The stellar DT had an unbelievable season in 2014, and his presence helped free up other defensive line-mates, creating a defensive front that was one of the best in the NFL. Suh has been tight-lipped about his FA status this year, and he may want to bolt; of course, he could be franchised. Actually, maybe that's something the Lions should consider: his talent and impact are undeniable. Sure, he can be a bit of a headache, and he has a history of safety violations and fines in his career, but under Jim Caldwell and DC Teryl Austin he was mostly a model citizen.
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He's 31 years old and, according to Pro Football Focus' ratings, a middle-of-the-pack guard. The offensive line was a real concern and weakness for Detroit in 2014. While Sims was just okay, 14-year veteran C Dominic Raiola and the team have just parted ways. The Lions are going to look for more of a youth movement on the o-line. Sims is a veteran who can help the young line along and who's skilled and productive enough to make his teachings have some weight with younger players. Besides, there are plenty of other needs (RB, T, DT, AND C) and keeping a veteran G, even if it's on a short-term deal, could pay off for the team's long-term future.
Fairley, 27, wouldn't have even been on this list a year ago. Last summer the new coaching staff got on his case, made him slim down and dropped him down the depth chart in the preseason to see how he'd handle the adversity. He passed with flying colors, and it was the first of many good moves the new staff made for this team. Fairley was incredibly productive and impactful in 2014, but he suffered a season-ending knee injury in a Week 8 win over the Atlanta Falcons. Fairley and Suh were both ranked within Pro Football Focus' top-six players at their position this year. And Fairley was the sixth-best DT in the league.
Ross is a great K/PR and WR hybrid and has some good moments and performances in his brief time with this team. Of the 25 different Lions FAs this offseason, he's one of the youngest and he's got a lot of upside, especially on offense as a third- or fourth-option WR. This team had its issues on offense this past season. Any kind of young talent you already have on the roster is important to hold onto.
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Mathis is one of the oldest FAs the Lions have this offseason, and has a lot of mileage on him (he played over 1,000 defensive snaps in 2014). However, he was one of the best players on the Lions defense. He was also one of the highest-ranking CBs on Pro Football Focus' positon-specific ratings. Again, there's a lot of risk-reward with Mathis. He made it known that he wanted to remain in Detroit if possible, and could take a pay cut to remain on a team he's stated he loves. If younger DBs like Cassius Vaughn and Isa Abbul-Quddus bolt, the draft will provide plenty of young bodies in the secondary. Mathis' role as a mentor to young DBs shouldn't be overlooked. After all, he and Glover Quin imparted their wisdom on young Darius Slay last offseason, and Slay took that wisdom and turned in an excellent sophomore campaign in 2014.