at left guard during minicamp and OTAs, per Rotoworld, and he has the physical qualities to handle the job quite well. He's been grooming on the practice squad for most of the past two seasons.
Third-round pick Travis Swanson is also in the mix. While he is generally regarded as Dominic Raiola's understudy at center, Swanson did play some guard at Arkansas.
Sims will earn $3.775 million in 2014, the last year on his contract. With no talks of an extension, it sure seems like he doesn't factor into the Lions' long-term plans.
If a younger, cheaper player like Austin or Swanson proves he can perform just as well as Sims, Detroit could opt to accelerate the timeline and part ways with Sims. Even more than with Leshoure, there could be a decent trade market if the Lions opt to go that route.
Linebacker Ashlee Palmer has had an interesting career so far. He's worked his way up from being an undrafted free agent out of Mississippi to latching on with the Buffalo Bills in 2009.
The Bills waived him a year later, and the Lions quickly claimed him. After adding 10 pounds of functional bulk—he's listed on the official roster at 238 pounds, up from his college weight in the mid 220s—Palmer finally assumed the role of the third linebacker in Detroit last year.
On most teams, that would make Palmer a returning starter, but not Detroit. The Lions used just two linebackers as their base defense, relegating Palmer to just 367 snaps, per PFF.
After drafting Kyle Van Noy in the second round to fill the expanded outside backer role, Palmer will be lucky to see anything close to that snap count in 2014. He's now competing with Tahir Whitehead for the fourth linebacker spot. Whitehead has the advantages of being cheaper, younger and better on special teams.
If Palmer cannot secure the top reserve job, he really doesn't merit a roster spot. Perhaps he could reunite with former coach Jim Schwartz, now the defensive coordinator in Buffalo.
It's strange to think of Jonte Green as a veteran player, but it does seem like the third-year cornerback has been around for a long time.
Green started five games as a rookie, and while he was raw, the sixth-round pick from New Mexico State had some positive moments.
He also started two games at the end of last season. Those outings were pretty much devoid of anything positive, unfortunately; PFF graded him squarely in the red in both outings.
Detroit has brought in two players who immediately jumped over Green on the depth chart. Fourth-round pick Nevin Lawson has more refined skills, while free-agent import Cassius Vaughn offers starting playoff experience and a more physical style that better fits new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin's scheme.
The competition in the secondary is very crowded as the Lions kick off camp. Don't expect it to stay that way for very long into the preseason. It's hard to see Green being one of the top six corners that make the final 53-man roster.
All statistics and transaction info is from NFL.com unless otherwise noted.